Erin's Everyday Thoughts

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Traveling the Laborious Mosaic

"There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic." --Anais Nin

Lately I’ve been thinking about life-changing events—the small and large things that serve to change one’s perspective and life view, that change the way you think or in some way alter the direction of your life. These thoughts were brought to the forefront by an e-mail from a friend who spoke of an event from our college days that changed the path of his life. It was a small thing, a single instant that seemed unimportant at the time but that, in looking back, was a turning point.

I find this fascinating. I’m intrigued by the fact that an instant can make such a difference, and by the fact that one may not realize the difference until later—sometimes much later, years even. And often it is a succession of events in the meantime that eventually allows you see what that instant meant and how it changed the course of your life.

I write in generalities. For a specific example of what I mean …

The first boy I dated was a good person. He was funny, he was sweet, and we had a nice time together, for the most part. Eventually, we broke up, for various and usual reasons. I remember a moment in our relationship, however, that changed my attitude from “staying together forever” to “maybe breaking up some day”. I had broken my foot during a trip we took together and at the close of the trip, I had to transfer my suitcases and bags from his car to my parent’s car (they were picking me up). I don’t remember the details exactly, but I do know that I ended up transferring a suitcase myself, broken foot and all. Not a big deal, until my dad mentioned later that the boy should certainly have carried it for me. Still not a big deal. At the time, I thought nothing of it. And yet looking back at it now, I see that as the first light of doubt about our life together. It was the smallest and most subtle of shifts, but it was a shift nevertheless.

This shift, as many I have experienced, happened in conjunction with travel. There’s something about going from place to place that makes me (and I suspect many others) thoughtful. For a time, you’re homeless. The usual worries and concerns of everyday life—unloading the dishwasher, feeding the fish, sweeping the floor—are temporarily pushed aside, and that frees the mind to ponder more important things.

Earlier this month, I took an entire week off of work (the first time I have ever done so in my two years with this company!) to vacation in St. George Island, Florida. The trip was everything a vacation should be—fun, relaxing, rejuvenating. While I was in Florida, I spent my time reading, eating, exploring. Thoughts came and went, but I did not hold myself accountable to them. More than anything, I relaxed.

However, during the journey home, my mind awakened as if from a trance. In the plane on the way home, I started writing a story. During our layover, my mind was churning words like change, escape, passion, dream. What are you doing with your time? it asked. And then, what SHOULD you be doing? I realized I had not written a blog entry, journal entry, letter, or real e-mail in months. I realized I’d been spending not only my time but also (and more importantly) my energy on work, work, and more work.

I start new chapters often. So here’s another begun, in which I shift my focus back to where it belongs. If I don’t pay attention to all of the little pieces of illumination along the way, if I don’t take time to notice the “fragments” that Anais Nin mentions, how will I ever reach some truth in this laborious mosaic?