Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let Go Your Burdens

A funny thing happened to me some months ago, which precipitated my rather abrupt departure from these parts.  I may have mentioned, in a previous post (oh, I don't know, I think it was sometime near enough Labor Day) that I started a business--being bored after the bustle of city life in Astana, with no job and little enough to do all day while the husband was off to collect the proverbial bacon--after all, what is one to do when no jobs simply walk up and present themselves?  A pet sitting business, to be precise.  And away one afternoon I went to walk some dogs in a nearby wilderness.  We drove, in my car, parked in the lot, and off we walked.  Upon coming back I found my window smashed, and my belongings, which I'd applauded myself so heartily for putting in the trunk, rather than leave them lying about in plain sight, oh so cleverly looted.

And of course I was furious when I discovered the misadventure.  And I performed all those tasks one is obliged to do when one becomes the victim of such dastardly deeds--called the police and made a report, called my banks and cancelled all my cards, called my husband and told him I might be a bit late getting home.  And as I waited there, in the gathering rain, for the police to come, for the full scale of everything I'd lost to sink in (for the dogs' owner to come pick them up as my car was full of shattered window not safe for sensitive dogs' paws), it occurred to me that: for this I came back.  A full year I endured the suspicious looks of security guards, convinced I was out to steal all the soap at the grocery. A full year I dutifully read the emails from the U.S. Embassy about protecting oneself from various forms of theft that local masterminds were out to wreak on all us expats.  A full year I eyed any gathering of strangers, speaking a language I didn't fully understand, more than two people standing together, with a wariness only cooped up chickens facing particularly sly foxes could rival.  And a full year later I returned home only to have all that I'd carried with me, to the other side of the world and back, stolen.

A day after the incident, two days later, a week.  I was astounded at all I'd lost.  All I'd carried with me in that small bag (some would call it a purse [on a good day I might agree, though the word yet feels odd]) added up to so many years, so much responsibility, so much history.  I began to feel lighter, for the lost pieces of plastic, the half-used travel bottles of lotion, the membership cards to shops I'd visited once and never returned to, the keys I'd kept on my keychain in the off-chance I'd use them again--never used.  Perhaps it is true what they say.  That civilization is a burden; that we are held back by what we think we need. And so I conceived the idea of my walkabout.  I'd take this new-found freedom and see where the wind blew me.

For who could argue, having felt the liberty of a life unconstrained by the petty rules society throws upon us, that to take part in this civilization, is a benefit?  To rely upon the belief, shaky at best, that one can participate in an idea greater than oneself, that an idea can protect one from poverty, from wrack, from ruin.  I am come to the belief, espoused by so many self-help gurus and hackers of life, that to throw off one's chains and embrace the island that is man, is to achieve a mode of living quite superior to the everyday cares we all throw upon ourselves.  Truly, the poorest among us are indeed richer for their experience, for their lightness, for they do not partake of that  net, so-called "safety," that society throws down. They do not drag their multitudinous belongings after them, they have no losses to mourn.  Who, given a choice, could do otherwise?  I should, I do, thank those who, by crossing the shoddy boundaries of civilization itself, have shown me the false idea of security that society breaths into my ear.  By transgressing what I held as freedom, they have truly set me free, and so should we all be set free.

And so I have gone on my walkabout, unburdened by all that was taken from me.  Do not ask where I have gone, for I carried no maps, no gadgets, no technology that would record my passing.  I return to you now, for the cold season is upon us and there are no hotels that will give me a reservation without a credit card, I return with evangelical spirit and open heart.

Also empty stomach.  Please send food.  Some lotion would not go amiss.