I have been a wandering dervish ever since, not sleeping in the same place more than once, not eating out of the same bowl twice in a row, every day seeing different faces around me. When hungry, I earn a few coins by interpreting dreams. In this state, I roam east and west, searching for God high and low. I hunt everywhere for a life worth living and knowledge worth knowing. Having roots nowhere, I have everywhere to go…
~ Elif Shafak, The Forty Rules of Love
This paragraph told my story this evening. It often baffles me how books land in your lap at the perfect moment in your life. Here I am making peace with my roots but yearning to put them somewhere else. Where? I don’t know yet…
I’m back from Bali after a two-month excursion inside myself. Wild wet romps in the rain and the curvature of the sensual feminine. That was the intention this time. To get acquainted with the wild feminine. To get her acquainted with the wild masculine. But underneath all that, there was a secret desire: to find a home in that bit of Earth.
But the warm glistening mud of Indonesia did not call this time, much to my heartbreak. Neither did the croaking frogs or the bejeweled dragonflies. I still see the curves of the road in the jungle when I close my eyes. The banyan trees flipping their root-hair onto the asphalt to dry. The jungle flies by fast like a streak of paint as I whizz by on the motorbike.
I’m not sure why Indonesia did not invite me to stay. I was treated like family by the wilderness but there was still an apologetic communication, ethereal, hanging in the air between us: you are foreign now. I came back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after spending those two months in Bali going in and out of hospitals for food poisoning, a badly stubbed toe, a severe cough, a serious eye injury, and two motorbike accidents. In short, more medical problems than I’ve had in years. I used to be your home once, the land was saying perhaps, but there is another place that is meant for you.
So I’m back where I started. Like Shams, the wandering mystic in Forty Rules of Love, I’ve been roaming around looking for a home for my heart and body. But, unlike Shams, I always return to Riyadh, where I grew up. Last week, I woke up and it dawned on me how long I have struggled to find a permanent home away from here. The weight of this realization unfolded, growing larger and larger each day until I could not get out of bed. I don’t feel I belong here. I don’t belong out there, either. So where do I belong? More importantly, when will I belong?
Now before someone goes off on the “Your home is within you” track, let me take you a few years back. Four years ago, my spiritual awakening began. It was very polite at first. We had tea. She respected my traditions, my illusions, and my limitations. She coaxed and loved me through it…until she became loud and rude. She broke my windows, fired shots at my ceiling, and scraped all the carpet and fed it to the rats. When she removed that carpet, she showed me the biggest gaping abyss that I never knew was there: a haunting land of fear, loneliness and abandonment.
The awakening became thunderous to the ears. Raw like skin being removed. I didn’t know I was being reborn. I just knew it was painful.
Finally, she was done. She yawned. She moaned in pleasure. She stretched her neck and her far-reaching limbs. And she left me to deal with the clean-up.
So with all the work I had to do, rebuilding with my own hands through the rubble and broken cement, I lost touch with who I was in my most truthful and creative essence: "little me" who had paint under her nails.
We can hop on now on the “your home is within you” track. I was too busy transforming the one that needed to upgrade into truth, that I forgot about the one that was always in truth. The eleven-year-old who so desperately wanted to write fantasy (and did too). The college student who was in a frenzied state of endless and scattered creativity. The five-year-old who loved to draw princesses and bows and colorful indiscernible things.
I found a treasure in the chest at the foot of my bed. I didn’t know that, in it, was the entire history of my creations. I don’t recall putting everything there, although I probably did. But, like a perfectly aligned answer from the Universe, I found them there waiting to be examined during my spring cleaning.
I sat on the floor, on the soft sheepskin rug and cried, surrounded by my creations, many of which I had completely forgotten about. By forgetting about these items, these little presumptuous masterpieces, these shy attempts at something more spectacular, I had forgotten the person who made them. The person who painted a garden with charcoal pastels. The person who went around photographing her family so poignantly. The person who wrote nonsense and scribbled, doodled, and raised entire worlds of fantasy from the ground up when she was supposed to be “paying attention” in school. That person was real and full of truth, outside of dogma, outside of expectations, outside of conditioning. She was real.
In the process of awakening and shedding the conditioning, she was left standing to watch in the corner. And somehow the dust gathered on her shoulders. I forgot how stretchy her skin was, to the edges of universes. I forgot that her bones were flexible like water. She never really believed in the box to begin with. But also – and this is the surprising bit - she was comforted by it. It used to be home. It used to contain her…more like a blanket than a box. Can you imagine what it feels like to be stripped of a blanket when you have sensitive skin?
I spent the last three years denying the comfort of the blanket that was my home, my family, and our way of life. Maybe to truly move forward in truth, gratitude is in order?
Photographs, graphic novels, sketches and elaborate pencil drawings of intricate architecture. By going through every piece that I created, I recollected her. And the disparity, the disconnection, the abandonment of wandering alone for a long time was starting to be sewn closed, thread by thread.
I realized that I had been distracted, reveling in who I am now and had completely lost connection to who I was. I left her behind. So, for once, even though I don’t intend to make this town my resting place, I looked around my room and realized that it was a sanctuary that contained my history. I realized that I needed to invite my history along with me on my journey and that this was the beginning of the integration of my new truth.
So, like Shams, I will be wandering still, looking for a place to rest where I can root all of me, whether it’s a land, a home, a person, or a state of being. But unlike Shams, I might just find it sooner with a some of my doodles in my wallet.