A year ago today my daughter, then 17, and I left for Mumbai and spent five weeks traveling on our own in Southern India. Even though the trip was preceded by months of onerous travel preparations, serious concerns about getting sick, and worries about whether such a costly trip would be worth it, my memories are even sweeter with time. This trip ranks very high in my good decisions book. A once-in-a-lifetime trip with my daughter was worth every penny.
It was a trip born of grief. I had spent the previous year taking care of my parents, who died within six months of one another. My dying mother was afraid of sleep and afraid of death. She lay awake each night, tense, and in great discomfort. Each narcotic patch and pill brought unkind side effects. For months non-stop, it was a war on two fronts: unrelenting pain from cancer and endless side effects from medications. It was my father who unexpectedly died first. Suffering from shortness of breath, swollen feet, distended stomach and nausea, he died of heart failure in a hospital bed. After that year of being a daily witness to chronic pain and anxiety, and having two people in their eighties totally reliant on me, I was exhausted.
But a month of travel in India (and then Amsterdam) had me smiling on the inside as we visited Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa. I was in exceptionally high spirits.
In India you can't avoid the smell and sight of burning plastics in public spaces; the daily power cuts and lack of water; the endless piles of garbage and cast-off construction materials; the roads congested with people, bikes, mopeds, rickshaws, taxis and trucks. The honking is non-stop and the drivers excessively fast.
But there is another side to India, and it is far from token. I hugely enjoyed the stone temples and the fabulous deities carved into ancient rocks; the spice plantations and tea estates; the rain forest hikes and the sunset beaches of Goa. I enjoyed even more the interactions with the locals, meeting other travellers, and having my daughter with me.
In a big way, it’s the women of South India, with their long black hair, shining from coconut oil and wrapped in saris of glorious colours and patterns, that are the real beauty of this country. But, such hard lives they have.
I have simplified below a conversation that helped me accept the initial worries and concerns that plagued me about my trip.
Q: What if I don’t like India, or my daughter doesn’t like it or, we don’t have a good time after spending so much money?
A: The worse that can happen is you don’t like it!
So it is with this wonderful memory still fresh in my mind that I tell you what this trip taught me about living life more fully: When you have a whim to do something, do it, and don't worry too much about the risks.
Have a happy and healthy holiday season. Thank you readers for sending encouraging notes about the blogs. And thank you for all the comments. I'll be back in 2014!
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Years ago, I was given excellent advice from a dear friend. After listening to my grumblings over a few months about not getting enough exercise, she finally said, “It’s not magic, Minda. You just have to do what it is you keep saying you want to do.”
So that night I laid out my exercise clothes beside my bed, set my alarm for earlier than usual, and when I woke started my exercise regimen. It was that easy.
What she offered was a fresh perspective on how to view my "problem" and got me to the heart of the matter. She simply said you've done this before and you can do it again. It's not that complicated. Just do it. (I believe I was even wearing Nike shoes at that time!) There was no judgement or emotional enmeshment either.
It's not always this simple. There are many forces at work exerting pressure on us. The problem at hand might be an illness, a disability, depression, anxiety or deeply ingrained inertia and bad habits. You might feel overwhelmed or ineffectual starting something new or changing an old and unproductive habit.
But, if you believe in yourself and what you desire, your natural strengths and capabilities will provide you with just enough energy to do what matters and counts for you.
There is no magic. Only deliberate and active effort results in change. It starts with: bits of time, commitment, perseverance. And it thrives with: heaps of kindness and patience towards oneself.
Secretly, what we probably hope for is a magic wand and fairy dust sprinkled on command, to catapult us into our idealized fantasy of the habits we would like to fully possess.
For my part, I have always fantasized about a disciplined life, with a routine like this: Wake-up 5:30 a.m. Meditate. Stretch, run, lift weights. Read and write. Then begin my work day.
But I'm not there yet! Instead of living my fantasy fully I pull together pieces, here and there, making them fit into my current routine. It's not nearly as elegant but works well enough.
If there's no magic out there, what works for you? Share your stories on the site.
Keep you posted,
My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.