I been gone too long. True or False? Right or Wrong?

I must admit a very serious truth that may in fact dismantle the superheroinism that shrouds me in the blogosphere (and not so much in reality). As the frequent traveler with miles out the wazoo, and travel tips hasta las narices, I have a tendency to appear unfazed by the temporal changes and competing commitments of global travel. And the vast majority of the time, things are precisely as they appear, save one very understated exception. When traveling to and from home, I get deathly ill. Not kinda sick, not borderline unwell, I mean “wow, I think I’m going to die on the floor of my bathroom, never have kids, leave my mother to pay my debts, the dog will die of sadness and never bark for help (cuz’ he’s a mystery that way), oh is that ‘tuberculosis or the black plague’ I feel welling upside my lungs, a disaster on the borderline of deceased” debilitated and impaired.

This has happened to me for as long as I can recall. And I genuinely believe that about 5 years ago, I subconsciously began to orchestrate the type of illness I hoped to suffer.  There were the times when I just needed my immune system to collapse so that I wouldn’t have to endure some overblown event a friend had planned for the day I returned. There were the headaches, whose throbbing I could feel in my throat, which meant that I would surely have to sleep in the next day – prohibiting any form of work for an additional 24 hours, at least. But each time, my conscious self was always shocked and surprised by the fact that I was (again) sick and so devastatingly so. I’m not sure if these illnesses were just excuses for avoidance or delay on the other end, or if it’s been to up the ante since just boarding a plane is now as mundane as stepping onto a public bus, but I think it has come to mean a crossing of a threshold. It has meant my exerting effort; I don’t just hop on a plane, I must traverse that unforeseen space between life and death, called insert acute concocted illness name here, to decide that YES, I really want to leave/go home.

Going to/ From home is not just another trip. It’s not simply hailing a taxi in New York to catch a show that I’ll miss if I take the subway. It’s a choice. There’s a wide world out there, after all, and maybe I should reconsider going back to some place I’ve already been. And, hey, if I miss that flight who could blame me – dude, I’m coughing up a lung through my earlobes. If I do make it home, well, shouldn’t somebody take good care of me and give me attention? After all, I’m as sick an abused dog in a country of drought. And, of course, why leave the comforts of home for some wretched land of mysteries and unforeseen problems? Shouldn’t I really take another day, maybe that’ll allow the antibiotics to soak in, see if I can get my flight changed for a later time or not at all, since I don’t really feel well?

See, I’m crazy! There! I freak out, subconsciously, even when boarding planes regulated by airlines that always mess up my vegetarian meal and seat me in the middle and oblige me to carry only one checked bag.  But, I’m only human in the face of home… for the rest of the world, I’m pretty dagnabbit robotic.

Imagine the world of wonder that opened to me when I got my version of whooping cough before embarking on this trip to Spain. What a wonderful surprise! After all, I haven’t considered Spain home in about a decade and the last time I was here I was certainly here for vacation, but this trip… thanks to my near death experience… reminded me that I was in fact reuniting with a place I’d called home. And why not? After all I had spent a very formative year here. Well not, here here, like Madrid, but here like Spain. And it was spent with my mama, not my mom, but my mama Espanola. So, surely, coming back to Spain to stay in the house of my Spanish host mom – even though it’s not the same house – was so much like coming home that the requisite bodily rejection was subconsciously elicited, like a charm. How friggin’ cool?!

So cool that I certainly missed an entire day of site seeing while hocking up loogies in my sleep, which lasted from siesta time ’til 7 in the morning the following day. And while I’m walking now by the grace of God and the act of good judgment that permits double fisting advil and paracetemol, asi es la vida!

I remember la Plaza del Sol, and the Caixas with their art exhibitions (I never understood how a bank would double as an art space or as an exhibitor (are they investing people’s money in fine arts dealing?), but…hey, it works). And the Prado and the Reina Sofia, I remember you too. It’s been so long, but you’ve changed so little. So much that could be forgotten in a decade, and yet what’s important remains like the coating on a non-stick pan. The night is young, my ears have stopped popping, and I think my eye will stop twitching after I take a short nap. After a home cooked meal, I feel better already. Even my mother (the real one) would appreciate that at this very moment someone is whistling “These are a few of my favorite things” in the open courtyard below my room.

Let’s just say, being at home is a lot like riding a bike – you never forget – or else you’ll bust your arse and surely the self-inflicted, highly avoidable pain will serve as a reminder not to forget the next go round.

If yesterday were tomorrow what would you do today?

I’ve been traveling throughout India recently, and more so than any physical journey I’ve been on – I can say that the last few weeks were a mental hike over an emotional roller coaster. In my quest to read 100 books by the end of the year (a decision I only made in August, by the way), a theme has emerged lately. Isolating and enjoying the present, my friend, is what my last two books have in common. And let me tell you, reading over and over again ‘stay in the present moment’ has the exact opposite effect.

And what does now look like for me, you might ask? A list of to-dos – about as long as my middle finger – lay on the right side of me. My computer in my lap, while I sit up in bed – back against the head-board, legs under the down comforter. The dog is on the floor, somewhere, so quiet that if it weren’t for the fact that my door is closed I’d assume he was shitting on my carpet at this very moment. My Blackberry’s red light is blinking and I really wish it’d stop. I have two guests visiting, knocked out in the guest room. There’s tulsi tea on my bedside table. My Skype is on. And I really want to finish reading ‘Cry, the Beloved Country,’ which patiently awaits the completion of this post – but I guess that would be a matter for the future. Eckhart Tolle would say that my now has no complaint worthy characteristics. So, if content is what I intend to become, then it is insane to consider anything other than the present.

But, it’s only human nature to ask what has the journey to now been worth? (Eckhart Tolle would completely disagree with the positing of this question, but Paulo Coelho would humor me – so I’ve switched sides.) It’s no secret that when I left the U.S., I was running away. And while the plan was hatched before it’s necessity was imminent, it’s also no secret that I thought that India had something in store for me – something so compelling and so necessary that it was worth fighting for. Even if it meant that l’d return defeated, earlier than anticipated, chewed up and spat out – I had made a commitment that I would fulfill. (I, for one, think that Paulo Coelho a la ‘Alchemist’ would actually have endorsed my die-hard commitment.) I can say now that maybe it was both curiosity and pride that led me here, but it has been purpose that’s made me stay. It’s not in spite of everything and everyone I left behind deliberately that I have stayed on in this country so long. Perhaps, it’s because I have always known every time I chose to run away in the past that my gut was trading up – good for better.

Maybe it’s self-preservation that puts us on the move forward. Maybe, even a pre-historic nomadic understanding that the food here will deplete if we stay too long, the bears and hyenas will eat our children in the night if we set up camp and become too trusting. Or maybe it’s just that I’m impatient, bore easily, have trust issues, like trying new foods, enjoy new places, appreciate working, and am used to being by myself that I can’t think of any other way to live. But, there always is that temptation to think about the next step. What happens after this?

Both my two most recent reads would halt me there and ask me why I need to know that. What is so lacking at this very moment that I need to fill my present with an imaginary friend named ‘The Future,’ and what is so lacking in my person that I need to fill up my identity with nightmares from the devil on my shoulder nicknamed ‘The Past’? What is lacking at this very moment, if my basic needs are being met, if I have a roof, if I’ve eaten today, if I have all my teeth and my limbs, if there’s toilet tissue in my bathroom, if there are no mosquitos buzzing in my ears, if there isn’t a war going outside my window that no man is safe from? Better yet – what exactly, in this exercise of fishing from the past and the future, fixes whatever might ail my present? If I’m sick, the future doesn’t cure me. If I’m hungry, the past won’t feed me. In both cases, I would have to change my now.

I can’t argue with the argument, but how is it that Tolle & Coelho can be so right and make me feel so wrong? I’m not sure how exactly to enjoy the present without some hippie dippie commitment to tantric divination yoga ayurvedic astrological meditation. Now do you better understand the mental and emotional broo ha ha brewing in me lately? Reading these psychedelic texts has me asking myself questions that don’t have answers yet and plotting ways to enjoy the present more – which, in a half ass backwards kinda way, actually sounds quite a lot like thinking about the future.

So, if anybody finds a way to be fully in the present (and also not seem like an aloof and emotionally irresponsible monk conflating peace with self-imposed isolation), please be sure to share your wisdom with me – no matter how new agey it might seem. It is always possible that this is what I came here for, what I came to learn from this land. Or maybe, I’ve grown as a person here so much so that I can now ask a question whose possible answers once scared me. Shit, does that count as thinking about the past? 

Sigh…I’m off to read my book, because Alan Paton has me pondering the state of the world. And that seems an awful lot easier to understand right now than the best method to ‘stay in the present.’