I woke up this morning in tears. It seems hitting rock bottom can be a precursor to digging deeper than one thought humanly possible. It is indicative of a point where we push through boundaries. A point where our comfort zone is gone and things are suddenly not so comfortable. A point where we are redefined through change and growth. It can be incredibly challenging. And we have not a hope in hell of controlling the outcome.
It’s the real deal.
I’m not going to write about ‘India’. I have been in this country for two days. Both of those days have been in Delhi, the city everyone told me not to go to. But here I am. In a hotel that was full when I arrived but is suddenly empty. In a street where I am yet to see anyone as foreign as I feel.
This mornings tears were not because I want to leave. They were because I’m frustrated and don’t know how to tackle this place. There is nowhere to escape to. I don’t know the rules. Everything I’ve ever learnt does not apply here, and yet, those lessons are all I have. Those lessons and this moment. I want to run out and embrace it all, but I’ve been scared and anxious and unsure of who to trust.
And these first two days have been tough. It’s hard to pretend something is familiar, when it is not. It’s hard to act cool when people are grabbing your arm and tugging you back. I know I have been walking around looking lost, because I’ve felt lost. Everywhere I have gone I have drawn attention and I know it’s because I’m not playing it right. And I know it’s because I am white. And I know it’s because I am female. And I know it’s because I am alone.
Alone. And I don’t know where the women are. But they aren’t here. Not in this street.
And it’s a funny thing. I’ve always prided myself on being fiercely independent. Here, my aloneness signifies nothing of the sort. Here, it signifies something very different. Here, I have found myself actually dreaming of a man. And it’s the first time I have felt that way, for a very long time. And suddenly every edge of me that was hard, is soft. And every edge of me that was soft, is hard. It’s like I have been twisted inside out. And everything that was, is no more.
In these two days I have become closer to myself than I was. I have had to console and pick myself up. And after this morning’s minor meltdown, with some gentle words of encouragement, I took a deep breath, dusted myself off and walked out the door. Again.
I walked the same streets I walked yesterday. But today, nobody bothered me. I dug so deep inside myself. I felt washed with calm, and dirt, but mostly calm. I adopted a glazed over look and walked like I was going somewhere. I did not make eye contact with the many men staring at me. I walked, and I walked, and I walked. And it felt good. And I was alone. And nobody grabbed me. Nobody demanded a piece of me.
I stopped and bought a lassi. And the four waiters in the restaurant stopped what they were doing and watched me drink it. And I didn’t much care. I was just glad to be still for a minute. Glad to be out of the heat.
I know there is much more to India than this. I know I have jumped in the deep end. And I know this city is not indicative of anything other than what it is. This is simply my experience, so far. It’s probably completely naive. As I probably was arriving here without a plan, or much of an idea at all of what I was getting myself in to. I am not disliking it. The fear is quite exhilarating. This place is making me face some things that I need to face. Things that I have needed to face for a long time. I have nowhere to run to here. I must face those parts of myself to move past this and survive. And that is what I will do.
If anything I have been deeply frustrated. I have wanted to run out into the street and let it grab me by the shoulders and let it shake me to life. But I have had to ease in slowly, and try to accustom myself to the custom. Aware of my vulnerability. Aware that women are not treated equally. Aware I have no teacher. No guide. But as the days are melting into each other the anxiety is slipping away. I have adopted some sort of game face, for now. I am somehow feeling stronger, more confident and more empowered. But at the same time, I am on the edge. On my edge. And it’s the perfect place to be.
It’s funny how in one day we can go from one extreme to another. This place seems to be like that. One moment you are soaring and capable of it all. And the next you are scraping yourself out of some dirty gutter, trying to unscramble the pieces.
This is the journey. I wanted to cut it back to what was real. I wanted to strip back the layers of uncertainty and see what lay beneath them.
This is it. This is where truth lives. I’m knocking at its door…
The journey towards the top of the mountain is always longer than you think. Don’t fool yourself: the moment will come where what seemed to be close to you is in fact still very far away.