I’ve previously written about what I might do if I wasn’t so afraid, and this summer I finally did it – I sold my house, put all my belongings in long-term storage and began traveling the world. The idea is to travel, to quest and to explore who I am when I’m not shielded by a cocoon of familiar objects, routines and people. This is my opportunity to just be.
And so far I suck at it. Seriously.
Since I had never visited the UK (aside from changing planes at Heathrow) I began with a week in London, to be followed by various stays in other cities in Great Britain and Ireland. To date I’ve seen some pretty cool places, but I’ve pretty much been acting like a tourist.
While there’s nothing wrong with that, I had expected more from myself. And there were a couple of times that I know I’ve fallen short already.
The first time was in Regents Park. It was late afternoon and I was trudging back to my lodgings after a full day of walking about London. I was passing a bench when an elderly man sitting there spoke up and asked me how I liked the park. Who me? Yes, he was talking to me. For about a minute we exchanged pleasantries. I had the urge to go to the ice cream cart down the way to get a couple of soft-serve cones to bring back for us both to enjoy while we continued our conversation but I didn’t. I felt a pull to get going – this interaction with a stranger wasn’t on my schedule. I had things to do! I left.
I should have stayed.
The second time was on a street in Edinburgh. I was standing on a corner waiting for the traffic light to change when a monk passed by – Asian, mid-thirties, dressed in robes (but not Hare Krishna). Our eyes met and he smiled at me. He held his hand out with something in it for me to take, but I stepped back and shook my head. Was he trying to get money from me? Was he trying to get me to do something I would regret? When I shook my head he smiled again and continued down the street.
So this is how I am now – a little bit suspicious, a larger bit self-protective and definitely wearing blinders.
Remember the story in the Bible when the Apostle Peter denied knowing Jesus three times before the cock crowed? That’s how I feel like now. I’ve denied opportunities to connect with other members of humanity two times.
Will I get a third opportunity? What will I do? Will I even recognize my chance until after it happens?
At the same time I feel empathy for myself – and for everyone else. So many of us are habituated to keep our eyes on the goal and to dismiss or brush away anything that interferes with reaching that goal. But while we’re doing that, we’re not thinking about how that goal was selected in the first place. Or about who chose it. Maybe, just maybe, we can reconsider our habitual goals – and the ways we go about obtaining them – and decide whether they still serve the lives we wish to live.
In the meantime I came across the this video of a sufi street performer dancing on a street corner in London. I don’t know the language, I don’t know what the song is about. But the music and the dance tell me two things: life is beautiful and we are all sacred.