In the world of Waldorf education, there is a lot of focus on smoothing "rough edges". The explanation (in my words) being that we come into this world as opinionated individuals with sharp edges. Thus it becomes our life work to smooth these edges and meld, or at least function smoothly, in society. Examples being the development of an internal edit button, not living off your Id and looking beyond one's personal objectives to the collective good.
I thought I was doing okay, not well but at least okay, in this regard until I went to India. Like water finding the faults in a rock, India worked it's way into the weaknesses of my psyche and blew them wide open. Now the challenge comes in polishing all of those new facets.
My journey to India has two fairly distinct parts.
The first was the Himalayan Run & Trek. We ran more than 100 miles over five days, on an old cobble/jeep/yak road that snaked its way along the ridge line between India and Nepal. The terrain and sights were an ever changing mix of beasts of burden, school children, country villages, cobbles, sand, ruts, prayer flags, roots, steps, ridiculous mountain vistas and lush jungles. Between running, taking in the scenery and bonding with new friends, there wasn't much time to do more than eat, drink and sleep in preparation for the next stage. The result was a processing delay/buffer between seeing something and having the experience truly resonate.
But after running 100 miles, the exhaustion creeps in and defenses falter. That's when my real Indian education began.
I was traveling with a smaller group, most who had been to India before. They were generous with experiential advice, words of warning and wry smiles as I sucked up every nuanced detail. Pre-departure, I was told that whatever my issues, and we all have issues, India would completely exacerbate them. I was expecting the crowds, extreme poverty or lack of sanitation to bother me. Yes, these all stirred emotions of anger, overwhelm, disgust and sadness. But upon closer examination, I realized there was actually harmony amidst the chaos.
Turns out my challenges came in accepting a complete loss of control and the realization that I had to depend upon others.
On a harrowing drive from Agra to Delhi, my British car mate looked at me and said, "you have to let go and trust in fate, karma or whatever it may be--if it's your time to die, there is nothing you can do about it."
While he provided a bit more introspective reality than I wanted to ponder at such an early hour, he was right. Once I stopped obsessing about each near miss with an over loaded camel drawn cart or Kamikaze goods carrier truck and let the continuous cacophony of horns fade into the background, the madness began to make some sense. Mind you, I will never drive in India, but have complete regard for those who do and do it well.
I am a control freak, details my drug of choice. How, when, where, with whom--I want to know it all in an attempt to maximize every experience. But in India, no one cared. Situations would unfold and outcomes be determined whether I jumped up and down until I was blue in the face or not. I realized it would be easier to simply sit back and let things unfold--just because I realized this doesn't mean I did it, but I can certainly see how it would've helped.
Only children generally have one of two personality types (warning, gross generalization ahead). Some are self-centered and demanding, while others, such as myself, gravitate towards the self-sufficient, loner end of the spectrum with just a few high-maintenance tendencies. But in India, my independent streak was a liability and friends necessary for survival. From the driver who always seemed to be at the right place just when you needed him, to my British car mate passing along 10 rupees (about 25 cents) as a mandatory "tip" for the maniacal bathroom attendant, to the cool headed early morning call announcing we had to evacuate our hotel because it was on fire (mind you, no smoke alarms were going off) - I could not do India alone. And I wouldn't want to. Experiencing the insanity with others, laughing ands sharing stories was too much fun.
My long suffering husband, always first in line to be my knight in shining armor, was relieved I finally eschewed some of my loner ways, yet also a bit jealous he was not present for the epiphany. But between night frights caused by lingering effects of anti-malaria medicine and the swath of emotional wreckage I've left in my wake as the result of a bullshit meter resting on empty (how can I strengthen my weak ankles for running--take up biking; why are you leaving so soon--because I'm not having fun; aren't you going to apologize--it's not my fault you're a moron), John has been busy.
Last night, a doctor friend shared stories from his days as a medical intern at a state hospital in Delhi. His experiences of monkeys and parrots in rooms, no medicine and death inducing waits made mine look as if I'd spent the past two weeks at Disney World. However, he spoke with a passion which belied his true love of the country.
Someone who had been listening in on our conversation said, "I guess you both are glad you never have to go back." You can imagine his shock when we said in unison that we couldn't wait.
"But why," he asked.
The why, my friend, is something you have to experience for yourself, rough edges and all.