Taking care in Rome, Hanoi and…

Take care in Rome, Hanoi and...

Trying to cross a road in Rome, where vehicular traffic streamed endlessly from all directions, I remember observing other pedestrians who boldly ran halfway across the street, frantically looking all around, only to retreat back to where they had started, when they suddenly realized they could not reach the other side of the road without getting hit. I looked for another way to get across the street, but there were no other options: no crosswalk, no overhead sidewalk (laughable, I know), no nothing. Like everybody else, I hesitated and then focused my attention on finding a suitable gap in the flow. Unfortunately, all the Italians racing motorized vehicles seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Quite the opposite for the Italians sitting in cafes, sipping their wine, chatting with their neighbors, laughing at the foreigners trying to cross the road. They appeared happy to just sit and observe life. I wanted to get over to their side of the road. But how?

Crossing the road in Rome, Hanoi, or any other big city with scant semblance of order or structural enforcement can be intimidating or even deadly for even the most bravest of adventure seekers. There is something unsettling about imagining our flesh going up against man-made machines going at accelerated speeds. It’s not an inviting feeling, and it certainly didn’t entice me to step off the sidewalk almost 16 years ago. But, because I HAD to cross the road, I did the only think I could, without thinking further, I just willed my body forward and took a bold step off the sidewalk and into the suicidal stream of sacriledge. I focused my attention directly in front of me, trying to keep my tremendous fear at bay. The whizzing of Vespas and motorcycles around me blew my long hair every which way, but even when strangled strands of hair blocked my view, I maintained my steady and determined gait with no hesitation, and by putting one foot in front of the other, I reached the other side unscathed.

What I learned, on that day in Rome, was to stop trying to control things that I could not control. Rather than trying to calculate the best ‘gap’ in the frantic chaos of too-many-cappuccino-induced drivers, I just became part of it. After I succumbed to the chaos and let myself go, I just went with the flow. Amazingly, the Vespa drivers, the motorcyclists, and the cabbies all modulated their speeds, their accelerations and their maneuvers to avoid hitting me. Wow!

Can this method also be applied to other crossroads in our lives? Is it better to simply let go and take the first step, then to worry, over analyze, plan to death, or procrastinate? Is letting go better even when we have no clear direction or goal in mind?

Takin care in Rome, Hanoi and…

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Letting go…one thing at a time.

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Although I own plenty of cookbooks, I rarely use them for anything but as a thick magazine to flip through and drool at gorgeous photos of foods that I wish I could create but know I never will.  I love reading and, not only have I amassed a huge collection of cookbooks for someone who doesn’t cook, I have accumulated too many books in my life. 

Whenever I moved from one place to the next, the movers always commented on the fact that I owned hardly any furniture, but had rooms and rooms full of books.  Stacks of books are also usually stacked around my bed or in the living room as well.  To me, books are special because they take me to amazing places, help me imagine a different perspective, or inspire me to be better; furniture can only be sat upon. 

All of my books have journeyed around the world many times during the past 20 years of relocating from country to country.  Now, suddenly I feel ready to let them go, starting with the cooking books.  It’s ironic that I want to donate my cooking books now, when I just started using them for the first time as they should be used.  However, as I continue to educate myself on how to cook and bake, I realize that my ultimate goal is not to learn how to follow recipes in cookbooks, but to be skilled enough so that I can cook things from taste, flavor and my own desires of what I want to eat.  I know that I am nowhere near that point yet (and may never be), but I feel ready to let go.  Perhaps by slowly letting go of the books (and other possessions) in my life, I am allowing new experiences and manifestations to take its place.