Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Strange Landings

I've been struggling with how to talk about the trip to India, and have been trying to figure out why this is.  Part of it is that it was a trip for work, not a vacation or a pilgrimage (though it ended up being a little bit of each).  So there are many correct answers to the question, "How was it?"  It was amazing, delightful, infuriating, invigorating, exhausting, and more.  There is also the fact that I've had to dive right back into things here with work and family and probably haven't been able to process my experiences there.

The main thing, though, is that it doesn't feel like it was me who went.  Or, at least, not a me that I've known for a while.  My life there was so far away from everything I am here.  I didn't have Eric or the kids, not even on the phone for a few days.  And apart from a very slow, very unreliable internet connection and the fact that I sat through hours of technical talks everyday, I wasn't accessible to work as I usually am, either.  

This happened to free up a lot of time and energy.  I was committed to staying well in India, so I really took care of myself.  I took vitamins every morning, got plenty of rest, ate well, didn't drink too much alcohol but drank a ton of (bottled) water.  I did yoga every day, sometimes at sunrise on the beach.  I breathed.  I meditated.  The conference schedule was incredibly busy, but I made time for all of these things, and I stayed well, and I felt well.  I had long conversations with people and made new friends.  I was free to come and go as I pleased.  In short, I was another person, an autonomous person, largely free from the roles that mostly shape my life here.

That freedom was also a little nauseating, though.  I feel like I've brought back some of those lessons, of caring for myself and of taking time free from others' expectations.  But I also realized how much I need Eric and the girls.  Not that I have ever considered a life other than this, other than wife and mom to these three, but I think up until the trip I had been focused on how much I was needed.  Being gone reminded me how much they I also need them.

On the second-to-last flight home, from Frankfurt to Detroit, the flight attendant came to my seat and told me they'd been telexed that I would need to contact a Lufthansa representative when we landed, something about my final flight to Denver.  I spent the next twenty minutes crying, sure that my flight had been canceled, and that I'd have to stay overnight in Detroit, and that I wouldn't see my family for one more entire day!  I was heartbroken.

Turns out I needn't have worried--they just wanted to tell me my luggage needed to go through customs (why the urgent telex for this, I do not know).  But in those moments, I felt that if I didn't see Eric and the kids immediately when I got to Denver that I would die.  I would tear someone apart limb from limb.  I would crumble into nothingness.  Please forgive the dramatics, but that's exactly how I felt.  The pull to them was enormous.

All of this, I realize, says nothing about India, or my relationship to it.  Nothing about how an elephant (the one pictured above)--the spirit of Ganesha--laid his heavy trunk on my head, and I felt as if the hand of God rested there.  Nothing about walking barefoot through the streets of Kanchipuram, through its temples.  Nothing about the deer chasing monkeys up the trees on the campus of IIT Madras, or the friends I made, or the scientists intent on changing the world, their world, India.  The poverty.  The gods.  Maybe these things will leak out in bits and pieces in coming posts.  Or maybe not.  It wasn't me who witnessed them, after all, and the words are slow in coming.

1 comment:

  1. Your comments here strike me as quite interesting, since I thought, while you were gone, "I really need/like having/enjoy having/require beyond a shadow of a doubt Jen in my life." Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that, but really, it amplifies just how much we are comprised of the parts of ourselves held by those we care about--those we love--like we're a puzzle that's mostly US but there are also those piece made from those that SEE us. Know us. Those that we let in. (Get it? Oh my.)