I am many things, a member of a lovely tight messy extended family, an restless explorer, a driven achiever, ocean lover in all seasons, a creative, and all of these personalities present external forces on me, and manifest from within.
And I have tried to live in the present in these personae, and I find that many push me to do so. It can be too easy to fall into the slippery slope of “when I graduation, when I get my big paycheck, when I get married, when I am on my next trip, When I - whatever,” and miss it all, the whole big messy journey.
This is a very “first world problem,” this phrase which is so often apt, though no less worth reflection. I know I have only dabbled in the third and second world in my habitations, but the words have a bit more meaning to me; knowing what it was like being chased by wild dogs, host bed bugs, wondering about when we would have fresh food, holding off on hospital visits due to a hepatitis outbreaks, and heavier things that do not deserve to be in a litany. So while the phrase both makes me pause and chuckle, it has a depth for me. I think for other people they mean it as a dismissal, I see it as simply a difference-different lives mean different blessings and different challenges.
In western India, as mid May’s almost visible desert heat permeated the city's market and pushed the temp to 125F, heat stroke’s clammy fingers grappling at my neck, the importance of the immediate moment almost took my breath away.
The crowd swirled around me, crushing in even as the roaring in my ears blocked them out. My vision narrowed into a black tunnel for a third time that day as I felt the world spin. It all reaffirmed what I had recognized in Indian on a deeply instinctive animal level, the understanding of why one might believe in many lives. Might need to in order to get through with the frailty of daily life. I was so breakable, I felt like a desiccated leaf that might simply collapse and be flattened in the crowd. All could be lost in one ill-advised choice or moment, or just bad luck.
India was merciless with life’s hard lessons. I was a human, but I was not especially valuable, however much I had been told it in America, or wanted to believe it. However much “value” I could create, in first world terms, it could all be gone in a flash.
In India I don’t think anyone, at least of a middle-lower cast, would ever have the First World expectation of 80 or 90 year life, planning out how they would live their entire life. People there seemed to grab every moment and live them, sweet, bright, aggressive and loud, often to my shock. There is no guarantee or time assurance on our wrapper, it is only this moment that we have. We might as well have sweet bright and loud.