For the first day or two after I arrived in Istanbul, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a Mack truck. There are SO many people, and SO much traffic that literally, every inch of available space is taken by someone or something. For me, this was quite ironic because I have a tendency to people-hate when I’m out in public. Now before you judge me, just hang on. I don’t deny that I like my personal space, but who doesn’t? And the truth is that it drives me insane when strangers invade my space. If you’ve read any of my etiquette posts, you know that I offer plenty of valid examples on why space invasion ain’t cool. The way I see it – if I can manage not to invade your space, then you most certainly CAN avoid invading mine. All you need to do is pause for one moment, and realize that there are other people in this world besides YOU. Anyway, I definitely had to keep an open mind while traveling in Istanbul, which lead me to one conclusion: Istanbul is the perfect place to conduct therapy sessions if you have personal space issues – just don’t carry any weapons
So I’ve been home for about 3 weeks now, and I am very aware (and grateful) of how much free space surrounds me, even when I’m walking downtown during a busy lunch hour. In Istanbul, even the water and skies are constantly filled with boats, fisherman and seagulls. No matter where you go, you are constantly assaulted (for lack of a better word) by some kind of stimuli. While I was there, I didn’t know how I felt about Istanbul. Probably because I had no time to think about it – I was too busy trying to keep up with everything that was happening around me, while simultaneously trying to avoid getting my ass run over every time I crossed the street. All of this led me to the (delayed) realization that while in Istanbul, I was living IN THE MOMENT. No past, no future – just the present moment. The NOW. Now that I’m home again, I realize just how awesome Istanbul is. Its architecture and people, its food, its stray dogs and cats, its carpet salesmen and shops upon shops of Turkish delight and baklava, all of its nooks and crannies that make it so easy to get lost, and finally, the call to prayer that restores balance.
It also dawned on me that Istanbullus look you right in the eyeballs. They don’t look past you or through you, or go out of their way to avoid you – No. Despite the insane hustle and bustle of their city, Istanbullus acknowledge you with each passing glance. You are SEEN. This is very different from the society in which we live, where we are all so self-absorbed that we see nothing past the tips of our noses, and view anything beyond that as an intrusion. They SAW me. Amazing! For me, this was incredibly validating because for the last year or two, I have very much felt invisible in many of my relationships, and I forgot what it was like to simply be acknowledged by the people around you. This realization thus confirmed that I made the right choice(s) when I opted to walk away from certain relationships where I seemed to be nothing but a fixture. Bye bye, love, as The Beatles would say. Actually, I think I prefer a gentler reminder: Hit the road, JACK!
Despite everything that was going on in Istanbul, there was something missing… I didn’t realize what it was until today: the big knot that took up residence in my gut a few years back. My stress gauge, my anxiety detector, the cause of my IBS, my resistance to all things worrisome or unfamiliar. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been very focused on not falling into old patterns, so last week when I started to feel a familiar disturbance, I knew exactly what it was and where it was coming from. I’m still working on keeping that bitch in check.
I didn’t go to Istanbul with any crazy expectations of what would or should be; I just knew that I needed a change and I knew that this trip would be the catalyst for everything else that would take place this year. No pressure, eh Istanbul? What I came home with was so much more than I could have imagined. I know that I left all the residual shit that I had going on, behind in Istanbul. Certain chapters were closed and that’s that – I’m done. The heaviness that I felt in my chest is gone too. The best way to describe it is to say that before Istanbul, my chest was filled with cobwebs – kind of like the spider’s lair in Lord of the Rings. But now, those cobwebs are gone. I can breathe freely again and it feels great! There was definitely a shift that took place during the retreat. I don’t know what it means yet, or where my path will take me, but I do know that I feel a hundred times lighter, and I’m a happy camper. That little grey cloud that was hovering over my head, giving off those shit vibes? Kicked to the curb by a bright, shiny ball of fire that I’m sportin’ like like a halo.
Rock on, Constantinople.