“You must have confidence, madam, to live in India.” Lokesh, our driver in Rajasthan.

Lokesh becomes our second driver one week into the trip, in Jaipur, after his brother Hari’s foot is run over by a scooter.

Saris on the backs of motorcycles, sidesaddle, their backs to us, the man driving in front. Colored silk blowing in the wind, sometimes two or three children pressed in between. I realize, as I watch them pass, that I, age 38, am the age of the grandmothers, not the mothers.

Cows, dogs, bikes, cars, trucks, pigs, monkeys, and motorcycles navigate the roads.

Blow Horn. Use Dipper at Night. These words are written on the backs of trucks. Why? we ask Lokesh. Blow your horn and flash your lights so the trucks can see or hear you. Some people need to get places quicker than others, he explains. In our country everyone thinks they are those people, we explain.

On the subject of marriage- Arranged is best, he says. Your parents love you, they know you, they’ve lived with you for eighteen years, they want you to be happy, and will find you a good match. Love marriages rarely work out.

He slows to let us take pictures of particularly well decorated trucks, or camels, or elephants, or elephants in the backs of trucks, or camels doing the work of trucks.

Bahubali is the best movie. Parts 1 and 2. Lokesh tells us to find it and watch it. The most expensive movie ever made in India and his favorite.

He tells us about recent uprisings in towns close by. Tension between Hindus and Muslims runs high. A movie has been made that depicts Hindus in an unflattering light. Threats of violence towards theaters that show it. He agrees it should not be shown. We don’t tell him we actually want to see it.

He tells us which days of the week correspond with which Gods and Goddesses.

I have a sore throat after leaving Jaipur and he pulls off at a chai stand and asks them to add extra ginger to my chai.

On the way from Udaipur to Jodhpur, we stop at the Om Banna motorbike Temple on the side of the highway. Om Banna was killed in a motorbike accident on the site in the 1980’s and, after his bike was cleared by police, it mysteriously made its way back to the site three times. Thus, a Temple.

He explains that village people are the happiest people. Wake with the sun, go to sleep with the sun, grow food, barter. All traditions still going strong. But, change is coming, he says. Fast.

We pass field after field of mustard, wheat, and dill. The villages surrounding Udaipur are amazingly beautiful; with lush fields divided by low, stone walls.

“Tika, tika, tika.”

“A, cha cha.”

Spelled phonetically, both mean something like “ok” in Hindi.

I finally figure out that what look like two lane highways are actually three to four or five, depending. The traffic flows with a chaos that would bring US drivers and freeways to their knees in under one second. Horns and beeps a language of their own.

As I write this, we are hurling back to Delhi and blogging seems a better use of time than worrying about the possibility of dying on an Indian highway. Sometimes it is easier not to look. As the Buddhist saying goes, if there’s something you can do about it, why worry? If there’s nothing you can do about it, why worry?

And, as Lokesh says, one must have confidence, madam, to live {in India}. Dear Gods and Goddesses, all 330,000,000+ of you, please help me to integrate this wisdom into my life.

Namaste, India. Namaste, Lokesh.

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IMG_1759I keep thinking about one year ago and am so happy it is now and not then! Not that it was bad, but… I pulled into LA with a car load of stuff last NYE, unloaded my car, went to dinner with friends, and returned to my empty apartment afterwards. It was foggy out and smelled unfamiliar. I woke on New Year’s Day, 2017, and assembled my bed so I’d have somewhere to sit.

Today, one year later, I went for a walk on the beach, after making breakfast and waking up late. I returned to that same apartment, now very lived in and full of furniture, and thought about 2017.

What a wacky year! Both personally and for the world. I told a story on stage to a bunch of strangers, took several classes, made new friends, performed improv on stage for an audience, and continuously felt like I was coming home to myself after taking a twenty year detour. I recommend that feeling!

As I look forward towards 2018 and backwards to where I have been, I see that each year’s chosen word has built upon the last and helped to get me to where I am right now.

2017 Adventure

2016 Faith

2015 Joy

2014 Happiness/Congruence

2013 Centered

2012 Confidence

And, while I continue to use each of these as a foundation, I choose LOVE for 2018! Love as the antidote to fear, just as adventure is the flip side of fear’s coin too. Love that can only be given and received once one has the confidence to know they are worthy of it. Love that comes from a centered place rather than one of neediness. Love that springs forth when one is happy and making congruent choices in their life. Love that is joyous and generous. Love that is given away with a faith that no matter what happens with it, the giver will be fine and that there is always more to give. Love that is entered into with the spirit of Adventure and Fearlessness.

As we look towards the future, with all of its possibilities, good and bad, Love is the only route I see. 7.6 Billion people on a tiny planet; so many differences, assumptions, misunderstandings, fears, traditions, religions, commonalities, languages, stories, songs, cuisines, views, and families. How can we look towards each other instead of away? How can we be of service and benefit one another? How can we open instead of close? It all begins with Love. We can do this. I can do this.

What is your word for 2018?

Happy New Year!

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What a week! What a month! It's like my nervous system, and those of everyone I know, are on constant high alert, waiting for the next twitter bomb, threat, shock, and proverbial shoe to drop.  I'd love to blame the eclipses, which we are in the middle of right now, but science and nature are getting enough flack lately, so I'll just blame us.

As I listened to our President threaten North Korea, I found myself thinking, hmm, this makes my already sparse earthquake survival kit seem even more lacking than it already is.  The Army Surplus store around the corner from my apartment advertises Survival Supplies, be they for an Earthquake, Burning Man, or Nuclear Attack and, curious to see what they had, I popped in. Food in sealed pouches guaranteed to last for a decade. Bullets. Gas masks. The list goes on and on. No, thank you. This is not the kind of stuff I want to buy or worry about. Nor is it the kind of world I care to live in or survive should the unthinkable come to pass.  I left the store without buying anything.

When I walked outside, it was a quintessential gorgeous LA day, 75 degrees and sunny.  A tree nearby was literally raining down purple blossoms.  Wow, I thought, this could all vanish with the push of a button.

Later that night, as I was laying in bed, I happened to feel one of my breasts through my T shirt and was startled to feel a strange bump. "WTF is that?" I thought. After finding a doctor who could see me quickly and getting my first mammogram, it turned out to be nothing serious, but for the second time that week I thought how quickly the lives we all take for granted can change forever. I also thought about how fortunate I am to have great health insurance and how unfair it is that so many in this country don't and that this will cost lives.

We take for granted that we will wake up in the morning and, still sleepy from the night before, drink our coffee and head to the jobs where that one guy will make us laugh and that other one will annoy us and then we will sit in traffic and eat dinner and not think twice about any of it.  We take for granted that Nazis are bad and that the President of the United States will have no problem saying so.  We take for granted that everyone wants to live and that in a war of mutually assured destruction, there will be no winners. We take all of this for granted because it is logical, fair, makes sense, known, etc.  But, then we remember that we are living in the era of alternative facts and this turns everything as we know it upside down. And the reality of the perilous tightrope walk we call life becomes more obvious than is comfortable to admit.

So, what to do? Radiate love in the face of fear and hate.  Value your health and take care of yourself in any way possible.  Help take care of your community.  Savor the beauty of being alive and create more of it.  Show up, speak up, stand up, and stop taking any of it (the fact that we are alive, on this planet, with each other, at this time) for granted.

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img_4751-1This very moment is the perfect teacher.

-Pema Chödrön

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

They go low, we go high. 

-Michelle Obama 

Over the past seven days (has it really only been one week?!) I have been reminded that you just never know who your teachers will be, how they will appear in your life, or the lessons they will bring. I never thought The Donald would be one of mine and yet, here we are and here he is.  I have spent the week examining my own fears, complacency, bubbles, reactions, thoughts and was horrified to realize that I was exhibiting some of the same traits I was denouncing in others.

Others. Them.  Those People.  Over there.  Unknown.  Scary.  Strange.  Different.

Right after the election, I found myself guessing for whom people I encountered throughout the day had voted and, based on a number of arbitrary judgments I made up in my mind,  I decided which “side” they were on. I reacted to fear with fear, viewed the country as red and blue, retreated further into my bubble, and failed to remember the very things I espouse here repeatedly.

It is the belief that we are separate from that “other”, whether that be people or the planet, that has led us to this point and it is only through its untangling that we have any chance at change, progress, and, more dramatically, survival. How can I listen without judging? How can I act rather than react? How can I stay true to my convictions without remaining rigid? How can I come from a place of love when my first reaction is fear, which manifests as hate?  How can I help and be of service?  How can I accept where we are and creatively and proactively move forward?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.  But, what I do know is that I have been given an opportunity to walk my talk, get involved, listen, speak up, investigate, and to repeatedly choose love, which always, always, always trumps hate in the end.

 

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What to say when someone you love can’t find the way out of their own darkness? What to write when each news story is more tragic than the last and there are no answers. That is where I’ve been lately and why I haven’t written. Instead, I prayed. 

Please help us to find the light in our lives, in others, and most especially to see that it exists in those we think we have absolutely nothing in common with. Please help us to love fiercely even when that means opening ourselves up to pain.  Please help us trust ourselves and therefor others.  Please help us to see the bigger picture. Please help us know what to say when words seem useless. Please continue to guide us. Please help us to be brave. Please help us to find beauty in the little things that make up our lives. Please remind us that we are all spinning together on a beautiful, colorful, loud, chaotic, crowded, awesome planet, that no one knows what is going on, and that love always wins. 

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Ever’thing there is but lovin’ leaves a rust on yo’ soul. 

-Langston Hughes

  
On Friday, I was driving from the desert to the Rocky Mountains when I heard the news that the Supreme Court had just legalized same sex marriage in all 50 states. I listened to story after story as the thermometer dropped and eventually the static took over. Love and Equality had triumphed  on a beautiful morning in June. 

Arriving in Silverton, Colorado, I could hear my relatives voices from the rooftop balcony of the restaurant where I was supposed to meet them.  The night before the wedding. My cousin was marrying the girl of his dreams and this is a man who knows how to dream. Standing on the roof as the sun set, laughing with cousins, drinking some delicious mojito inspired drink, the day’s theme of love continued and was lovely. 

The next morning, we took the chairlift from the base of Silverton Mountain to its peak at 12,500′ to watch two people who love, respect, adore, and trust each other exchange vows. As I watched and listened, I felt the same giddiness I’d felt the day before, listening to the radio.

Love won and, I believe, always will.