I am being called to India. There is this undeniable pull that I feel towards India. Perhaps it is my deep connection to yoga or my love for Indian food. Maybe it is the vibrant colour, energy and spirit of the culture. India, to me, feels alive.
And so, my time has come to go.
I am going to India.
For five weeks. FIVE weeks.
It should be known that despite my great desire to experience India, I am most terrified to go. Actually, that would be an understatement. I am out-of-my-mind-crazy-frightened-nervous-anxious-anxious-ANXIOUS about going to India. I have conjured up many ways to boycott this trip: contemplated pulling out; made pre-mature decisions about shortening my stay there; asked people to join me; tried to pretend it’s not happening by avoiding all planning for the trip; secretly hoping those around me would beg me to stay or tell me not to go; I’ve even played out horror stories in my head about what could happen to me while I’m there alone.
But I’m still going.
Last week, I went to the India Consulate to get my Tourist VISA for the trip. I got there at 730am. At one end of the room, there were tons of chairs to sit in and on the other end of the room, there were six numbered lines to line up in. I was given a number, asked for my cell phone (no cell phones are allowed while you wait) and told to wait in one of the empty chairs. I was the only white person in the room and I was the only person who did not speak the language. I listened and sat down and waited. The place continued to fill with people. It was getting more and more crowded and chaotic and it was very hot with little circulation. An hour later my number was called. I got up, moved through the crowd, explained why I was there and was then told to line up in “line 2” to pick up my VISA. I lined up in line 2. After an hour in line 2, I finally got to the front of the line where I was told that I was in the wrong line and that I needed to line up in “line 6” for my tourist VISA. As I walked over to line 6, I could feel my impatience growing. I was frustrated. Very frustrated. And hot. And tired. I waited in line 6 as I was now told to. Another hour later, I got to the front of line 6. The man behind the glass took my VISA receipt and returned in 11 minutes. He told me that my VISA was just shipped to the handling centre and that I should go there and get it later that day or tomorrow. I explained that the status of my VISA online indicated that my VISA was “processing” here at the Consulate. He shewed me away and told me there was nothing he could do. I tried to use my voice and get him to listen to what I was saying and he simply looked at the man lined up behind me and called him to the glass so that he could be helped.
My eyes welled up with tears.
I was so angry. I was so agitated. I was SO hot. I wanted to scream. Loud. Big. I wanted someone to listen to me. But nobody was listening. Nobody. I walked outside and crouched down on the sidewalk. The rain was pouring. I didn’t care. I stood in it. Let it pour on my face. I cried. Loud. Big. After a few deep breaths, I called the handling centre. The lady on the phone told me that my VISA was “processing” at the Consulate and that if I wanted it quicker I could go there directly and get it from them.
I got into my car and thought to myself that perhaps this is a sign that I shouldn’t be going to India. “Ya Ky, this is your ticket out.” I felt relieved about this. I wanted out.
I got home. I sat down at my kitchen table and I thought about this. What do I do? I didn’t know. An hour later, I found myself driving back to the Consulate. I don’t know why, but I decided to try again. I got there again and it was just about the lunch hour, barely anyone was there. There was one person being helped in “line 6” and it was a different man behind the glass than the one who “shewed” me earlier. That person got helped and the man behind the glass was about to shut the blind to go for his lunch when I ran over to him and purged my story about my need for my VISA. He told me “it’s my lunchtime” and I acknowledged the importance of this (as an eating disorder therapist and otherwise!!), but continued to plead for his help. He told me to wait “25 minutes”. I did. 25 minutes later he returned with my passport that had my tourist VISA in it. I thanked him profusely. My eyes welled up. This time for joy. He told me “everything about India is beautiful, have a beautiful time there”. I told him, “thank you, I will.”
At the Centre, I spend my days in the company of so many people who find themselves pulled towards getting well, recovering, wanting to feel alive – kind of like how I feel about India. I witness the great feat that is this process, one that feels often entirely alone – like being the only white person in a room who doesn’t speak the same language. One that often feels overwhelmingly frustrating – like being told to wait in lines, which are the wrong lines, for hours and hours, only to end up not being helped. Like one that often feels like a failure – like leaving the Consulate without the VISA. And then I witness those people come back. Try again. And again, and again. Like I did. And I watch them get well. Like how I got my VISA. It happens everyday before my eyes. I see it happening.
I am supposed to go to India, despite my fear. I am supposed to go to a place I know nothing about, with only me to figure it out. I am supposed to trust that I, alone, am enough. That is what I am supposed to do. I feel lucky everyday for being a witness to all of you who show up to the Centre, despite your fear; despite not knowing anything about what will happen to you in recovery; despite often wanting to pull out. Thank you. Thank you for staying in and trying again. And again.
Know this, for 5 weeks over this holiday season while I am away in India, I will still be with you in your process, as you will be with me in mine. We are all doing the same thing – working to live our fullest, richest lives; trying new and different things; testing our comforts and learning to believe we are enough. I do promise to keep you posted on my journey via Facebook and/or through Twitter.
Recovery at the Centre is like being plucked out of your life in Toronto and dropped down in India. When you first get there, you don’t know what you’re doing but as you stay, you learn the rhythm, the language, the energy, the culture. You get to know people. You start to open up. You find your way. It becomes less scary, less foreign, more familiar. And soon enough, it totally makes sense. It is safe.
Wishing you a healthy and peaceful holiday season.
All my love always,