Today is kind of a big deal.
The beach is packed with women sitting together in their finest, brightest, jewel-toned saris, with men clustered together in crisp shirts, hoisting an altar above their heads, beating drums and ringing bells. The little shrine at the end of my street is decked with palm fronds and endless strands of jasmine; a pujari blesses the tiny elephant idol and prays with my neighbors.
The streets are strung with lights and music blares from every Ganesha temple in town. Today is the start of Ganesh Chaturthi, a celebration of India’s most beloved god, the remover of obstacles, he who brings fortune and heralds auspicious beginnings.
In the hubbub of it all, I am overcome with my own kind of gratitude to the great Ganesha. I may not bear an offering of coconuts and bananas and will likely pass on carrying my idol through the streets of my neighborhood before immersing him in the ocean. Instead, I let the celebratory breeze blow in and reflect on a year that has passed so quickly and think about the year that has yet to unfold.
I have never been more aware of my own heart as I have through this year.
On July 23, 2013, as excited as I felt to fly off to India, I felt my heart break a bit. I began a new chapter in a new place with a new cast of characters. It was a year filled with challenges, change and crazy adventures. The roller coaster of feelings and freedom and facing myself in a new space left me, all at once, exhilarated and exhausted.
I felt the rawness of being exposed in a new way, of being vulnerable and far away and all alone. I felt the sadness, the regret, the selfishness creep in on days when I was missing something in my family: Taj’s spy party, Rayne’s 21st, Naiyah’s India party, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, tea and the Sunday crossword with Mom or a random Tuesday night dinner at 130 Kenyon. I felt people drifting away from me and I said goodbye to a love that held me close for many years. I came face to face with my privilege and life of plenty in this land where so many are hungry, thirsty, ill and without access to the very basics needed to survive.
India broke my heart wide open.
And, by the grace of Ganesha, the opening let new light in.
I found friends here who saw my tender heart, embraced it and trusted me enough to share theirs with me. My community here has taken shape and we care for each other through shared experiences, letting each other in and with lots of laughter. The opening created space for new experiences with my parents as we traveled together in India, Sri Lanka; we rewired and strengthened our connections. It allowed light to shine on friends at home who have been and continue to be my anchors. I found some quiet and worked at acceptance and letting go, of grieving what was gone and welcoming in the new.
India reminded me that today is always a big deal and amidst all of the chaos of life here and all of the change that comes with a new chapter, I found clarity. As the obstacles were removed and the dust settled, there, standing right in front of me with his own new-found clarity, was my person.
This year, on July 23rd, with my heart wide open, I let go of my vision of myself as a solo-artist and said yes to living my life with love, a ridiculous amount of laughter and real, honest sharing within a true partnership. And, here I am, back at the beach pad celebrating with gratitude as I venture into year-two of this life filled with auspicious days. Filled with Ganesha in all of his glory! Drums and bells. Bright colors and throngs of people and flowers and fruit! Dust and dirt and hard rain and hardship beyond hardship.
I am happy to call this place home today and can’t wait to see what the gods and goddesses have in store this time around.
Good old India.