As the annual deadline for the Rayaprol prize rolls around, I can’t help but think back to a year ago and marvel at how far my life has come in a short amount of time. Even 8 months ago, I was home after a couple of years away, in the midst of several painful surgeries and scary moments of wondering how much of my eyesight was coming back to me, in shock and mourning too many sudden deaths, and unemployed thanks to said surgeries. I hadn’t yet published a single poem, and while this wasn’t disturbing to me (it couldn’t be -- i hadn’t yet sent out any poems for publication!), it definitely didn’t help in terms of feeling part of any writing community in India. In general, I was rootless and community-less in Delhi, unsure where to begin the process of rebuilding, and frankly, too exhausted to try. Today, I cannot believe how recent that was. Today, I have more work than I can take on, 14 poems published or soon-to-be-published, and at least a few close friends and several new acquaintances in Delhi. I can see again, perhaps better than ever. I am starting to feel part of a real writing community as well as several other communities in Delhi. I am discovering worlds within worlds in my city and falling in love with it, over and over. I have a beautiful home, garden, and home-office. I have the freedom to work from home most of the time, do work I absolutely love (even when I hate it!), and the freedom to set my own schedules and take off for a month of travel when I feel like it.
So, when I was recently in a group where someone remarked (someone always remarks) that everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, I was only a little surprised to find myself telling her, “actually, I love my side of the fence -- this grass is as green as I could ask for.” My surprise wasn’t about the fact that I felt this way, just about the fact that I was saying it out loud. In their uncomfortable laughs that followed, I realized that we have somehow built a world where someone admitting to loving and feeling grateful for her life comes across as arrogant or boastful -- if you’re complaining, you’re humble and we are all in the same boat, but if you’re grateful, you’re boasting. For me, this was not a boast. It was simply a shout of gratitude to the universe for all the amazing things that have happened for me over this past year. When did gratitude become so unfashionable?
Of course, this is not to say that everything is a cakewalk. It isn’t. Over this past week, more than once, I’ve felt utterly swamped and overwhelmed with all the things I’m juggling right now, both in terms of things to do and in terms of ideas and possibilities. Today, I got so tired of not doing enough work at home that I came to a cafe to spend a straight 6-7 hours sitting at my computer and hopefully ploughing through enough of this workload to feel better about the next few weeks. Not all of that work is fun -- some is, and some is utterly boring.
But when the woman I mentioned made that remark about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, I realized that I couldn’t imagine or ask for a greener pasture than what I have. Even green pastures need tending and maintaining and effort, and sometimes more tending and effort than one feels ready to put in, but that doesn’t make them less green. I love challenge, and I love that this pasture currently needs more tending than I am capable of; it isn’t easy, but I’m enjoying pushing my limits to accommodate its needs, and also the process of learning what is worth accommodating and which portions I’m okay with allowing to grow wild.
Every time I have sat down to chant over the last several days, even when I think I’m sitting down feeling overwhelmed, I find my only prayer is a prayer of gratitude. I’m not going to apologize for that, and I’m certainly not going to pretend to hate my life when I love it deeply. If that makes me unfashionable, then hey, I walk around everywhere in bright orange slippers -- I can deal with unfashionable! ;)