Palm Reading and the Poets (A Poem)

Palm Reading and the Poets

Plath was right: these are my hands,

i am the only keeper of my limbs

Berryman was right: if we don’t travel in the direction of our fear

we’re not even moving at all

Bishop was right: the art of losing isn’t hard to master

i’ve done it ten times over

I could list it in plainer terms than Oxford Press:

I won’t produce indices on end

I won’t beat biographies into the ground

like the dead horse—

maybe I’m the dead horse.

Because the way they beat me

The way the great poets wake me up

is like waking on tundra,

Alive and surprised I didn’t die,

but transported to a new state of living—

Where I’m feeling cold, awake, perplexed,

strangely submissive.

They can tell me my thoughts,

they can write me into existence.

Wildness

Sometimes I think about myself as a tiny child, wild and messy and conquering things, climbing stairs on all fours, beating my chest, yelling geronimooooo as I’d hurdle off of furniture and fling myself down railings like a happy, yet controlled little beast.  I lose my wildness constantly just as I lost it when I came to an age of reason, as if such a thing really exists.  The only thing I’ve reasoned since then is that to be under control is overrated and while listening is good, some listening is just an admission—to servitude and docility.  But to behave is often to don a cloak of little color, to be, as it were so grossly marked and wrongly defined some time ago, an adult.

Behavior is an oddity, because surely the Capitol Hill Moms Society, many of whom I wait on at the restaurant, forcibly smiling and placating their snotty, animalistic, screeching children, sort of like this: “Hi, buddy!  Oooo look mac and cheese!! Tasty!”  But I think of the moms who sport expensive accessories and flaunt Obama 2012 bumper stickers and disproportionately large bike racks on their Honda Fits and dress their kids in Fair Trade beanies and dark wash jeans and baby Toms, I think of them and their odd techniques, their definitions of how to keep a child, how to make the child do, say, be.  They are so wildly mistaken.  This is where it starts; it starts at the women who pretend their doing something of benefit for the future generation.  But here’s the thing, those who revolutionize don’t form public policy from a social studies textbook.

If the Capitol Hill Moms Society keeps pushing behavior, then from where does the wildness come?  And when it comes, will kids be afraid of it?  Will they say: “What I this I feel?  This master morality, this inclination toward the Thelma and Louise?  Why do I feel as though the edge of the cliff, which I was once cautioned to turn from, only begs me, ‘come child, this is where you say yes to life.’”

 

There are times when the reward reaped from a risky, unpremeditated action is so grand that the act itself does not even skirt the baseline qualifications for misbehavior.  Let’s take a cripplingly bad hangover.  You’re eyes don’t want to open, your body aches and your esophagus brims with bile and other unsettling remnants of glucose.  You feel like there is an oversized snail swimming about your insides to and fro emitting a fermented slime that causes a feeling somewhat similar to being stretched out against a slowly turning, upright wheel, limbs hooked tight to the edges, eyes fixed open to a blurry edifice you’ll never reach.

There was, of course, a caveat.  You learned it in middle school, high school, too.  You learned that drinking coffee, that taking a cold shower are merely fabricated remedies, and do not, in fact, “heal” a hangover.  You learned there’d be no real cure but time, perhaps interspersed with a few healthy dry heaves and a 12-pack of ginger ale.  But you were caught in celebration last night.  It was 2:30 am and you needed that shot of bourbon.  You were pursuing a wildness that is both real and necessary to your being.  For our dry-bellied friends, the un-imbibers, that may mean reaching out to a long-lost someone or beginning a relationship with a word or a cute, unimposing shrug, or attending an anime convention because they really like anime and it does and should not matter whether a parent or a friend is condemning of the wild act.

The hangover takes place in many forms.  Often, it feels remarkable—snails don crowns and sprinkle fairy dust throughout your insides.  It is only when facing the general public, those who sit on thrones and wag index fingers and grimace, that the bile may erupt.  There is rarely any component of the wild act to be feared.  It is the dawn, what one should encounter upon waking, that throws us, that bars us abruptly before we hit the road and elicits in our minds a montage of things that could go awry.  Often caught between I want to and I would want to, if…, we lean toward what we deem to be a comfortable choice, a choice without repercussions, when in actuality, that safety, that comfort, is a fear of committing that which we were taught not to do—not to borrow trouble, nor test waters, but rather watch them ripple gently, unperturbed, just simply performing a stationary dance, like the human breath, or the feline purr.

Behavior is a highly scientific, and, what’s more, medical term.  It conjures up thoughts of labs, monkeys, mice on wheels.  You must behave; you must not misbehave.  It is highly detached from our being, and merely a step within our daily activity .  But wildness, wildness is a component of myself, not merely my actions, but my whole self.  Often, though, it is an unrealized component.  For me, wildness was something I’d subdued and even barred off for years as I focused on “being good.”  I stayed the course of what I’d perceived as goodness: not drinking, not smoking, not having sex, not talking about sex, not talking about much of anything I was thinking about, getting good grades. Before I continue, let me clarify misconceptions before they begin to occur:  There’s nothing wrong with exhibiting traits that are classifiably “good.”  What there is something wrong with, though, is aiming to please and get through life, unmarked or unbruised, to an extent where one begins to wholeheartedly dismiss a large component of self that actually craves the seat of the pants, the skin of the teeth.

It’d be a seamless anecdote if I brought in the time I went bungy jumping in Nepal and detailed the mind-numbing freefall.  You know the anecdote: AND THAT’S WHEN I FIRST FELT TRULY IN TOUCH WITH MY WILDNESS: WHEN I TOOK THE LITERAL PLUNGE, OFF THE BRIDGE AND INTO THE UNKNOWN.  But truthfully, this is not when I first confronted and embraced my wildness.  There was no first time, it simply happened, because as I grew and mere goodness left me with only more questions, I gradually allowed wildness to be, pleading it to come forth from the recesses of my soul.  Recently, I’ve felt the hangover more frequently than I had for years.  I am not often happy, but I find that when I am, it results from moments, events, or conversations in which I am deeply in touch with my wildness.  I am discussing unorthodox business ventures, I am drinking pitchers of margarita, I am not as quiet as I used to be.

I might spend an evening cracking jokes, inserting dry humor into already uncomfortable conversations, singing loudly, discussing the benefit of having cats in ones life.  And to boot, I might do this all shamelessly.  This is wildness.  As a young adult in a world of questionable, questioning young adults, I am stepping out, consuming, risking the hangover, the mind warp, the high, the decline.  And although I’m swearing and discussing bodily functions, I am not misbehaving.

I am wild.

I am reflective as I ponder how I will one day “teach my children” to act.  How will I teach future sprouted generations of me how to bar natural inclinations, how to sit still without going crazy, without suppressing a need to dance.  I have no idea.  I don’t know if I can successfully execute the best of all worlds, without being perceived as a mother who dresses in kimonos and hair curlers, keeping a home brimming with fumes of marijuana, decked in finger-painted murals.  How will I raise small humans, fully in touch with their wildness, without losing my mind?  Perhaps they will have to spend a few years sitting still, for my own sake, at the very least, but I will tell them each day about how the day will come when they’ll be in the corvette hair waving in perfect follicular patters, like a miniature tunnel of fall leaves, and then, then they will spread their arms, let go of the wheel, and invite wildness to take hold.  Then they will say yes to life.

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In the meantime, though, before I create new life, I’ll stack building blocks onto my own.  I’ll trust myself, ridding my mind of the harrowing fear of misbehavior.  For I’ll know, it is the fear of remaining stationary, of being without being, that is most threatening to a full and flourishing life on earth.  I will break open the lock box and be as the great god of wine: a little brunette, freckled Dionysus: unafraid, close-mouthed, fixed in an unrevealing smirk, open-eyed, wild.

They Don’t Call it Reverse Culture Shock for Nothing (Goodbye, Nepal part 2)

As I began to disembark the plane, I found myself barking “MOVE” through gritted teeth at those in front of me, only to realize, I’m not in Nepal anymore and any amount of anger or impatience would not necessarily solve my issues now, in a land where people understand me and I’m not always needing to aggressively assert myself.  When I arrived home, my dog jumped and barked excitedly and I was afraid t0 touch her, or even go near her after 6 weeks of avoiding rapid dogs on the streets.  I soon drove with my mom to pick up sushi.  Throughout the drive, there were a few stop signs and one traffic light.  No one was walking around on the streets, as is typical with suburbia, but still……

Last winter, I talked non stop about my summer plans, until it looked as if it wasn’t going to happen, but even then, I was going to Nepal.  I had a feeling.  I usually know when I am right about things.  Weeks ago I said to myself, “I’m having sushi as my first meal when I get home.”  And I did.  I had my sushi and I went to Nepal.  As I stare at my bag, half full of gifts, thinking about how I got away with its heaviness without paying extra fees, thinking about what I’ll tell people as I distribute gifts, thinking about if people will care, especially care that some of my best memories weren’t all emotionally intense cultural experiences nor beatnik earth-embracing base camp treks.  I’m thinking about what they’ll say when I tell them that I am changed in the best way possible, that I’ve met individuals, Americans and Nepalis alike, who helped me to better realize what I want and don’t want out of life, that some of my best memories weren’t ones where I sat in solitude, celibate from spending money, but rather times when I took a break from whatever else seemed chaotic around me and spent a little money here and there on meals out, day trips, 4 green tea smoothies throughout an entire day spent at a cafe with a friend, mostly in silence, but still in one another’s presence.  Maybe I’ll tell people that one of the best parts of my days was coming home to blog about it, because certain days, it almost didn’t feel right just keeping it to myself.  I had to share.

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Nepal will most likely go down in the history of my life as the strangest place I’ve ever been.  Never will a place repulse me so much, yet give me so much to feel good about.  And I’m not talking strictly city versus country, although the country does win by quite a bit.  What I mean is the sense of empowerment I gained from learning to be fully myself in a house full of volunteers, in an office full of Nepalis, and walking around on a street full of maniac drivers and oftentimes creepy pedestrians.  Sometimes being fully myself meant yelling, “Oh, you think you can charge me this much because of my white skin!?  I want Nepali price, not white price!”  And sometimes it just meant freeing all the awkwardities that amount to myself rather than trying to put a cap on all those qualities and tendencies that make me the truest version of me.

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Self discovery also took place during interviews with teachers and young children.  I’ll never forget one brave teacher who told me that just because she is a counselor and teacher to child domestic workers and teaches them to voice their fears and concerns and sorrows aloud, just because she encourages openness and future-oriented minds,  because she encourages the children to have goals, because of this she fears that she will be persecuted. She is afraid to walk down the streets at times, fearing that people will see her as the revolutionary teacher who is untraditional in her methods.  As she said this, I remember thinking that every view I took would be stronger and stronger from this point on in.  Every risk I took would be more intentional.  Thank you to CWISH and my general work as an intern for allowing me the opportunity to think and feel and be inspired in these ways.

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Even for all the times I lied about myself, i.e.: I am 27, 25, 24, married, work for the government, study law, am married to a congressman, getting my PhD, work in human, own and operate an NGO here, am from Ireland, I still managed to feel more myself in the end.  I believe it happens most always when one gets out of where he or she is from, but there was something stronger about Nepal that pushed me to break away from feeling enclosed, quiet, nervous.  Whether I go back or not, I’d like to think that I’ll have a new adventure soon enough, and I’ll feel more confident, more excited, more ready to engage, serve, understand.

I’m not finished blogging, although some may be bored by blogs simply about life and not life in South Asia, but I have to keep going because one day, I will find the words and they will be simple.  But for now, I leave you again with these words:

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” -Pico Iyer

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Namaste, Nepal

& Dhanyabad, & also, Dhanyabad to you guys:

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Love,

LR

“Travel is like love, m…

Quote

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

In the morning, it will be my birthday.  No gift can measure up to the gift of experience.

And honestly, the gift of my mother, who loves me with this kind of undimming love, and always pushes me to try things and allow myself to be transformed.  While I will miss family and loved ones on this day, I feel their presence even stronger in some ways.  How I got here, to this point in life, this physical place, is not all my own doing.