We had come off a 12-hour train ride through India to the city of Varanasi,
a holy place that sits on the Ganges River. I had suffered a stomach illness, likely due to food or poor water quality, and because of this, I saw most of the Taj Mahal in a wheelchair. This statement is not to complain or elicit any sympathy. It’s to show true transparency – our trip’s not always glamorous.
I was thrilled and grateful, still, to be traveling with my husband in a far-off place like India. Each day we recognize how incredibly fortunate we are.
I had become a little irritated in the last couple of days, though. Plenty of people had tried to swindle us, scam us, and charge us four times the standard price. The streets were crowded with cow poop, human urine, and immense amounts of trash — not to mention the crowd of the auto and bicycle traffic.
It was hot, and I was sweaty.
I was sweaty, smelly, and wanted three plates’ worth of salad. (Fresh vegetables are a rarity for travelers in Asia).
Relaxing in our room, I said, “It will be great when we’re in Japan – we can eat sushi and have saki!” And, “Spain will be wonderful. I’ll cook great meals!” (How? I’m not entirely sure as it’s yet to be proven that I’ve ever cooked a “great meal”). But it all sounded lovely.
I thought of future stages and how great they’d be.
It’d be amazing and spectacular and wonderful.
It’s easy to think and talk about how great life will be then. To dream up colorful images of what life will be like and how happy we’ll be to be living it.
I stopped then, to ask myself, Then why am I here in India? Why am I walking on this poop-infested street if I could be somewhere else?
My thoughts and reflections trail in and out and we head downstairs for breakfast. This morning’s meal prepared by the wife of the guesthouse owner is an Indian style vegetable pancake served with a tiny mug of warm chai tea.
The guesthouse owner pulls up a chair and begins to engage us. My ears pause. Then they listen. I acutely notice his Indian accent. I had heard his accent yesterday. What was different about today?
This… This is why I’m here, I thought. To experience these tiny, exotic, new, never-before-never-again moments.
I flew across the world for these beautiful slivers in time.
In fact, the little slivers of life are often the sweetest — no matter where we are.
I hear the accent again and listen to insights on war and terrorism and America, from an Indian, South Asian perspective. Needless to say, Joe and I learned a few things. As expected, we’ve been taught history and politics from a very Westernized viewpoint.
Here in India, and everywhere we go, I’ll learn and see things based on where I am in the present moment (wherever that is).
And I’m fortunate to not be here alone. I’m lucky to be with Joe, my biggest life supporter — the one who will do anything for me — like scour the streets of India to find me a halfway decent snack. He is the greatest, most valuable thing I have in this life – no matter what continent we’re on.
And that’s when I realized. My job on this honeymoon and in this marriage is to love and find happiness now, as best I can, in every way I can. Even if we’re smelling sewage water in Myanmar, or cooking delicious cuisine in Madrid, I need to joyfully love and choose happiness.
Happiness isn’t about reaching a certain destination or even having a certain experience.
Life and happiness is about my ongoing actions, choices, and perspective. The very existence of my happiness is in the choices I make now, and in every now. Joy is in the tiny pieces of what I do and in the moments I choose to love. The exchange of smiles and laughter, the quiet moments of reading and writing, the times we do small but heroic things for each other: these are all demonstrations of joy.
I have, after all, the choice to be as happy now as I will be in Japan or Spain or the USA. My happiness and joy and journey is now – in love, in my perspective, and in my choices.
My dreams of happiness can shift. Happiness isn’t then, it’s now.
Because, in fact, now is all we have.