It wasn't a trip I wanted to take; there were no beaches or cocktail hours; and the only souvenirs I brought home are carved into my abdomen. And yet, I traveled far, saw things I'd never seen before. I learned more about the internal and external world than I have on any other trip I've ever taken. My love for friends and family has deepened and changed.
If I could go back and refuse the journey, I'm not entirely sure that I would. I'm not the same person I was when I entered the hospital for the first time on November 28th, and I don't think I will be her again. Her preoccupations are not mine. Her sense of time and priorities are different, too.
If you asked her why she wanted to live, her answers would have been theoretical, and would not always have been borne out by the way she spent her time, or the words that flowed from her mouth all too easily.
There's nothing theoretical about my reason for living now. I think before I speak or act now. Do those words, that way of thinking represent who I want to become? Is a given activity really worth doing or am I doing it because it feeds my ego or alleviates my fears?
In the past four months, I've spent a total of five weeks in the hospital. I shared both a room and many intense hours with unknown roommates from the U.S., China, Equador, Monseurrat, Cambodia, and Panama. I found some more congenial than others, but I learned from all of them.
If I had a choice, I would have opted for a private room, but these "strangers," each enduring their own hour of crisis, blessed me with their lives, their stories, their friendship--and above all their courage. They proved again and again that what we think we want--solitude and a chance to control our environment, is good; but rising out of ourselves and the narrowness of our lives is better.
"My" hospital was a teaching hospital, and I came to love the atmosphere of wild learning that pervaded the place. As one resident told me, everyone there was mentoring someone else. It was an atmosphere where no one knew so much that they couldn't learn from someone else; and no one knew so little that they didn't have something to teach.
That's the kind of world where I want to live; it's also the place within myself where I returned to at the end of my trip. If I have something to give, I want to give it--and without reservation. At the same time, I want to keep my eyes, my ears and my heart open to all that I clearly have to learn from the mentors who startle me at every turn.
Monday, March 31, 2008
MY TRIP AROUND THE WORLD