Gaining Perspective: Gaining Gratitude

I was having one of those days. My internet wasn’t working fast enough My air conditioner wasn’t cold enough. My mobile reception wasn’t strong enough. First world problems indeed. My computer was overheated and my head was worse. There was little more that I could do other than to call it a day, a slightly wasted day, but a day none the less. Instead of choosing the sensible option which looked something like ‘save’ through my weary eyes, I chose the childish option of ‘quit now.’ Surrendering the pathetic amount of work I had been able to do in a moment of stubbornness. My brain told me I had gotten the final word, yet I knew tomorrow my lousy attempt at revenge would only turn around to bite me.

I grabbed my hat even though the sky whispered stories of a storm and my water even though the bottle itself was warm to touch. I opted for my stomping boots, even though part of me would regret the choice immediately once the 35 degree heat hit me and the 98% humidity leaked in through my skin. My final words and stubborn ways sure did have a way of making my life more miserable. Perhaps I was wallowing. That made sense too.

I hit the dirt path with eagerness and determination, despite the fact I had nowhere to go and nothing to do. I opted for walking as it was my most commonly used saving grace. Yoga worked, writing worked, but walking often held the greatest appeal to me, as it did on this day. I stumbled over crumpled rocks from haphazard work sites and I dodged cow patties on the side of the road that I was forced to keep to if I wished to keep all my body parts in check. Bikes whizzed by me and tooted, trucks grumbled by me and honked, dogs scurried by me and yapped. Peace? Peace was in a land far away.

I kept my eyes to the ground and tuned my ears to the road- in a few short days I had learned how to tell exactly how much of the road I could afford to use with each step. The whizzing bikes meant I took my claim of pot-holed asphalt, while the grumbling sound of the trucks meant I took my knowing place closer to the cows and rubbish-lined ditches. Neither option was what I would call enjoyable, but it was the way of the land, and for that reason I was able to accept it.

I made it to the intersection where the hustle of traffic gave way to long quiet stretches of rice fields and my little heart heaved a sigh of relief. I may have even shed a tear. Peace was a little closer. The quiet roads held their share of troubles as no young woman particularly enjoys walking along deserted stretches of road in a foreign land. Alas, I have become quite intuitive when it comes to finding a balance of quiet roads laced with just enough scattered passers-by. The perfect balance in an imperfect equation. Instead of dwell and wish for the long stretches of open, safe coastline back home (because really, what is home now anyway?), I wandered onwards, on my mission-less mission, and observed the casual dance the storm clouds above and I were embarking upon.

Off the beaten track my breathing began to calm and my mind started to slow. The hassles of the day were still there, but they were like a mosquito bite an hour after the venom had lodged itself underneath your skin; still itchy but dissolving with surety.

I had been walking for maybe a hundred meters when I saw her.

She was bent over in the green rice fields, a straw hat covered her head, patched tartan fabric covered her body- a mans shirt, long thick pants, fingered gloves. The intermittent sun beat down on her as she worked, cutting long blades of grass here and redirecting the growth of other blades there. Her back rarely straightened, her eyes stayed connected to the land below and from my distance I could just make out the beads of sweat on her forehead and the discoloured fabric from where the dampness had spread solidly over the course of the afternoon.

I stopped walking. Beads of sweat immediately began to form on my own forehead in the absence of breeze brought about by motion. I watched this woman before me and emotions ran through me- guilt and humility, shame and understanding- the human emotions that come with duality and perspective. I saw in my minds eye how pathetic my earlier struggles had been, how insignificant my terrible woes truly were, and then this woman looked up and our dark pupils met.

She smiled at me with the widest smile I had ever seen. A smile that came from her heart and poured out through every cell in her body. A smile that knew hardship but knew life. That knew struggle but knew hope. Involuntarily, my own face broke into a grin and I wanted to run to her and hug her, I wanted to quit my own stupid job (how STUPID did my job seem in that moment?!) and just cut grass by her side. I wanted to say, ‘What you are doing matters and I want to matter also,’ but I stood there dumbly, blankly, smiling as though my upturned lips could undo all her pain and struggle- just as hers had done for me.

She didn’t have all day to wildly grin at strangers like I may have had. Her head dipped and she was back at work again, sweeping her blunt knife across the grass with grace and acceptance. I’m sure the sun burnt her skin, the knife gave her blisters, the work hurt her back and the pay was barely enough to get by, but from her movement you could never tell.

From her movement, the world was as it should be.

I turned around and started to retrace my steps. I let the smile fall from my lips and and my eyes rise to the horizon that was beginning to lighten after the pretend storm clouds had had their daily fun. I reached the intersection, I stepped into the hustle and bustle, I stepped in cow patties to miss trucks and I took the longer route to avoid the barking dogs. I felt the drops of sweat pooling at the small of my back and I felt my hair sticking to my forehead in the absence of breeze. I let go of the need to change it all.

For in that moment, the world was as it should be.

Image from philhillphotography.photoshelter.com