As a newly self-employed guy, I very much appreciate blogs that catalog the trials of the free agent. To name a few: Steven DeMaio, Erik Proulx and recently (I hope)Chris Spagnuolo. I guess this is my contribution to some already-great thinking out there, for whatever it’s worth.
Oh – and Happy Indian Republic Day!
Everybody looses things once gained. It can be terribly depressing and deflating.
Your books are a mess despite once having the perfect accounting routine and system. You can’t run five miles anymore even though you once ran a half marathon. You used to network regularly but have been out of the scene for so long you can’t imagine going back to a room full of strangers. You lost sight of your kids’ soccer games this summer after getting to all of them last season.
Happens to all of us. As sure as we’ve all sent a regrettable email, open the refrigerator again, skim stuff we should read.
Or as sure as we’ve all had to spend alone time with a partner traveling without us. You know: your partner goes on a business trip, a trip with the kids to see relatives, a long weekend fly fishing with the guys. My wife (Neeti) is in India visiting family this week. It’s the first time since we’ve been married that she’s travelled there without me. She’s been making this trip every two years or so her entire life, and we’ve been three times together since we met. This trip she’s taking without me? It feels more than a status-quo week apart. It feels very different.
I’m spending more energy than I anticipated missing her. Imagining her there. The well-worn paths we take together with her family. All the hassles of Indian travel that I thought annoyed me are suddenly endearing. And now that I’m trying to write about it, it seems that my clearest (as in what I can describe in words clearest) memories of my time in India are actually not very exciting.
Many of my most meaningful memories of India are actually quite surreal. Now that I think about it, I’m convinced the real India is actually found at night. Unless you’re forced to as a tourist, it’s too hot to do much during the day. Walks with friends, going to the market, shopping for household items, often happen when the sun goes down.
So in my most interesting memories, like it is in a dream, the lighting isn’t very good and I don’t ever have a clear sense of where I am or what’s around me beyond the immediate. This makes for odd impressions that are very hard to describe.
Eternal back-alleys and exceptionally confusing markets of Mumbai… parents playing with their children on banal swingsets and slides and jungle gyms inside a fenced park while men offer rides on elephants and white baraat horses outside the confines… a rickshaw that stops at an intersection boxed inches between busses that are wonders in their persistence to still operate and stuffed with people you’d like to imagine the stories of but the unfiltered exhaust fumes preoccupy… passing an open door to a flickering florescent lit room packed with barefoot and dirty people of every unimaginable age huddle-squatting around a flat-screen TV watching Indian Idol… a relative casually pointing out a temple where a statue of a god has been crying milk for a week and then it’s gone in a flash like the hundreds of thousands of faces you’ve vainly and repeatedly asked your brain to make an impression of….
As a result of this poorly lit, dusty, polluted and over stimulated dream-state, my impressions of what Neeti is experiencing are abstract. I can see her spending those seemingly interminably days receiving visitors in her relatives’ homes but that’s a repeated, rather predictable picture that doesn’t leave much of a mark. The stuff that does leave a mark I just can’t clearly envision. So in a weird way I miss her more because I’m not exactly sure where she is.
Amidst all this fuzziness my mind is pivoting around the one thing I know for certain: Neeti is surrounded by millions of people intently interested in a god called (among his thousand or so other names) Ganesh.
Almost all of Neeti’s family live in Mumbai and other cities and towns in the state of Maharashtra. Like most other areas in India Maharashtra tends to put more focus on one god over all the others. In Maharashtra, it’s Ganesh. The god with the elephant head undeniably rules there. It’s hard to separate the place from him. He’s everywhere, cutting through the millions of people and confusion like a light ray in a rickety old theater.
So as sure as Neeti is on my mind, so is Ganesh. As is what he has to do with loosing something once gained.
If I have this about right, a few thousand years ago the Yoga Sutras articulated a number of obstacles we all face. Among them was this notion of loosing something once gained. (I’m pretty sure the author/s call it anavasthitatva.) It’s a tough one to overcome because of how deflating it can be. It’s one thing to summon the courage to do something new. It’s quite another to recognize a failure and then do it all again.
Among other nice attributes, Ganesh is the remover of these obstacles. Some believe that God (thus Ganesh) is in all of us. So it follows that meditating or worshiping or however you go about patting Ganesh on his elephant back is really about meditating on what he represents: how we all struggle with similar challenges in life and that we have the power within us to overcome the obstacles that challenge us.
It doesn’t really matter if you believe in any of this. To me it’s just nice to know that as I work my way through this solo gig I’ve chosen to pursue, I’m not alone in the frustration of a step back after a few forward. That I have it within me to overcome it. And that millions of people around the world think so too.
Thinking of Neeti surrounded by a culture that every moment of every day is giving Ganesh his props gives me some smiles this week. I’ve been lucky to not have many setbacks in my adventures as a free agent. But one thing is crystal clear in my mind: they’re coming as sure as Neeti is coming home.