October 2007

This was written in June and posted elsewhere… I’m reposting it here as I reference it in my other post Running.


Five years ago I planned to run in the Dead Sea Marathon. I trained and trained and trained to do the relay. I could run up to 8 KM at a stretch without getting tired. But could I do the full haul? It’s funny what you can train yourself to endure; the aches, the pains, the physical and mental stresses that are necessary to achieve a goal.

You can train for something and be completely ready for it, but fate throws a wrench in your plans and you never realize your goal. Other times you are caught completely unaware and off guard, with no training, no experience and you are asked to perform. I think in both situations you are being tested. A different set of tests, with different skill sets required. Training requires discipline, dedication, goal setting, evaluation and assessment and of course patience and endurance among other skills.

When something is thrown at you out of the blue do you need the same skills? Maybe some of them, but I think others are required too: flexibility, openness to new ideas, patience, evaluation and of course endurance. I think that in new situations it’s important to remain open to the new experience, and learn and grow from it. But it is equally important to evaluate yourself within this new context and assess whether you have what it takes or not. Whether it’s worth the long haul and if you can endure the stresses needed to reach the goal. If not ask for help, if that doesn’t work cut your losses and move on. You will have, at least, learned what you can and can’t do.

In both cases you need endurance. To endure, is to persist, to accept and tolerate the long path, to suffer even. But to what end, I ask you? Does the end justify the endurance? What if you can’t see the end and the goal is unclear do you continue down the path? How do you decide to make it to the finish line or not?

I never found out if I could endure the race, I traveled that year for about two months and missed the Marathon. I haven’t gone back to training since.

I used to run, I think I mentioned that in a previous post (The Finish Line June 13, 07 I’ll repost after this one). And when I ran it was such an exhilarating experience. In the past few months I have had a need to run sometimes it has been a physical need at others it was an emotional one and yet others it was mental. But looking back at another conversation I had with a friend, he and I spoke of running in a slightly different context.

He proposed the idea that came from some behavioral theory or other. He said that in life our motivations are either driven by our desire to run towards something or run away from something. His example, money, you either run away from poverty or run towards wealth. I pondered that for a long time and then we both reflected on our lives.

The discussion was triggered by a question I had asked him. It was Why do you want to be a _______. After some back and forth he conceded that he was working towards that goal because he was running away from something, but he will now work on making that ambition a desire rather than an escape. 

I have always hated the question of where do you see yourself in five years. It means I have ambitions and goals that I need to work towards but after our discussion I truly understood my dislike to the question. Most of my life I have been running away from things and not towards things. I especially look back at my last 10 – 15 years, all my life choices, my decisions were made to escape one situation or another. Even today I recognize that pattern. 

Knowing this, knowing who I am, and what I am capable of, I think that trend needs to change. I think it’s about time I started to run towards things than away from them. To want things because of a desire for them, not a desire to escape something else. I think it is difficult to change 15 years of escapism to become ambition. But I think it is a challenge that I am up for. Now to try and figure out what things I want to run to.

I was with a friend the other day and we were talking about relationships. He was being fixed up for marriage and we were both laughing at the whole concept. He said something that struck a cord. He responded to the advances by saying he is a Tricks player not a Tarnib player. 

Apparently the fundamental difference he was referring to here was that when you play Tarnib as a group of four you need a partner; Tricks on the other hand is a game where it is each player for him or her self.

So do we each have a preference for one game or the other? Are we team players? Do we work well with partners or not? Can we identify these traits? The allegory is simple and easy to relate to yet very accurate. Even for someone who doesn’t play cards J

Are we each destined to play one game or the other? Is it our own preference? Each of the games has something to offer. I look around and I see friends who can not stand the thought of Tricks and others who look at Tarnib wistfully. Some who always play Tarnib because they don’t know how to play Tricks, and yet others who play Tricks because they always loose at Tarnib. Its always a point of much discussion and reflection. 

As for myself, I am not much of a card player, but when I look back at my life and I think I have fared much better playing Tricks than Tarnib. Its added a lot of diversity and excitement in my life but every once in a while I think Tarnib would be a fun game to play. Who knows what the future holds, but I do know the trick to Tarnib is to find a good partner 😉

I have not written a line of poetry in a long time. I have a lot to say but the words wont come. I heard a line from this poem last week and looked it up. I find myself moved by this and put in a reflective mood. It is a beautiful poem, a bit melancholic, but very evocative. There are other translations that may be more eloquent. It is by Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda 

Saddest Poem 

I can write the saddest poem of all tonight.  

Write, for instance: "The night is full of stars, 
and the stars, blue, shiver in the distance."
The night wind whirls in the sky and sings. 
I can write the saddest poem of all tonight. 
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
On nights like this, I held her in my arms. 
I kissed her so many times under the infinite sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her. 
How could I not have loved her large, still eyes?
I can write the saddest poem of all tonight. 
To think I don't have her. To feel that I've lost her.
To hear the immense night, more immense without her. 
And the poem falls to the soul as dew to grass.
What does it matter that my love couldn't keep her. 
The night is full of stars and she is not with me.
That's all. Far away, someone sings. Far away. 
My soul is lost without her.
As if to bring her near, my eyes search for her. 
My heart searches for her and she is not with me.
The same night that whitens the same trees. 
We, we who were, we are the same no longer.
I no longer love her, true, but how much I loved her. 
My voice searched the wind to touch her ear.
Someone else's. She will be someone else's. As she once 
belonged to my kisses. 
Her voice, her light body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, true, but perhaps I love her. 
Love is so short and oblivion so long.
Because on nights like this I held her in my arms, 
my soul is lost without her.
Although this may be the last pain she causes me, 
and this may be the last poem I write for her.

It was funny, while I was away I was able to clear my mind completely of everything, well nearly everything, my favorite people were always on my mind. I had truly escaped into wonderland. I was fully absorbed with everything around me, interested in even the clouds in the sky. But the vacation ended, I came back, and reality hit my like a 10 ton train on a fast track. 

And so my approach has been to jump back into my life feet first. I jumped right back into my family life, my social life, work and obligations of all sorts. I attacked everything with a vigor and enthusiasm that I really didn’t have. No matter how hard I tried to engage myself though, I was still lagging behind. 

It’s been a week now, and in this week I went to parties, met up with friends, had a family Friday, I managed to engage myself with something or someone every night of the week. The work week was also busy with meetings, emails, planning, preparation, programs and whatever else landed in my office. But the Sri Lanka blues are still here. 

I have been able to go back to my old routines and slide seamlessly back into my life as if I never left. I feel the trip was in the far past. I also find within me a restlessness, a dissatisfaction, a lack of interest. I am not so sure what to do about it, but I think my game plan to attack this is to try and find interesting things to do and to reengage in meeting interesting people out side my regular social circles to try and add more flavor to what maybe a bit of blandness.

I hope the post vacation blues go away soon. I don’t want people to keep telling me I look tired when I am physically fine. I don’t people to tell me I look bored or disengaged, even if I am. I want to breath life back into me. I hope that I find the catalyst I am looking for soon. Until then I will keep jumping feet first into life.

I woke up one day last week to find the streets overrun with moustaches. Why? Why have our lovely streets become littered with all these mug shots of men in suits, and the occasional woman? If it’s not their faces then its ugly cloth banners spouting futile slogans. I quickly realized that the floor for parliamentary elections was now open and with every candidacy came this propaganda. 

Now I understand the need for the candidates to make themselves know, but does it really necessitate the plastering of their faces on every lamppost, pole, circle and available wall in the city? Do they really think the picture of their smiling face will get them into office? And don’t get me started on the banners and slogans. They are meaningless, and serve only to visually pollute the cityscape!

Between the election banners, posters and signs and the Zain campaign it is far better to bury one’s face in a book when traveling around the city than looking at the ugly moustaches or the sexist branding that is now covering every inch of available space in our streets.

I can’t wait for it to be November 21, for the elections to be over and for these pollutants to be removed.

Sri Lanka: Things I Don’t Want to Forget There are so many things that happened, so many things we saw, observations, experiences a very enriching trip… below is a list of things I would write while I was there so that I wouldn’t forget. I’d like to share the list and if you want me to I’ll explain if I haven’t written it up in one of the previous posts. Enjoy… 

  • That first drive into the hills
  • The houses dotting the hillside
  • The views, the majestic views
  • The dancing
  • The baby elephants
  • The lush vibrant gardens
  • The suspended bridge
  • The delicate orchids
  • How BIG the trees were
  • Overcast and dark skys that were dramatic
  • The hills
  • Touching the elephants
  • Curry by the road with the monkeys
  • The clouds
  • The tooth temple, its levels and worship
  • Walking barefoot in temples and shops
  • How wet it is
  • How green it is
  • The rain
  • The monkeys
  • Walking up to birds
  • 1202 steps to the top of the world at Sigriya rock
  • Moved to tears at the top of the world
  • Fresco covered cave walls
  • Barefoot on hot stones – ouch J
  • Baby money suckling with mom
  • Sri Lankan Elivs on the bus
  • The Sun
  • The Hindu temple
  • Children asking for pens
  • “Where are you from?” … “Ahh Jordaaaaan”
  • Respect for all religions
  • The mirror wall
  • Amazing hydrology and masonry
  • Moon stones
  • Clean clean air
  • Rolling mist like clouds kissing the earth
  • The colored houses
  • The painted floors
  • The invitation
  • Arabic and country music in a tuk tuk on the roads of Nuwara Eliya
  • The privilege
  • Walking in the rain
  • Getting a nose ring the traditional way… ouch!
  • Rolling hills and mountains that look like ripples in a velvet fabric
  • The Ocean
  • The sound of the ocean
  • The people we met: Indira, Anna, Suzzane, their keeper, Mr. Khan, Our first driver (I have his name written down somewhere), Gamini and his family, Gamini’ friend who took the long cut, Sunil, Pre and his co worker, Sunil, our friends the bartenders. The families, the shopkeepers, the fishermen, Mrs. Khalid and her daughter and so many more people…
  • The seduction of the ocean
  • The fruits
  • The hairless dogs
  • Baby turtles in my hand
  • The masks
  • The awe
  • The shopping
  • Double chocolate cheesecake at The Gallery

I don’t think I have covered everything in this list I know I have forgotten something or other already, But I know that I wont forget how blissful those two weeks were, a true escape from reality. 

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