Me Isn't Out There But In Here
I've lost count of how many women have basically told me that they would love to leave their husband and go travelling to find themselves, as Lucy Valantine did according to an article in the Telegraph; it's what they wanted to do, might still do, will do, all because they think that life would be better and easier after such a bold move. Believe me, I know, because I did that. Actually that's not true because Nick and I did that. Never once did it ever enter the equation that I would abandon Nick in my quest to change my life. For me, and I stress that this was my experience, the whole point of putting our lives into free-fall was so that I could be a wife to him, serve him as my husband rather than spending all my waking hours with men whom I had made no contract to spend my life with.Now, I've never met Lucy Valantine, but I've met many many like her, who think that by changing their surroundings they change who they are. And every time I remember that greetings card which shows a man, in his trekking gear with a rucksack, walking up a mountain path, meeting his alter ego coming towards him - dressed in a suit. The caption reads "Bill (I think that was his name) went to the Himalayas to find himself". The bitter sweet irony that he finds who he thought he had left behind wasn't something lost on Nick and me when we were given the card as I quit my job and we went to live in India.
In all my time since then I have learnt that there's a big difference between going to find yourself and travelling. Travelling has the most unfortunate byproduct: you take yourself with you. It's you who's travelling, being distracted by all the excitement of being abroad, thinking that being physically outside your comfort zone means that you're finding yourself there, when usually you're doing the opposite by playing a fantasy character dreamed up by you.
Nick's completed many pilgrimages in the Himalayas, spent months and months living in monasteries and years with spiritual warriors. It has changed him undoubtedly: he faced challenges which eschewed him at home; he witnessed life altering events and mind clearing moments of total serenity. But when I asked him "was it the pilgrimage that made the difference?" he simply, in all that wisdom which he embodies, replied "no, it was the intention not to take myself with me."
When I left the City to go to live in Punjab, there were a couple of things which made that time incredibly special, actually sacred, for me. First, I was there to rest, to recover, refresh and revive my spirits in an environment which was dedicated to that purpose. Second, I was there to work out what had gone wrong in my life so far and which direction to go to fix it.
Living in Punjab made working for an American Bank seem like a walk in the park. Coming back, however, to live in London made living in Punjab seem a breeze. But even that paled into insignificance compared with the now well over 1,000 consecutive days that I have slept in my own bed, only travelling maybe a handful of times a year outside my little orbit of the market and the park. In this time I have created a home shared with Nick, Hari Karam Singh and Millie-Pup based on spiritual values of standing for each other. Strip away that spiritual speak and it means, in boarding school terms, knocking the rough edges off. I couldn't now agree more with Yogi Bhajan that "Marriage is the highest form of Meditation." You can say you've got over your issues but unless someone's there, day in day out, who will hold you to account, not in a colleague's superficial way, but in a life enriching way, then you haven't found yourself, you've deceived yourself.