Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Plane Rides, Dad-Crushes & Nausea (I'm Home)

Kathryn can attest to my dad-crushes.  Call me cliched or naive or a sucker, I don't care, but any time (ok, every time) I see an adoring dad with a little kid, I go a little weak.  Taken deeper, this says something about a) family roles, b) gender roles, and c) my relationship with my own father, but let's keep it light for now.

On the 13 hour flight from Rome to LAX, I sat one row over from a cute pair of boys (one 2 years old, one in his 30s).  Not everyone will agree with me, but kids on planes are better than most in-flight entertainment.  I understand the wailing or incessant seat-kicking can be aggravating, but I try to be the person on the plane who will smile understandingly, even sympathetically, when it happens.  I was a kid on a plane once, too.  Mostly I just love to be around the spirit and energy of kids, and on the inside I am also wailing and kicking my feet too.

With dark brown eyes and choppy blond-brown bangs (his haircut was skater-boy-gets-a-mullet), this kid was cuuuute.  He vroomed his miniature toy skateboard on the food tray -- when he wasn't perched on it, smiling proudly.  His legs, olive brown and bare in cargo shorts, squirmed and kicked, or simply curled under him as he re-arranged magnets in his activity book.  His dad wore the forest green airline blanket around his head like the Virgin Mary while his son snuggled into his white t-shirt for a nap.  Occasionally, he growled, energy busting through seat belts and circulated air flow, then wailed, his eyes red and salty.

By the end of the flight, we were buddies.  Playing peek-a-boo, systematically stacking airline cups, he told me what he saw out the window.  We spoke in broken Italian, our language skills even.  "Papay," he touched his dad's hip but his eyes were on me, "Papay."

"Mmmhm," I smiled.  "Papay."  That's your dad.  Patient and quiet, with dark eyes and hair, he held something back.  But he was so sweet and strong with his son, his love fierce and tender all at once.

As we exited the plane, the 2-year-old in his dad's strong arms, he smiled at me: "Ciao ciao!  Ciao ciao!"

"Ciao ciao!" I sang to him with a small wave, and his dad smiled at us and wished me a good trip.

. . .

The birds are singing through the citrus trees outside, and the clouds are those delicate little wisps stretching out on top of the mountains.  I am grateful this is one of my alleged homes, the mountains grounding and the trees full of promise, sweet blossoms bringing fruit.

It took Charlie approximately 5 minutes to warm back up to me, this baby I held and giggled with for so many months.  He walks now, making animal noises (most indiscernible), and I am surprised by how much has changed, and how much is the same.

Charlie and Jess, 2011

I guess this is the same sentiment for how I feel about "being back" . . . how much has changed, how much is the same.

. . .

Isn't air travel amazing?  Not the food, or the lack of leg room, or the fact that announcements in airports are always, always, always fuzzy and garbled.  The more important they are, the less coherent.  But in hours you can be in another time zone, the songs of another language dancing in the air, different characters on signs.  

It blows my mind.  Gone are the days of cargo ships and covered wagons.  In hours we are transported to another culture, but the hitch is that yes, our bodies are there, but everything else can take awhile to catch up.  And yet, it's scarily easy to plug back in to the role you were in before, perhaps a role you were desperate to leave.

So here I am in the States, but just like last time, I am not 100% here yet.  It's a slow process, coming home, but my mind keeps trying to rush it.  What will I do next? is a favorite question and I haven't even been home for more than 48 hours.

And then I remember this quote, which speaks so eloquently about some of the truth of coming home to the feeling that everything stood still:

“Coming back from [a trip overseas] means re-entering a world you have known and lived in, but doing so without feeling the charm you might expect at returning to a former life. You had left that world behind in the hope it might be thoroughly transformed in your absence, but nothing of the sort has occurred. It got along quite nicely without you and it adjusts quite smoothly to your return. People and things conspire to make it seem as if you had not been away. … People are a thousand times more preoccupied with their own little lives than with the strangeness of another world. You are best advised, then, to land discreetly, to come back politely into this world keeping anything you may have to say — along with the few sights still gleaming in your memory — strictly to yourself.”

–Jean Baudrillard, 1986
. . .

Upon our descent into LAX, I felt the waves of nausea.  Houses and swimming pools, streets with cars (how many cars with only one driver?), four-lane freeways.  I was landing, back into suburbia and capitalism and consumerism.  Little Boxes (or, this is an awesome cover/music video by Walk off the Earth) came into my head and stayed there.

Where do I fit in this crazy world, which is go-go-go, which is concrete boxes and checkboxes on lists, which is big box stores and big ambitions?

There is value in carving out a life for yourself, making a home, and all of that, but I am worried the carving is going to give me carpal tunnel.  Is it possible to carve deep enough into this concrete world to hit earth?  I want the soft dirt and hard rocks, the red river rocks; I want the rush of river and sunshine on my shoulders.  I want to live simply and aligned with my values.  I don't want to take on outside anxieties or judgments.  I don't know how all of this is possible.  Something about living in the U.S., about just being in the U.S., makes me feel that everything is less possible.  The gleam flickers to a fade, my vision is less expansive, my breaths shorter.

But this is my challenge, facing these fears, living these questions.

Being more than the roles, living in an expansive space, transcending boxes and boundaries.

Going quiet enough to listen to the rhythm of my heart, which is always guiding me.

Remembering to be grateful for all that I am experiencing in this moment; remembering that this moment, if I live fully in it, will carry me through to the next.

And the next.

And the next.

Here is to the next moment.

Wait, no, scratch that.

Here's to this one.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In Which I Go Home

Yep.  I'm going home.

Well, to one of my homes -- the ranch in California.  For that ever elusive chunk of time, a bit.

Two more nights in Szeged, and then I get on that plane.


More travelling felt like running.  I am tired of travelling and touristing, tired of castles and cathedrals, gelato and old heaps of rocks.

Okay, I'm not really tired of gelato.  Is it possible to get tired of gelato?  I highly doubt it, but just to be on the safe side, I would be happy to do some research.

Another adventure is in the works, but I can't divulge anything just yet.

Until then, avocados from the ranch, dips in the ocean, and trips to woodsy Maine and Oregon.  Seeing my family, the little ones not so little anymore; from wriggling in a lap to walking.

But before I am Stateside, I am saying my final goodbyes to Szeged.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go eat all of the chocolates I bought as gifts (sorry) and look through photographs of my old students while I cry.

Or pack.

Yeah, maybe I should do that.

Either way, wish me luck.  I'm gonna need it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Survey!

Hey everyone.  I am in the process of a blog over-haul and I would love your input about changes to make to this blog.

If you wouldn't mind filling out this survey, all results are confidential, and it should only take a few minutes.

. . .

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Telling the Story, Dropping the Story

"Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world."  ― Ben Okri 

River of Words by Tan Shu Huey

So here is the story I have been anxious to tell because I don't want to get too identified with this part of existence.  I know we all have stories, and part of me loves to tell them.  It feeds my need for connection and playing with words, the poetry of it; it also feeds my ego, something I am letting go hungrier all the time.  

I want to live beyond names, labels, and identification.  I don't want to be anything with a capital letter: Adventurer, Teacher, Victim.  

Speaking of which, I'm not.  A Teacher, I mean.  Not officially anyway, because I quit my job.

It was a decision that was made, somewhere deep inside of my body and consciousness, a long time ago.  It was a decision that I nearly spoke in June at the Principal's office, and then actually spoke in July.  It came from my heart, the only place I know to trust.

And this is the only true practice: following the heart.  I once heard that, "If you lived in your heart, you'd be home by now."  Beautiful, yes, amen.  But like every piece of wisdom I hear, I just want someone to tell me how.  

Sometimes I am such a demanding human being.  I want direction and guidance, I want decisions to be made for me, I want validation and affirmation from the universe.

Only, as soon as I quit, I didn't feel the immediate rush of relief.  Instead, I felt doubt and dread and panic.  Thanks a lot, universe.  Some help you are.

I was making myself sick just chewing on the question of quitting or not quitting, and then once I resigned all in one rush, the mind revved its engines: Did you quit to escape the feelings of indecision?  What about the kids?  You can be unhappy anywhere you go, you know.  Maybe if you go back things will change, you will change.  What did I do?  What will I do?

Other stories started.  The ones about what I would do next, and how cool I am for quitting and getting free and starting something new, or how selfish I am for leaving the kids, or how about just how utterly fucking lost I am.  But amidst the clatter and back-pedaling and stomach acid there was a steady beat that anchored me.

My own heart.

Can I just tell you something real quick?  There is something so magical about following your heart.  I highly recommend it.  Sadly there is no guarantee things get easier or anything like that, no fast-track ticket to enlightenment, but there are other perks.  Like, knowing you are following your heart.  It's good stuff.

So that's what I am doing, and I am not sure, in this moment, where it will take me.  Deeper, probably.

For now, I am back in Szeged, experiencing a strange kind of paralysis.  It is my home and not my home.  I don't love it or hate it, although I am aware that to feel one or the other might make this experience exponentially easier or more difficult. 

Kathryn unpacks while I pack, and mostly make piles of things to give away.  I don't know what I am packing for, but I have a vision, and a week or so to let the direction come.

Everything seems to be up in the air, including me, but it's cool up here, so expansive.

And the future?  I can't make out the picture entirely, but it's looking pretty bright.

Enough words and stories for now.

I have used up all
of my river.
Nothing is left but the stones.

Oona Lyons

Friday, August 17, 2012

Colors of Umbria

I couchsurfed with a lovely couple near Perugia, and these photos are from a walk we took near the house.

We also took a day trip to Assisi, which has charm, cobblestone, and of course, cathedrals.  Oh, and a castle, too.  It is the city of peace.

Views from the castle.

We sorted (and ate) many apricots from the family farm.

After couchsurfing, I stayed on a farm and explored the area on a rusty old beach cruiser.

Though I have no pictures of sunflower fields, there were many.  I had this romantic, idyllic desire to see fields of sunflowers, but in reality the shriek of yellow nodding heads made me feel a bit seasick.

And that was Umbria.