My Walkabout

As my departure date nears, I am realizing that I’m not quite ready.

  • Passport—Check!
  • Visa—Check!
  • Plane Ticket—Check!
  • Hotel Reservations—Check!
  • TV dinners for husband stocked and ready in the fridge—Check!

Still, I have a few more things to do and somehow I got hit with an overtime project to write about Volt/VAR this weekend.

Don’t know what that is?

Yeah, me neither, well not until about an hour ago.

So this is where I leave you. I’ll be spending my time on another blog, one that’s focused on travel. I’m going to try to write good posts this time! So join me as I obsess, even more if that’s possible, about India!

https://joannaswalkabout.wordpress.com/
joannas-walkabout

Ask Shakeel!

+91.98232.02679

SKshakeel608@gmail.com

Eat, Pray, Love

One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia
By Elizabeth Gilbert
@2006, 12 hours, 49 minutes.
Audible version read by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Back in 2008 a coworker said, “You really gotta read this book!” She described it to me fairly accurately, and I didn’t think it would be for me. I didn’t want to read about some blond lady’s spiritual journey. I didn’t want to read about her travels across Italy, India, and Indonesia. Eating? I was on a diet!

So it’s fair to say it took me a little time to get around to this book, but it kept showing up here and there. People kept trying to give it to me. And I don’t really know what my problem was. It seemed, well, so “girly.”

The first book by Elizabeth Gilbert I “read” was her Audible version of Big Magic, and I probably would not have listened to that if it hadn’t been for her 2009 TED Talk on Creativity (which hit me like a ton of bricks) and yet another coworker sending me her podcast on Magic Lessons.

OK already, I’ll read your damn book!

Which wasn’t too bad. You know, I liked it. I like Liz’s openness to well, everything. Liz is engaging and interesting and sweet and supportive. You get the feeling that she’s the kind of person people seek out—all the time. Like she never has a free Saturday night. And this puts me off a little. It’s my issue, not hers.

She begins her book talking about how many people she’s going to offend by discussing her search for spirituality and healing, and I get that. I can easily think of people in my own life who would be terribly offended by this book. Liz looks for God on her own terms. She isn’t too sure about marriage or having children. She wants to claim space for her creativity, her own writing. She puts the breaks on her life and focuses completely on herself.

My mother-in-law would hate this book. In fact, she hates all books except for the Bible. If you’re reading a book that isn’t the Bible, there’s something wrong with you. If you can relate to my mother-in-law on the topic of books, Eat, Pray, Love may not be for you—-and, of course, you should definitely read it.

I’m not so easily offended. People can believe things radically different from what I believe, and it doesn’t upset me at all. I just think, hmm, that’s interesting. Wonder how they came to that conclusion? Liz does talk about one thing that I think, gee, why Liz? Why did you want to talk about that. TMI. TMI!

That said, Liz has a great reading voice. I think this book was probably better listened to than read.

So, yes. This was an interesting book. Liz’s problems are not my problems, though, so I wasn’t saying, oh yes, I really get you. Rather I marvel at this woman’s life. I marvel at her success and her freedom. I marvel at her ability to travel and her ability to pursue her dream because my dream has always seemed so hard to pursue. The small issue of money has always presented a barrier to me. I am only just conquering it, and even as I say this I’m not terribly sure that’s true. I mean “future me” probably is going to hate “past” and “present” me.

But Eat, Pray, Love. Should you read it? Yes, I think so. I think it is an important book of our time. I think it taps into women’s issues and gives a picture of the female condition that is very accurate for a large number of people. I think it’s historically and culturally significant.

Plus, Liz’s contemplation of meditation and yoga is very interesting. Yoga and meditation are becoming more important to me lately. My husband got some really bad news back from a test the other day. His ability to concentrate was judged to be under the 20th percentile with his working verbal memory measured just above the 1 percentile. So yes, I’m talking a range from 1 to 100. Does this mean dementia? We still do not know. But it does confirm brain damage. Well, duh. The 40 plus lesions on his MRI told us that. I mean really, what do we pay these doctors for?

But—I digress.

The point is this. Meditation could help my husband improve his cognitive function as long as he doesn’t have dementia. It can help with focus and concentration. Meditation is simple the practice of focusing your attention, of paying attention to what’s happening, right now. The act of bringing your mind back once it starts wandering is like lifting a weight and your ability to control your mind becomes stronger just as weight training makes your muscles stronger.

And as Liz discusses, there are all kinds of ways to do it because meditation has been explored by ancient cultures like India for a very long time. And by a long time, I mean for more than five thousand years. These cultures have the information, in other words.

Liz’s accounts of her heartaches rang true, but her account of her love story in Bali, while I get her excitement, seemed like she was holding back. So I think Liz nailed the “Eat” part of her story as well as the “Pray” part. But the “Love” part, I think she didn’t quite do it. I felt empathy. I felt relaxation. I felt her peacefulness. But I didn’t feel love. Love being a very complicated topic indeed.

Liz laments constantly: was Eat, Pray, Love her greatest work? Is her best work behind her?

Here’s my advice to her. Explore the concept of “love” and I mean this exploration to go beyond the Western one-word “love.” Explore love in Greek terms. Explore love in Middle Eastern terms.

As if I should be giving advice to Liz Gilbert! I should be giving advice to myself! Where’s my advice? Where’s my journey?

But alas, I have a gift for seeing what others must do, and Liz, your best work is not behind you. Best work does not equal most recognized work. Is your most recognized work behind you? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.

Ask Shakeel!

+91.98232.02679

SKshakeel608@gmail.com

Some details on the writer of this blog

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about blogging is learning about other bloggers and their lives. I enjoy seeing everyone’s photographs and wondering: what would it be like to hit the road and travel around Peru? Russia? Mongolia? Costa Rica? Mexico? Greece? India? Pakistan? Indonesia? Denmark? Australia? Romania?

I wonder what it would be like to live in a place where bananas grow everywhere!

I’m completely inspired by how some bloggers are able to communicate the story of their lives. Even through their pain, they are making art with every entry. I want to be that good. You really inspire me.

And then there are the artists. The ones who are working hard and drawing and posting their work. There is something about visual art that is so inspiring. It makes me happy.

And then, best of all. So many bloggers actually read other people’s blogs and think about them, and comment on them. And well, you guys are the heart of our community. I have told countless friends about my blog and only the ones who have stalking tendencies have read anything I’ve written, all in secret of course—never a comment, never any communication—and I suspect, with lots of judgment.

I told a “friend” at work: hey, look! I have followers. Strangers I don’t even know are willing to let my thoughts show up in their Feeder. Literature isn’t dead. People do still read!

And she says: how many followers? Are they real people?

It has been an odd revelation to me that even though I have worried about the risks of sharing too  much about myself online, that really, even if I posted everything conceivable, that these details would continue to exist in relative anonymity.

The balance between revealing enough and not too much is difficult to learn, but it’s been fun trying.

Thanks and happy reading!!

Heart of Darkness

Cover of "Heart of Darkness (Norton Criti...
Cover via Amazon

By Joseph Conrad; Wordsworth; Editions Limited; @1995; first published before television in 1899; 74 pages.

At 74 pages, this may be the longest book I’ve ever read in my life. Whereas the story of the Heart of Darkness has some interest in it, the telling is excruciating. I’ve heard about this story for as long as I can remember, so I was convinced there must be something to it.

You would think it would be interesting what with the setting in the Congo and the ivory, the mysterious Kurtz, and cannibals on-board a tin can of a boat going down a river. And the fog. I love fog!

But the terrors do not come in the suspense of the story, but in the awful drudgery of wading through it, rather like wading through a muddy river bottom after a soaking rain and having to struggle for each step forward until the muddy bog finally releases your rubber boots with an awful sucking noise—thwup!

Save yourself; find the movie and watch it.

In the Land of Invisible Women

Cover of "In the Land of Invisible Women:...

By Qanta Ahmed, MD; @2008; Sourcebooks, Inc.; 437 pages.

I came to this book with very little knowledge of Islam or of Saudi Arabia. This was a fascinating read, and I highly recommend the book. While structurally the book reads like a series of ideas that the author felt compelled to cover, the book is loaded with interesting factual information—it is a must read for anyone planning a trip to the Kingdom.

What is certain from the very beginning is that Ahmed did not like to veil. I came away from the book thinking that veiling might be ok if it weren’t mandatory. The fact that women can be harrassed if not properly veiled offends my Western sensibilities. Also, what’s up with men wearing white (a heat repelling color) in a hot climate and women having to wear black (a heat attracting color)? That ain’t right.

I was shocked to learn that women are not allowed to purchase music. I love Arabian music, and I simply can’t imagine not being allowed to listen to it or purchase it on my own.

Throughout the book, I was haunted by the question of what does a woman do if she has no male figure in her life to drive her, accompany her, or do all the other things that only men are allowed to do? Women are like possessions.

Ahmed’s writing is engaging, and every night I looked forward to sitting down and reading more about her experiences. I was fascinated by her spiritual experiences during Hajj, but also upset that only Muslims are allowed entry. The recurring theme of this book seemed to be: “you’re not in the club.”

Ahmed’s coverage of the relationship between the Muttawa and the Saudi royalty was very interesting.

One thing is certain, I would not do well in the Kingdom. I’d slip up and get into some kind of life-threatening trouble.

In the Land of Invisible Women was a fascinating adventure into a place I will probably never go. I give it two thumbs up and a wiggle.