Filed under: India
The past five months living in Delhi have been a whirlwind of both intense love, spirit, joy, and simultaneously tragedy, pain, and sadness. These two far-flung dichotomies have always been ever-present in my experiences here, so I should not have been surprised when India once again delivered. Yet I still find myself suffering from a sort of proverbial whiplash from how equally penetrating and powerful these conflicting feelings have played a part in my life. I always step into this country with such awe and wonder, yet I then find myself suddenly facedown on the pavement without quite knowing how I got there.
I arrived in Delhi in September on a hot summer evening (or perhaps a very early morning) to meet 34-odd other Clinton fellows that would come to make up a crucial part of my experience here. As our first week of orientation went by, I found my voice and spirit that only ever seems to exist in this country: raw, pure, passionate love emanated from me. I felt fully myself and alive in ways I had forgotten, a vulnerability that I had buried within myself and only came out in rare spurts. The jaded and bitter edge my personality had taken, like rust to steel, after two years of isolation and loneliness in the middle of rural Paraguay, disappeared completely. Spontaneity, compassion, adventure, and lots of good humor took their place. My soul was singing.
Good friends have called me extremely resilient and strong over these past few months in India. I always seemed to have a smile on my face, even while getting Dengue fever and spending two weeks in the hospital. While being put back in the hospital again a month later, this time in the ICU. While being admitted to the hospital a day later again for internal bleeding and going through minor surgery. While making the decision to go home to the United States to recuperate for a month from being so ill. But if you are living your best life and being your best self, how can something so trivial get you down? If I died, at least I would die with my eyes wide open to the world.
Truth be told, it did affect me, but not in the ways you would expect. I felt a heavy sense of guilt, so heavy it became almost unbearable. Feelings about not being able to serve the organization I worked with in the ways I wanted or that they expected became a heavy weight in my heart. I felt a deep sense of appreciation, but also burden, to my friends, family, and to the fellowship for spending huge gaps of their time and resources to take care of me. The expectations I placed on myself to make up for these gaps were not necessarily fair, but they were there nonetheless.
I sought solace and comfort in a bond that quickly became my main pillar of strength, that I easily let become one of the only things that made it manageable. I let it return me back to the world of the highest highs, feeling reckless and free. Riding this wave, I went back to the United States in a sullen mood, not ready to let go of the magic India promised me. Life in the US was full of medication, of doctor’s visits, of rest and sleep and utter boredom. There was no enchantment there, only a reality to face that I had had a serious brush with death in India, and I had to really take care of myself if I wanted to return.
I counted down the seemingly never-ending days and finally returned to this country, eager to get back to the life I had left here. Yet as much as you can will for permanence, life is always changing, and India was not the same as I had left it. I watched in a sort of muted horror as I slowly saw that this pillar I had leaned into was rotting at the seams, crumbling away to dust. The only response I could permit myself at the time was to hold on stronger, even when its sharpness cut me, even when I allowed myself easy lies because the truth was too much, even when I knew it was wrong. I held on until I was left clutching nothing but permanent damage and scarred memories. I felt numb with regret, paralyzed by the onslaught of emotions it brought out in me, feelings I hadn’t allowed myself to fully process in months; in some cases, years. My mind felt cracked open at the seams, raw and exposed. I struggled to hide behind excuses, willing the people around me to accept the shoddily-crafted half-truths I hastily created, hating myself for not being able to stop the onslaught of emotions that were pouring out of me like a broken faucet.
This is my constant cycle in India. There is something about this country that doesn’t make me afraid to pull out the most precious part of myself, the part that everywhere else I protect and guard. It is in these moments that I am the most wonderful and alive, a beauty and power that will astonish even myself. Yet every time I have taken off this armor, I have been both simultaneously greatly rewarded and deeply wounded. Perhaps it is an inclination in others to mar something they see so innocent and pure. Perhaps I give my heart away to the world too quickly. Perhaps my intense love for everything I see and feel blinds my judgment.
But would I have it any other way? Could I have it any way? No, I could not. I am in India for that magic that I can only seem to draw out of myself here, because knowing that such a thing exists within me and that I can live it is worth more than any pain.
In my posts, I always try to end things on a good note, like there is always a positive side to suffering, a revelation or lesson that others can embody or learn from. I don’t feel like ending things on a good note right now, because they are not. Losing an important constant in my present life is hard to bear, harder than I can put into words. Time heals all wounds and whether we want to or not, things must normalize again. But sometimes it feels good to admit that you have no conclusion, and to live with the pain for awhile. That’s where I am in this present; perhaps for the first time, I am not afraid to say it.
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