Traveling, she realized...
“Traveling, she realized, was like a slow dismemberment of the body. It plucked the heart out of her and split it into pieces, leaving a bit behind wherever she went, never to be whole again.”
~ Rhian J. Martin
Each time I arrive back in India, I feel completely unprepared to be on my own again. I spend time thinking about exactly what to pack, and what I need to do to prepare to go, but somehow I always seem to forget that I need to mentally prepare for being very, very independent for awhile.
I arrived this time after two flights in the U.S., and the 15-hour long-haul flight (which I had previously claimed I would never do). I was able to sleep for a good portion of the middle, but the overall travel time was still a beast.
This was taken on my long flight from New Jersey directly to Mumbai - chasing the sunset and flying into the sunrise.
As we prepared to get off the plane, my anxiety heightened. I had chosen to stay someplace new this time. My logic at while I was planning was that I should “explore a new part of the city,” and, “get to know more of Mumbai now that I am more comfortable navigating the public transportation.” I felt like such a good little adventurer. New things! Independence! Experience! As I walked off the plane, I wanted to kick that good little adventurer in the shin. Unable to truly grasp why I thought the lack of familiarity and comfort would be fun, I walked towards baggage claim. As I walked, smelled, and saw, I remembered: Oh yeah. This place is a part of me. I can do this.
I gathered my tabla, the only bag I had checked, and headed towards the exit. In an earlier episode of panic, I had also bought internet time on my flight to book a car. The “good little adventurer” had previously decided that traveling by prepaid taxi would do. The more realistic and slightly panicked version of myself decided I needed a car and driver who knew the address in advance. I was grateful for the realization.
I also bought internet time to chat with my amazing husband. I can’t quite explain how incredible and solid Mat’s support of me makes me feel, but the ways he supports me are humbling and truly loving. The night before I left, he got really sad that I was going. In the days before I left, I had been trying to make sure I had all the little pieces I needed to make things go well, but I felt like we hadn’t gotten to focus on just spending time together. He told me how much he was going to miss me, and I paused and said, “Thank you,.” I think he was a little confused, but in that moment, I realized how thoroughly he supports me, which sometimes means making sacrifices himself, and making do without his partner quite often. I had absorbed how fully he supports me and believes in me. He never complains ( although he jokes about me leaving him), he let’s me do what I need to do before a trip (also without complaint), and then he just deals when I am gone for weeks or months. I am sometimes amazed that I have a partner who is not only so complimentary of my needs, but also someone who just knows what i need. He’s truly incredible, and I am so humbled to have someone so giving and supportive as my person.
The passengers ate dinner on the plane, and the cabin lights had been turned down. I turned to my side and thought I should give sleeping a go. If you’ve read my past posts, you’ll know that I am an extremely optimistic person - to a fault. I often think things will work out just fine, and even when they don’t I am focusing on the positives. It’s a blessing most of the time, but sometimes can work to my detriment. As I closed my eyes, I was blind-sided by negativity and doubt. Why did I come here again? Why did I take this huge trip again and think I could do this? I will never be where I want to be in my playing, so why do I insist on trekKing way the hell out here to do this? I sat up quickly and started to tear up. It’s pretty rare I have thoughts like that, and so I didn’t really know how to deal with them. They surprised me, and I knew I needed to get a grip.
I thought, Okay, I am obviously getting freaked out right now. What am I most stressed about? THE CAR. I need to book a car. I also need to talk to Mat. So I logged on for a measly hour to find some comfort and a prepaid A/C car. Mat calmed me down, and gave me a little perspective, and I cried it out a bit and was able to sleep afterward.
Arriving in Mumbai I suppose is always tricky. My current cell phone plan doesn't work internationally (I get a SIM card in India), it's never a guarantee the cabbie will have any clue where you're going, and it’s always night when I get there, which always makes me feel a little lost, confused, and scared. Arriving in daylight would make me fee like I could ask around and figure it out, but at night I want to get where I am going quickly and without hassle.
I walked out and found my driver, and we were able to find the apartment building. I found my way up to Sunita, my absolutely wonderful Airbnb hostess. She was sweet and capable and even took me around the block in a taxi to show me what was nearby and help me find my bearings.
She let me out on the corner and wished me a nice stay. I thanked her and crossed the street to go back up to the apartment. I walked one way, then turned and looked up. Not recognizing the entrance, I turned and walked the other way, and looked up again. Panic was starting to rise in me again, and I stopped on the street. I know it is literally right in front of me. I'm fine. Just keep walked and look. I turned again and found the entrance, hugely relieved. I made my way back up to the apartment, and worked on settling in.
I was alone.
I know jet lag coupled with emotions are hard. I have been through this before, and I guess I had (optimistically!) thought that I wouldn’t feel this way again, since I had already experienced it. I had to have remembered what I was getting into, right? But I guess I didn't. I felt it hard - the distance, the loneliness. I chose to be uncomfortable, to take a risk, to try a new place and to make things a little harder. It felt much harder than I had intended.
As I unpacked and got cleaned up I berated myself. Literally there are people sleeping on the street right now, and you’re in this nice, clean, AIR CONDITIONED apartment with food and water and you can’t keep it together? And I cried.
The next day and a half was spent in conversation with friends and family on the other side of the world via Facebook chat, while alternately crying and giving myself pep talks about leaving the apartment. It felt equal parts terrible, frustrating, and stupid. I pined for the YWCA in south Mumbai, where the staff remembered me and I had two meals a day provided and I knew exactly where everything was located. I just wanted familiarity. Instead I slept.
Turns out, when the only sleep you’ve had in the last two days was a few hours in your bed at home before the flight and a few hours on a plane, your emotions will take you on a ride! After the first day and a half I adjusted, calmed down, and felt much happier.
The hazy monsoon morning peaking through on my first day.