Monday, September 12, 2011

New Balance.

My grandfather was a Republican. A loud and proud Republican. Every time he saw a baby, he would shake its little fingers and tell it, "Say 'I'm a Republican!'" Because of this, he collected elephants. There are dozens of elephants of all shapes and sizes in his house.

Two years after we lost him, my mom persuaded me to take something from his home. My cousins had taken furniture, my aunt had too, but for so long, I just couldn't do it. It felt so real, so wrong to take something that was his. It meant he was really gone, but it was also about respect for his authority. He was so strong, our leader, always commanded respect. I knew immediately what I wanted - his desk. I wanted to finish my PhD on his desk. It was a way to show respect for how he inspired me and provided me with opportunities and encouragement, and it was a way to involve him in this process I know would make him so proud.

On top of the desk, there was a pair of book ends. They were elephants.

I almost didn't take them, he hated that I wasn't a Republican, but they were him - he loved elephants. For all my life, every time I saw an elephant, I thought of him. So I took them, and they sit on the bookcase in my bedroom.

In India, the elephant is sacred. Because of its shape and strength, the elephant symbolizes the stronghold, the foundation that everything is built on. Sometimes, they put elephants at the base of temples in India so that it looks like the elephants actually are supporting the structure, as if the elephant is strong enough to uphold the weight of a large stone temple.

That fits my grandfather too.

Another way they understand the elephant in India is the Ganesha - the figure of a human body with the head of an elephant. That symbol brings good things, it is called the Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles - because he removes all obstacles and imparts his wisdom.

All of these things, I could use a bit more of.

I've been out of whack for awhile now. The drama with the unhappy people got me down, the wedding planning drama, fear of failure, fear of starting my dissertation and failing.

A friend of mine very astutely told me once that I am a sponge, I soak up all the emotions that are near me. I think about that often because it is so very true, painfully so. But it's not just emotions that I soak up. I soak up whatever I'm swimming in at the moment, whatever is around me - emotions, yes, but also circumstances, geography, pressures, anything. Mostly negative because the positive can be so hard to hold onto.

I'm not sure sponge is right, but I am malleable. I'm flexible. I know someone who is always so sure of things, so certain that she's right that she is unwavering. Even in little things, which I find so amusing. I was thinking today of a conversation we had once when we were talking about an author, and I reminded her that we talked about her latest book. She definitely said, "No, we didn't. We didn't talk about it." It struck me as so odd, so funny really. I forget things all the time so when someone mentions a conversation I don't remember, I just laugh and assume it's my faulty memory. I'm flexible.

My opinions about things or habits can sometimes be flexible too. I just feel like I'm constantly trying to bend myself to suit someone else. Not because they're demanding it, but because I'm accommodating.

I need, rather, to be balanced. To be secure and strong. Not in the little things, which don't add up to much, but in my way of life. I need to remove obstacles in my path, yes, but I am my own obstacle. I get in my own way all of the time. I'm afraid of failing so I don't start. I feel everyone else's emotions so strongly that I lose hold of my own. I need to live a balanced life, and I need to be less indulgent. I'm in a moment of turmoil so I indulge myself, but I'm also being indulgent in my obsessions and by insisting on swimming in turmoil for as long as I can tread water. If I stop feeling everyone else, maybe I can be myself again.

I need an elephant.

So this is my public promise to you, my friends, and to you, kind strangers who happened upon me today, I will find a way to stand firm in the moment and live life as I see fit. I will find my balance. I will find my stronghold. Day by day, moment by moment. This is only one of many beginnings. Let's see if I can finally get it right.

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