December 24, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure? ~ Nitai Aleksiewicz

Out of the Labyrinth, Into the World.

I used to think all you needed was a string to find your way out of the labyrinth. Even when it was dark the answer was as simple as a one yarn solution. Age has taught me better. Sometimes you follow a string certain, it will lead you to salvation, and instead you end up at a free-standing ball of yarn. Or maybe it leads you straight to the minotaur. There are layers and layers of tangled string. Each one represents a possibility. Like the dime book mazes you used to do as kid with multiple ways to solve them. Though one path seems more direct, the bottom line is no matter how you get there, you are either stuck in the maze or liberated from its boundaries. One way is no better than the other, just different.

I think human lives are like this. We build our own labyrinth, a choose-your-own adventure. Sometimes we end up dying early, and everyone around us wonders what would have happened if we just made one decision differently along the way. Would everything change? Is destiny as precarious as a one bait card trick?

I like to think that just like the choose-your-own adventure stories, we have multiple lives and chances to make choices that will eventually lead us to one of the happy endings. I always used to skip ahead and read all the outcomes so I could be sure to pick the option that would lead me unerringly to a glorious finish. It is odd how little changes in our personalities and minds as we grow and yet how drastically different our circumstances are. If I am being honest with myself the grown woman imitates the little girl in the big game of life. I try to flip pages ahead to the outcome of every choice, disregard the projected unhappy outcomes, and make the one decision that leads ultimately to riding off into the sunset.

In my effort to control these outcomes and write something that cannot possibly be written, I lose the point. We can write our choices, not their outcomes. We pick the long way or the short way out of the maze but ultimately out is out, dead is dead. The shorter path out is not somehow less fulfilling. That is the ultimate fear though, that we will die with something left unfinished; a life we do not judge as being filled with the tears, joy, and accomplishments of Hollywood movies.

Somewhere in trying to lump together the moments of my life into some elegantly written plot, tonight I am capable of stepping outside of the usual patterns I see. I can in this unexpected flash of insight, identify the tiniest seconds of my journey that impart meaning enough even for me.

As the one year anniversary of my time in India is now, I am trying to write my experience of caring for my Dad for my stepmother who is writing a book. She is a woman of action and I admire her courage. I have begun writing the story many times in my head but even now am procrastinating on giving it a tangible life by writing this article instead. As I try to craft this journey of trials and tears, two moments stand alone in my head. Moments that make the rest of my time in India make perfect sense. Everything I went to India for is summed up in the look on my father’s face when I first arrived, and the look on his face when I left. Amidst my angst, my searching, my “sacrifice,” are just two glances. Seconds when the mind labyrinth ceased to exist and there was only pure love.

People write movie scenes in airports for these glances. The split second when two people first see each other and everything they feel is naked on their faces. When I first arrived in india and my father opened the door and saw me for the first time after seven years, the only thing on his face was pure excitement and love. Two things went through my head:

1) I had never seen my father look so old and sick;

2) I never knew he loved me so much.

The bookend of this moment was captured on camera the day I left India. After my father passed a month later, my stepmother sent me the picture she had snapped with her phone, and I cried. Because it was that look again. I could not see it because I was hugging my father but in that photo is once again the most obvious open expression of love.

We are all human and we get hopelessly tangled in our balls of string that we are hoping will lead us out of the labyrinth. Sometimes we sling our strings like rodeo cowboys into walls and around minotaurs. In the moments when we embrace the darkness and drop the string we remember the way out lies not in our minds planning and scheming, but in remembering what is. There is not one but many paths out of the maze; to find them we just have to know they exist. They are illuminated not in logic or attempted projections of future, but in finding the answer in love that lives beyond the limitations of “wrong” choices. That love just is. Choose your own adventure.

A final goodbye. At least in this lifetime.

An American Mutt with a Bengali name, Nitai Aleksiewicz was raised with an “alternative” lifestyle and eastern religion. With gurus and malas as common as peanut butter and jelly she has learned her own path is to cultivate a center somewhere between high vibrational thoughts and feet firmly planted on the ground. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is taking the scenic route through life. She hopes you enjoy her reflections on the ride.

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