Ancient Egyptians believed that upon death they would be asked two questions and their answers would determine whether they could continue their journey in the afterlife.  
The first question was, "Did you bring joy?"  
The second was, "Did you find joy?"

Sunday, April 13, 2008

My "World Tour" Stop Numero Uno: New York City

I have been trying to piece together the relevant bits of storytelling that would convey to you the magic of my first couple of days on this journey. I have written loads and loads of intricate spider webs narrating each encounter that has happened since I got off my plane in NYC. I've decided to spare you the detail, and to offer you tasty morsels, little bites that will hopefully make a satisfying meal in the lovely kitchens of your brains.

Flying over the country I was presented with the opportunity to purchase a movie for my individual viewing pleasure...I adore Delta Airlines.... there were many fluffy pieces like, Enchanted or August Rush. But I decided that I was going to watch Ma Vie En Rose, the biopic on Edith Piaff. Only days before I flew, a friend of mine that I will always think of affectionately as "Mr. Barolo, yes that's spelled B-A-R-O-L-O", or Mr. Barolo, for short, said that I should see the movie before I went to Paris, to whet my appetite, as it were. So, despite the fact that I was a little nervous about the depth of emotion I knew the movie would stir up, I ordered it up and immersed myself in the love affairs of Edith Piaff and all her reasons for a broken heart. It's a tragic story. No doubt about that. But at the end a reporter sits down with Edith and has the following conversation, or something like it:

Reporter: Do you pray?

Edith: Yes, because I believe in love.

Reporter: What advice would you give to another woman?

Edith: Love.

Reporter: What advice would you give to a younger woman?

Edith: Love

Reporter: What advice would you give to a young girl?

Edith: Love.

Well, I was a wreck.... here was a woman who had no reason in the world to believe in love, but she had dared to anyway even after life had tried to break her faith over and over. I was thankful Mr. Barolo had suggested I watch it, but a little unsure that that was the emotional tone that I wanted to set on my trip....was I inviting love or heartbreak into my trip?

For the next three days, I met up with various friends from long ago and different pockets of my life. It is something else to reconnect with people that I studied acting with in college 18 years ago, or shared my first apartment with. Once upon a time we knew each other’s dreams, we walked the streets of Chicago late at night and talked about what we were going to do when our "real lives" started. Now we are all somewhere around 40 and securely ensconced in our "real lives," we've had and lost and found loves, we've followed certain dreams, and abandoned others, we've learned how to walk around in our own skin, and we all talked about the process of having our skin change and age. It has been a deep blessing to touch base, with all these voices from the past, as we all navigate into the future, into the next dimensions of our lives. Love, for all of these old friends, has blossomed again, in fresh new ways, just like plants come back to life in spring after the long winter.

Jamie Harrold was the first old friend I saw, first thing Friday morning & the first thing he said was, "Is this the first day of your world tour?"

I said, "It's hardly a world tour, Jamie!"

"I know," he said, "but I like saying that, it feels right."

I realized over this weekend that Jamie is one of the few souls I know that has always wanted the people around him to shine just as brightly as he hopes to shine in this life. And his unending enthusiasm and glee for my "world tour" has made him the perfect sort of river guide between the safe shores of Seattle, to the unknown journey that I depart on tomorrow in Europe.

While out at lunch on day one I got a call from the Seattle Children's Theatre and was asked to do a show that will bring me back to NYC in the fall for three weeks. My New York debut! I adore working for the children's theatre and the miracle of having work come my way on first day of my trip was a clue, as Jamie pointed out, that I was meant to travel just now and that all would be taken care of at home while I was away.

I have also been reconnecting with my 10-year-old niece, Melina.

In the last two years since I saw her, she has developed a keen sense of humor and the eye of an avant-garde artist. She took pictures in Riverside Park, and we people watched. I started reading her the second book in the Madeline L'Engle series, a favorite of mine that I began with her a few years ago. Love, love and more love.... for this young soul who is a part of me, part of my family, and a connection to the book which had filled my heart so long ago, now was fresh and new as I passed it on to Melina.

Melina's Shots:

Each encounter with all these friends and my family here, and even with many strangers that I chose to chat with as I waited for someone on the street, all these people have felt like great gifts, as if each held keys to the doors that are opening into the mysterious world that awaits me on my "pilgrimage", as another New York friend coined it.

Each of these miracles, each new open door was made possible, I know, by daring to take the first step outside the comfort zone of Seattle. But they also happened because of a promise that I made to myself Friday morning as I waited to see Jamie in Union Square. As I stood there with humanity swirling around me, wondering what my trip would be like, what Jamie would be like after all these years, I began to fold my arms over my chest, anxious, wary. Then I thought about Edith Piaff, and I took a deep breath, and in a sort of prayer, I released my arm and made a vow to myself that I won't cross them again the whole time I am traveling, so as to remain as open hearted as possible.... It’s amazing how many beautiful things light up your day when it's approached with your hands comfortably at your sides, instead of barricaded against your heart....I made a choice that moment to invite in love, and should heartbreak also happen, well that's the price for really loving isn't it? Sometimes. But my heart would break even more if I lived the next three months and beyond unaware of the beauty around me because of fear. With that vow, that prayer, I chose love. I can't wait to see what happens next!

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