Ann wrote about it beautifully here, about how we can be so aware of what others might or might not think/the approval/disapproval of others that we stifle what actually makes us stand out.
SMUT. AND SELF-ESTEEM wrote a beautiful piece about what it looks like and what the effects are.
In Eat Pray Love (the book, always the book) a young man goes off to spend time in an ashram in India and goes home and waxes lyrical about it to his father, who is sitting quietly looking into an open fire. ‘It gives you a quiet mind, Dad,’ the son says. ‘I already have a quiet mind, son,’ the father answers.
In India it was a big focus of my husband’s to learn to relax completely without feeling guilty. In Pushkar the owner of the guesthouse emphasised again and again how important relaxing was and was in the process of creating another relaxation area for guests. He told us that the local Chief Minister had even commissioned the creation of a garden for Indians and Westerners to relax in.
Yes, I went from a forty hour a week stressful job to not working, and of course I gradually unwound, rediscovered myself etc etc. But I didn’t want to do nothing, and I didn’t want to come home without the trip having meant something or resulted in something concrete. So I wrote, an hour or two or more almost every day, writing for my travel memoir and for this blog. I often pushed myself too hard, writing when my hand, arm or shoulder hurt- I have some RSI- or when my brain had gone foggy.
The real lessons of India perhaps haven’t sunk in until I am back here in the UK. I’m still writing almost every day for a couple of hours. I stop when my brain is tired or when my body aches. I go for a walk every day, sometimes twice. I cook and eat healthily.* What I’ve noticed recently is how quiet my mind is. Really there’s only two, three subjects on there. The book, the chapter I’m on, *, and the sheep and lambs opposite. All is quiet with my family, I’m maintaining a healthy emotional distance to keep my independence and boundaries. The only thing really are the sheep and lambs opposite who I have become very fond of. And there’s sheep and lambs everywhere, and if I don’t watch it I can 1) Get fond of them; watching them jump in the air, run up and down the small hill, eat grass, eat hay, suckle from their mum, etc, and 2) Think about what’s going to happen to them.
But compared to my previous list of worries this is nothing. And compared to how we often felt during the last half of the trip, fearful about the future, now it/I am here it doesn’t feel scary at all. Just get up, live, repeat. With less on my mind I’m a lot more present. The only things I want to do each day are write for a couple of hours and go on one or two walks. Minor chores such as emptying the loo or doing some hand washing (laundry!) are easily fitted in. So the rest of the time, it doesn’t matter what I do, and I can go with it easier. As opposed to before when I’d be constantly thinking ‘What’s next,’ about protecting my ‘me’ time, and almost overdoing things in my mind and in practice the way I overdid things at work, almost like a form of self harm.
It’s like I had to do all that, to get here. I mean I could have just sold the house, bought a boat to live on instead and used the spare money to have a year off to become a writer, but I never thought of that. Doing it all to go to India seemed somehow more obvious a thing. And of course it gave me something to write about. Or rather, something beautiful to hang my random internal thoughts around. And now I’m here, sitting at my little desk in my little study area, writing, and not really worrying about anything else.
*except for you know whats, those pastry things I am obsessed with
Photograph: It was my birthday at the end of April, we don’t really do presents or not in a big way if we do, my husband bought me a new chain (the original one had recently broken) for my Om necklace that I bought in Kerala to mark a spiritual experience there, plus vegan birthday cake and vegan chocolate from the health food shop, plus gin, tonic and lemons, and Corona and limes. He waited on me all day, and made dinner while I lounged in the bedroom and watched Netflix. Okay so the partying took a few days to get over, that’s why we don’t do it very often, but you’re only forty-nine once.
Thank you very much for reading
About the author
Sold house, left job, gave away almost everything else. With husband went travelling for a year, mostly in India. Here are my India highlights. Now back in the UK, living on a narrowboat, and writing a personal travel memoir.
For more photographs of the trip see Instagram travelswithanthony