Different Points of View, Selfie with friends Indian style

A dozen years ago my life lease was up for a renewal. I wasn’t in on the original contractual negotiations. I’d checked myself out of sorts the way you might picture a heroin addict winds up evicted. It’s totally their fault, but they’re hiding behind the addiction. My addiction was bad men. By bad men, I mean both types of bad men. There is the man that is candidly not a fit with you personally, but you’re clearly unwilling to accept that so well, which leads to some bad-man-looking behavior. This type does not indicate that said man is actually a bad man in the sense of doing anything wrong to you or in life in general in any way. However, he does, like you, need to part ways and move along in any direction without you by his side, and vice versa. Then, there is an honest to God bad man. This is the kind of man who is deeply disturbed, conflicted, abused, misused, and a host of additionally negative adjectives. The world would operate with true peace if the eradication of sincerely bad man were achievable. Although, we’d likely be missing out on a bountiful batch of excellent filmmaking plots.

I was doing some needed soul bathing for today’s writing. That’s my nonconformist version of digging up the reaches of my past, exposing them to the warfare of any present issues, and comparing notes to see if there was room for applause, a serious spanking, or an even plateau I could surmise I may in the least balance upon for the sake of sanity. The idea is to acknowledge a cleansing with myself of any prior poor performance of personality. During my excavation, I exhumed an old writing from my 2008 life files. It’s a piece that was during the seminal launching of my new lease on life from 2006 through 2008. I had no clue at the time what today would look or feel like. I hope you enjoy this freaky Friday bit of nostalgia* commemorating what I was up to twelve sun rotations ago. This was me birthing a new me. Existentially analogous to most births, it occurred with all the flowery flair and hypocrisy of happiness combined.

#FBF (aka ‘FlashBack Friday’, for you more off-grid, woodsy, remote, non-techie, un-millennial-like, sans acronym-using humans)

* Names and some wording has been slightly altered in this contemporary edit in order to protect the innocent (or even not-so-innocent), as I didn’t have social media at the time and it’s just better form not to blab about people if you can help it and as you should (not!)

Have you ever been at a coin-operated laundromat, or peered into your fancy Bosch dryer, and noticed how disorganized and chaotic your laundry looks tumbling around? All these shapes and colors floating wildly against one another, with no coordination whatsoever. It’s mesmerizing and ridiculous all at once. In short time, this jumble comes out piled in a heap only to be patiently, delicately sorted and neatly placed in order with care.

It all reminds me of my emotions the last two weeks- an undisciplined pile of thoughts, dancing daringly amidst backdrops that ranged from sunny California’s United States of American dreams to India’s impoverished third world. Somehow, my only two treks to India have amounted to a large helping of immaturity both times. Each time, it’s been a new set of friends to meet, whereupon I find old high-school behaviors of my yesteryear rearing their ugly heads in petty competitions over plans, etiquette, respect and overall strength. It does take a settled, stable mind to have a one-hundred percent glorious trip in such a devastatingly poor, yet colorfully rich, country if my amateur opinion. I was not among a crowd that fit this latter mold once again.

And, because, again, I did find one fellow traveler willing to meet me eye to eye, well that just became more fuel for the unfriendly immaturity fire. The result culminating in a pitiful display on the part of the community instigator. She was a meek girl of twenty-something years, whom you’d think was barely past her thirteenth year if given credit solely based on her ways. Her tirade was directed at me the night before the final wedding festivities formal evening. We’d spent a total of six nights together and she couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. Thankfully, she did not ‘bite’ me in front of the bride. Although she’d acted out with some useless comments in front of our dear soon-to-be-betrothed friend, which caused me to recoil if for nothing but this being the bride’s time when I felt no one else ought to cause an inch of issue. But people are not made of steel, much less in this young woman’s case anything substantial like humor and deference.

No, what this feminine being lacked most was the very thing I was born into- an extreme taste for proper etiquette. An acute syndrome of civility pronounces you know exactly, nearly always, when and why and how to open your mouth, or in these days keep it shut. Should you not like the food, the bed, the heat, the stench of goat hides piled high at your feet at the street bleeding with flies having a buffet, or anything else along the way, well that is just part of the ride for your mental cavity to endure and not at all food for commentary by which your generous host should have to rearrange anything to make you — the wayward American girl — happy in her American ways in a land that is not America! For Jiminy Christmas sake, you chose to travel halfway around the world to another country, not to experience your own preferences but to simply experience. But, God help us all, no, not her.

Maybe it’s too harsh to say I wish she’d still been in Mumbai the night of the attacks like the rest of us. I think the direct scare would have done her some good. Though, in hindsight with this awful thought, I realize that would only have caused even more work for my sweet bridal friend. Undoubtedly, the focus would have been to drop all priority things related to the new husband and his family and care for this misguided woman. No, it is good she was already back to the US, while those of us in the city clamored to reach one another the first twenty-four attack hours, seeking confirmation we’d all survived, unlike the many who perished at another set of terrorist hands.

So, you see how my emotions may have gotten the best of me for a stretch these last weeks. There was the juvenile performance of some of my travel mates, the radical expression of some global extremist group, and then the usual tumult of things already captivating my headspace: “Braden, you don’t have any income presently and you don’t have a living space. You are mighty strong at making worldwide friends who you adore and want to continue meeting around the world, but unless you get it together none of your dreams are coming true sister! Oh yeah, and that guy you’re gonna see in soon- what are you really gonna do about all that? Can you handle that? Can he handle that for the sake of what limited amount you offer right now — a delicious romp, filled with compassion, joy, and love, but without commitment? I know you’ve talked to him about all this, but does he really get it? You’ve been down this road before. Just be wise. I love you.”

On and on the banquet of conversations feasted in my head. By the time of the India attacks the night I got out of that country I was wrecked from feeling. On purpose I made myself watch two movies on the plane to help me get ready to want to meditate for hours of my first leg of flights, the longer sixteen-hour stretch. I cried like a baby at both films. One was Swing Vote and I sobbed so hard. I hadn’t shed water from my eyes like this in ages when it wasn’t my period. It felt great, but I think it was just everything. All my thoughts were like tangled bits of ash floating on winds cast out to some foreign sea. I was crashing in and out of great surf versus calm waters in my mind. I wanted a plan, a reason, an understanding of myself and not all this knowledge and reflection. I was where I was and still am ~ searching for a purpose to justify these choices.

I am a gypsy at heart. My parents have long confirmed it. They even let the Eastern European gypsies babysit for me long ago one night and were worried they’d run off with me or that I’d want to stay gone. All was due to a sudden earthquake when the sweet gypsies took my sis and me into a safer stairwell to hide, yet this was long before mobile phones could alert my parents to our whereabouts. Funny too, because it’s not far from how I feel a lot over the last two years of rediscovery of self. I’ve found that home truly is where my heart is. I haven’t found that one city I want to call my own, as the whole world beckons to me too much. I know I won’t be happy tied down in one place. I know the kind of man I want to spend my life with will need a deeply global conscious, or be a homebody without any jealousy for my far-reaching aims. I will always need to travel. It’s not modestly a mere want. Without it, I’m like a fish out of water or a bird that cannot fly.

What I found in India was what I’ve found time and again when I went looking without knowing. I set out on a journey simply to enjoy and be along for the adventure. What I received was the equivalent of a religious confirmation, a true testament of self to self, the opportunity to remind me of me. There are faces in the crowds as one walks the streets among people who cannot share your same language, or wear your same clothes, nor eat your same meals, or sleep in the same comforts as your own. These faces are mirrors. They are little spectacles of humanity brought upon you, by your choice to see them and meet them eye to eye, as chances to vanquish your own soul for the sake of your deeper self. The one we really can call one — seeing us all in one another.

Yes, in India I rediscovered the treasure of pleasure and pain, of smiles and tears, of luxury and hardship and of fraternity and ego. I come home washed clean of many troubles, yet still full of all of them. They are wholly more tidy- laid out precisely, bundled in their matching and sizes… more easily ready for me to take on and evolve.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

LOVER of life. Especially people, places, philanthropy and photography.