Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Back Page

Back page

Do you ever mean to just look at a few pages of your old journal and end up rereading the whole thing and then forget to pick up your kids from school? This always happens when I'm trying to purge some old stuff and I come across my journals and then I am completely derailed from the purging project. I don't have that many journals because I could never be bothered to write regularly. I have one, two actually, from when I was 17 and went to Israel to live on a farm for five months. I wrote every day. It's a thrilling account of a scared shitless teenager living halfway around the world wanting her mommy but instead waking up at 3am to clean incubators. Good times. And I have another journal from college that's mostly sporadic declarations of my unrequited love for some new pony-tailed, guiltar playing, pre-med goon that had the least bit of interest in yours truly. Sad but true. That journal also has some stuff from when I moved to Israel after college and met my husband. But then I mostly ever wrote in it when I was mad at him and wondering why on earth I was living in a place where you paid your bills at the post office for a guy whose idea of fun was reenacting Exodus by hiking in our underwear through the desert. It was like dating Moses.

When we left Israel I started a new journal. We had bought tickets to fly around the world for the 8 months we had before I started business school in the States. It was a fantastic trip full of adventure and turmoil and diarrhea and sand flies and hitchhiking and purple coral and Himalayan views and lost inhalers (mine - which sort of sucked at 14,000 feet), and 16 hour bus rides and yoga and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. We even got engaged on that trip.

This list is on the back page of that journal. I wrote it while we were in Northern India, spending time in Dharamsala, the home in exile of the Dalai Lama. We arrived after a harrowing journey from Delhi, the armpit of earth, and even though I had a 103 fever and was hallucinating, we schlepped ourselves up to the temple where His Holiness was giving audience. And he blessed us and gave us little red strings. This was super awesome but had no affect on my Dengue fever. We decided we should stay put for a few weeks because the mere thought of another long bus ride was making me bleed from my ears. So every morning I'd wake up and listen to the rats run diagonally across the roof of our guest house accommodations. Then I'd go get a mango lassi at the cafe down the road and then do Yoga for four hours with a yogi named Akhilesh. Then I'd come home and read and eat and play card games with other travelers. And then I'd park myself at the Internet cafe and figure out where we would stay in Copenhagen, our last stop before London and then California. And who had the cheapest one way ticket from London to LAX.  And how we were getting from California to North Carolina. And how much money we still had left. And when I had to sign up for pre-MBA math camp. And who killed John F. Kennedy. And where was Al Capone's money if not in the secret vaults. And is there life elsewhere in the universe. And do they eat pita with Nutella.

Here I was living in a beautiful, albeit rustic, little village in Northern India with the Dalai Lama as my neighbor practicing yoga daily and eating as much chana masala and mango lassi as I could, all for $10 a day and yet completely consumed by the details of wrapping up our trip and starting business school another world away. Once again trying to control the ambiguity in my life.

How I would love to go back there now, and maybe stay in a place for $5 a night instead of $3 to avoid the rats, and just enjoy each day and each mango lassi and each yoga pose. And let all of my anxiety about the future waft away on a Tibetan monk's robes. I'd leave the back page of my journal for poetry or sketches. Or emergency toilet paper.

I'm getting the tiniest bit better at this actually. The living with ambiguity. We have a lot up in the air right now and while I still make lists and do research, I'm mostly letting it all simmer and thicken while I try to just enjoy where I am and trust the path. Maybe this comes with age? Our trip was already ten years ago. And here I am in the same breath that I write about enjoying the present, wishing I was traveling the world again. Sigh.

This Tuesday list was brought to you by the letter A.


  1. And Another Awesome Anecdote...

    An Anonymous Admirer

  2. Great post! I LOVE your posts! I'm a terrible 'planner' too. Always have to know what's coming next. It's a bit of an illness really :(

  3. This list (and story) stole my heart!

  4. What an interesting time you have shared. Looking back on life can be strange, educational, dreamy, so very many emotions associated. Hope you have been enjoying your reads.

  5. Hey Ya-ya,

    A heartfelt entry. I am right there with you and have a daily struggle between planning (and worrying) and just being. I like your 'simmer' metaphor. I always think about this quote (attributed to EB White,but who knows..) "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day".

    Miss you!

  6. i linked to your cinema paradiso post today... i cut paper all morning and kept thinking of your sweet sensitive boy and his papercutting therapy.

  7. you make me laugh, and bring me to tears, too. i'm addicted to your blog and feel an incredible surge of joy when I see you've made a new post. thank you for this "petite bonheur" you bring into my life. a favorite quote that (sort of) fits today:There are times when it is hard to believe in the future, when we are temporarily just not brave enough. When this happens, concentrate on the present. Cultivate le petit bonheur (the little happiness) until courage returns. Look forward to the beauty of the next moment, the next hour, the promise of a good meal, sleep, a book, a movie, the likelihood that tonight the stars will shine and tomorrow the sun will shine. Sink roots into the present until the strength grows to think about tomorrow.

    Ardis Whitman

  8. so many lovely comments. And quotes! EB White and Ardis Whitman - I may turn the last page of my journal into a list of inspiring quotes! progress!

  9. loved every word. you are so f-ing cool.

  10. Wow that is an incredible post, Mish!
    Hiking in the desert in underwear- What a wonderful thing to do.

  11. hey, I just read Your story about Your beautiful son and the sence of music...
    Made some of my fences fade. Thanks.

    I think I´ll need to take some time, grab a coffee and update myself with Your blog. See You soon.

  12. i love your storytelling.
    & journal re-reading.
    & way you communicate
    such depth through
    a tunnel of laughter.

  13. i'm right there with lori and Jenn..you are loved and so f*&king awesome!!


    (and wtf with the pony-tailed, guitary playing, pre-med goon....he missed the boat with you my friend...just sayin!!)


  14. i seriously can.t wait for this to come out in paperback. actually, NO. i would spring for the hard back!
    your writing rocks and this story is the best!

  15. I just reread this blog for the 3rd time. It's absolutely amazing. It gets better with age.

  16. it's gets better with age because I can't stop editing it...

  17. Everyone benefits when you derail from a great purge. I love this story! And I can't get the picture of you and your hiking in the desert in your skivs out of my head, which pleases me immensely. Burning Man is so jealous. Jumping on the quote bandwagon, here are Rilke's two cents:
    "I'm too alone in the world, yet not alone enough to make each hour holy. I'm too small in the world, yet not small enough to be simply in your presence, like a thing--just as it is."

  18. I could have read ten more pages of this. Please. PLEASE tell us more!

    I had a similar traveling experience in Darjeeling. Stayed in a $.50 a night hostel. Just so you can picture it: $.50 in Northern India will get you a lice-infested bed, toilets that are overflowing with crap, wild dogs circling the building and barks at all times, and a possible rapist as a roommate.
    ...and yet, I still long to return, and watch the sunrise over Everest, and buy fab silver jewelry for, like, a quarter.