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Feeling Free In Small Town America

Hey everyone. I keep meaning to write about my Indian adventures, but instead wind up writing about my everyday experiences right here in small-town America.

I think this is because for me, it’s a pretty fascinating experience, being here in my small town, being back in the States, being around alot values and beliefs that are so varied and  altogether dfferent than what I was in just recently.

When I came back here just a few weeks ago, I really didn’t think that it would be all interesting, especially after the places I’ve been and the things that I had seen.

But it’s turned out to be somewhat of a wild ride.

I mean, part of that is definitely emotional, but part of it is that it seems like everyone is speaking a foriegn language and has these strange customs which I’m not familiar with.

Like how people:

Greet each other and say goodbye(or not)

How people save face (or not)

How people talk about wealth alot (or not)

What is considered of value (and what is not)

How people approach politics, religion, and other important topics

What consists of appropriate small talk(or not)

How complicated peple’s lives seem to be (or not)

How people express opinions (or not)

How people present theselves (or not)

The way people deal with things here is so much different, and qualities people strive to have are also alot different. It’s not wrong what people want, it’s just very different than in India.

I find it interesting to take note of how much of Indian culture and customs really have affected the way I view things, almost acting as a filter for what is going on around me.

I have a closed and final way of looking at some things, which is very Indian–but also I have a new expansiveness that I ever really had before and this combination of perspective makes me more adaptable than I could have ever imagined myself to be. It’s so Indian to have both of these perspectives at the same time! It sometimes frustrated me alot in India to deal with this trait in others, so it’s surprising that I took some of it on and brought it home with me.

This adaptable quality is new to my way of looking at things and it makes everything somewhat of an adventure. It makes everyone very interesting–and sometimes strange– to me.

I’m always thinking to myself, ” What is that person trying to express by their dress, mode of speech, way they sit, car they drive, opinions expressed(or not) ?”

It’s almost as if I feel like everyone is in some weird tribe , which has it’s own rituals and so forth.

It’s hard for me to judge accurately what is wrong or right or in between, and in fact, the process of even doing that seems outdated and futile.

It’s like I’m an anthropologist living in a small town with groups of people defining themselves by alot of mysterious rites and kinship groups.

Which is exactly what it is.

I just never saw it that way before.

The really strange part abut it is that I find myself trying to..not necessarily fit in, but….align myself with the group or tribe that suits my perspectives, opinions, and so forth the best. And I’m doing this consciously for the first time in my life. I look back and wonder sometimes if I was actually ever this concious before now. My guess is that I wasn’t. How strange.

It means I’m thinking alot more about everything I am, and everything everyone else is, and how those two fit together.

And the strangest part about it all is that I’ve changed so much on my trip that… I don’t find myself particularly drawn to the groups or tribes that I was in before. I don’t know why, but I find myself spending more time alone than I probably ever have my entire life.

It’s partially because I am, actually, in spite of my frankness, a very private person, and I don’t feel like explaining myself too much at the moment (it’s been a wacky rollercoaster ride emotionally since I got back and how does one even begin to explain that? What a mess, for goodness’ sake!  They say time heals all wounds, so let’s hope so!)…and it’s partially because my ethics, morality, interests, my reason for living, I suppose is so drastically altered from what it was a mere two years ago that  it’s pretty difficult sometimes for me to relate to other people.

I still like and enjoy all the people that I knew before–such wonderful friends I have, who have helped me truly “come home” these last few weeks–but I find myself drawn to new people and experiences that I would have not been drawn to even a year ago.

For example, I went to a big party the other night with my friends from Mexico. They are all farm workers, very poor….but with great spirit and intellect. Such a smart, vital group of people and so loving and inclusive.

The party was for a girl’s seventh birthday, and there was a huge mess of tacos made with calf brains and all other sorts of strange foods; there was dancing and I salsa danced the night away; there was laughter and fervent declarations of love; and it went on long into the night.

I felt so at home with these friends of mine–not only because now I speak fluent Spanish–but because it was, I think… more relaxed to me… and more like the people I’ve spent the last years of my life with.

When I hear people talk about certain things like real estate or something, it feels like they are in some strange tribe speaking a different language! So being with people who were living in present moment–dancing, eating, talking, laughing–without the worry for tomorrow–well, that is something I’m a little more comfortable with!

And I’m just so different than who I was before that even my interests have changed so much that that also has redefined who I am and who I am drawn to.

For example, one of my main interests when I lived here before was art–and making it. I had art and art making pretty high up there, on pedestal of sorts, as though that particular form of self expression was better than anything else. And while I still see art and art making vital to both myself and the betterment of mankind, I see the process of who gets to make art as rather accidental. It’s a new, rather curious way of looking at something that was, before, so very important.

What has changed is that now I don’t hold that particular thing or process any higher than anything else. A person who paints for a living is no different than a person who fixes cars. It’s actually all just culture and luck and will, and those things are really just circumstances and nothing more. 

Plenty of poor, destitute people in the world would make great “fine artists” if they had the opportunity, but they don’t, so they make bowls out of tin cans or arrange the items in their hut beautifully…. or maybe they slave away all day at some grueling job and they don’t have the energy to  do anything else. So one isn’t higher than the other. And I used to think differently.

Spiritually, things have changed pretty drastically for me, too. I used to have what I would call a convenient spirituality–I used it when I needed it, and I forgot about it the rest of the time. Now I feel so connected spiritually to the planet, to God, to others, even, that I find I have this incredible sense of peacefulness and calmness that I never had before. I’m taken care of and I know it; and even though I do worry sometimes, it’s fleeting. I know that the path is pretty clear and I’m not alone on it, so that helps me to let go alot more than I would have been able to do before.

I’m not shy, either, about my beliefs or where I think I need to be with them. Taking spiritual inventory right now is not just an every once in awhile activity, but a daily activity–and sometimes even, hourly!– and something to approach with alot of joy and knowledge that I will only benefit. Thank goodness  I have faith, or what has happened to me recently (if you are behind on the blog, well…basically, I came home to a messy, complicated breakup that I wasn’t expecting.)..anyway, I could not have faced it. But taking spirtual inventory of myself really has helped me not only face it, it’s  helping me move on to what is the rest of my life.

Maybe this came from working with people who were really suffering and struggling and somehow that experience refined my soul. Whatever it was that made this overall change happen, I am grateful for it. It can be hard to face yourself and your situation sometimes, but believing in something greater than yourself–whatever that is for you–really puts it all into perspective.

The biggest change I think is that my goals are totally different, to the extent that I find my present and future almost unrecognizable to myself.

This, in particular, is what makes me feel a bit isolated –and it’s also extremely hard to explain to other people, who haven’t had the experiences I have had and have been living in what amounts to a different reality.

My goals are so large, vast and..I would say.. extreme(for this culture, anyhow!) …that most people I talk to get overwhelmed. “How will you do it all?”, they ask.

I can’t explain how, exactly…I just know, that’s all. And that’s enough for me. I just have totally different priorities for the rest of my life, and that changes how much I think I can do with the rest of my life. It’s that simple.

I’m happy, so happy, to be home, to have  place to be where I can be comfortable and just be myself.

But I’m just also realizing–somewhat simultaneously–that “just being myself” is a bit more complicated than I thought it would be, because what I’m learning is that I’ve changed so very much from my trip that some parts of  me I’m just discovering.

It’s an amazing journey, going around the world. It’s an amazing process, experience, and so forth..but what’s most astonishing is coming home and realizing that you’re a totally different human being with these new qualities that you never realized you had before.

It gives you tremendous perspective and a whole new chance to recreate your life as you want it to be, not as others expect to be.

It’s a little like waking up from a coma two years later and having particial amnesia, but having had the most fantastic dreams of your entire life for two years. It’s so freeing.

The main question I find myself asking everyday (to myself) is ,”Well, why not?” , because the first thing that comes to my mind everyday is that it is all a little scary and overwhelming( so much change, so many choices!) and how will I do it, anyway? But then, I just ask myself, well, what’s the alternative? And that leads to the question of, “Why not?”

So I feel like every door is open, all my options are option, I can go anywhere, do anything. It’s the most freedom I’ve ever felt in my life.

I think this liberating feeling of freedom  comes from having accomplished something that was only a dream to me in the past, and not only did I do it, it turned out better and more than I ever imagined that it would have. And there were so many people who didn’t think it could be done, or didn’t think it was wise, or important, or that it was too risky.

Well, I’m really glad that I didn’t listen and that I did it. I think any woman who travels alone comes back and says, ” I can see that I don’t have the limitations on me that I thought I had, and what’s next?”

So my thinking at the moment is that pretty much everything else can be treated exactly in the same manner–there are no impossibilites for me. I just have to feel free enough to do it.

And I do. I never thought I would be someone who would say this, but I’m free.

gigi



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4 Responses to “Feeling Free In Small Town America”

  1. Yvelle says:

    I hope I can live as freely as you one day.

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