“All the Hemispheres”

Leave the familiar for a while Let your senses and bodies stretch out Like a welcomed season onto the meadows and shores and hills Open up to the Roof Make a new watermark on your excitement and love Like a blooming night flower, bestow your vital fragrance of happiness And giving upon our intimate assembly Change rooms in your mind for a day All the hemispheres in existence Lie besides an equator in your heart Greet yourself in your thousand other forms as you mount the hidden tide and travel back home All the hemispheres in heaven are sitting around a fire chatting While stitching themselves together into the Great Circle inside of You

(Hāfez 1325/26–1389/90; from: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’)

This poem, in a few words, wraps up all the emotions and thoughts that are building inside me. A couple months ago, I left the familiars, heading to Africa, to get to know the self whose existence I questioned on a daily basis. I wanted to see how I deal with Life in places and situations where the comfort of experience no longer exists as the walls in which I build my understanding of the world and of Life.

Before I left to travel through the Kenyan social and physical landscape, I was very proud of myself. This sense of satisfaction about the person that I have become was certainly well deserved. I have shed rivers of sweat and tears to become the person that I was. However the satisfaction and pride were fragile, for it still seeks approval from the external environment. Through my most recent metamorphosis, I have torn through my own skin to free the woman who has been trapped behind the walls of fears and rules. This violent birth delivered a beautiful but fragile woman, standing stark naked with crossed arms and legs in the open field, being amazed with her own freedom and beauty, and yet was swaying with nervousness wondering how the world will love her as she has come to love her new self. She still wanted to be loved and to be accepted. In her newborn skin, she was still a child needing the safety of the godly parents.

The boundaries of her views are wide - wider than many in her environment, but the boundaries were there. They exist to give her the comfort that she can always count on, and to give her affirmations of the wrights and the wrongs of this world. They were the absolute perfection to which she can turn even as Life and everyone inside it frustrate her. From a fearful child who went forward and did what needed to be done in order to break free from the confinement of her little room, she grew into a beautiful woman but full of self-doubts that were compensated by her thirst for Life. But at one point, she realized that while the room no longer existed, and that she now had reached the open meadow, full of the beauty and ugliness of Life, she has become fearful once again. She no longer felt the need to or the desire to veil herself from Life, and yet she could not always dance across the meadow of life, with her heart wide open while her soul soars across the blue sky. Instead, she was tiptoeing, sporadically sprinting, and from time to time calmly walking through the open field. But this was not enough, for she wanted to dance in all of her naked beauty, on her tiptoes, as she’s thumping the ground with the confidence of a woman who knows and loves who she has become while stretching her arms towards the big open sky with her passion and the love for life.

That nervous woman, bursting with the desire to live the richness that life is beginning to bring into her path, left the familiars behind to plunge into a world that she thought she didn’t know. As she allowed the unexpected to happen, life continues to place its miracles in her path. Over the coming days, the teachers, that Life disguised as, came in many different forms and shapes. As her eyes feasted on the beauty of the Kenyan landscape, her body consumed the fruits of this land, and her mind and soul soaked up the social fluidity that ran through the veins of the Kenyan society, she became more humbled and less nervous about Life. She no longer thought that she was unique or special even as the reactions that were raised in response to her actions and thoughts did indicate that she stood outside the norms including those created for outlanders.

She just accepted who she was at the moment, accepted what Life chose to present to her, and just dealt with whatever came next – not as a little girl terrified of the world or as a superwoman who believed that she could change her world according to her desires, but just as she was, just as Chi – a woman who lived to live, lived to experience, lived to learn, and lived to feel. And while she did not know, most of the time, whether her reactions were good for herself, for the people involved and for the situation at hand, she acted, felt, and thought with a calming sense of self-confidence and humility. Even in situations where she panicked and struggled to digest a new experience and all the emotions and thoughts behind it, she did it with both feet on the ground.

On the Kenyan soil, I did not danced through Life’s meadow on tiptoes while thumping the ground with confidence and spirit stretching for the sky. Instead I was walking calmly through the meadows with a steady appreciation for all of the senses of life that I stumbled upon while immerged in a peaceful acceptance of the internal and external environment. In the face of the unknown and the unfamiliar, I was able to welcome the changes that were taking place inside me to bring forth the aspects of myself that did not usually exist in places that I have called home. The journey matured the aspects that were still young in their existence as part of who I am. But this calmness, this groundedness, has ceased to exist as I make my way back to the familiars where I, for now, have chosen to be my home.

Among the familiars, surrounded with the comfort of materiality and love, I struggle to be. I fear the loss of the calm woman who possessed a beautiful balance of self-confidence and humility, and yet I also fear losing the young beautiful woman who yearned to see and live Life with the rawness of passion and love. It is strange how it takes new environments, for one to discover oneself and how it takes being back inside the old places, for one to create a new self. Through my travels to Vietnam, I discover the child within me. Through living with a group of people whose ways of life were foreign to me that I discovered the passionate young woman within me. And now Kenya has introduced me to the calming and mature woman that has been standing in the background being the anchor while the child and young woman go through Life with an abundance of energy and the lack of self-trust.

I always knew that there are three entities within me: the child, the carefree passionate beautiful young woman, and the calming mature woman aging with wisdom. They have always co-existed and have always supported each other to live through the rich terrains of life. But they have never merged into one. I think this is the reason why this poem has so much meaning and is able to grasp the depth of my soul: All the hemispheres in existence 
Lie beside an equator
 in your heart Greet Yourself 
in your thousand other forms
 as you mount the hidden tide and travel
 back home. All the hemispheres in heaven
 are sitting around a fire 
chatting While stitching themselves together 
into the Great Circle inside of
 You (Hāfez)

Perhaps as I make my way back from Kenya, all of my ‘hemispheres’, now that I have discovered all of them, at least the ones that exist within me at this phase of my life, are struggling to stitch themselves together. Perhaps for the first time in my life, all of me is attempting to join together in the Great Circle of Life to create a complete woman – one who has some characteristics of all of her three former selves. A medicine man or woman, I forgot, and it is appropriate so, told me some time ago that I will be at peace with myself and I will be whole when all of me have merged into one. Perhaps that time is now! And perhaps the uncertainty that I feel is part of the discussions and negotiations that are taking place as my three existences sit around the fire to find a way to stitch themselves together “into the Great Circle” within me. Perhaps I am feeling the chaos of self-creation once again.