Sunday, October 12, 2014

'Yes', to Life:

Two months ago, exactly, I cut my finger while making breakfast. The knife slipped from my hand–effortlessly and in an instant–while cutting a very hard piece of Dutch cheese, which should have come to rest atop my scrambled eggs. The knife instead went straight into my left index finger. Just above the first joint, down from the tip, to form a perfectly clean and deep cut into my left index finger’s right edge. Making the situation worse was that I chose not to use a cutting board–you know, for efficiency. Having not yet showered after just returning home from an early morning 8 K run, still sweaty and all, I was driven off to the nearest hospital’s emergency room by my husband, finger held in mid-air, to have given to it, great care. Now, over two months later, my finger has nearly healed; it’s almost back to full use. Typing still hurts; taking photos does not.

Over these past two months, and parallel to my healing finger, began my new agenda; a new life as a student at the University of Amsterdam. Scholastic excellence is irreplaceable; I’m happy to be further expanding my intellectual capacity for just that. I knew that placing myself back into the framework of academia would prove to be challenging, enlightening, and above all–incredibly enjoyable. It’s very fun. So many new faces and places have entered my life over the past six weeks. So much so that I’ve, during this time, considered that, perhaps I should attempt a new masters degree every five years or so, just to stay advanced within my many interests. Slightly impractical but an incredibly desirable thought that is. Perhaps a better way of expressing my passion for knowledge is to say just that: I’m overtaken by Dutch Art and its history. And I’m quite good with it, too.

These new faces and places that I keep encountering–they are infinite. As soon as I leave a class or turn a corner within one of the countless building’s I’ve only recently begun to inhabit; a new face face is there to say hello. Even if none of us students know one another, there is a camaraderie amongst us; we’re all there for the same reason, and that is to learn. I do not feel like a student at the beginning of their young 20s, precisely because that I am not. I’m a student at the end of my 20s. And that makes me more focused within this academic framework that I’ve placed myself within; I know why I’m studying, and I know what I hope to achieve from it. Yet I’m simultaneously open to the serendipitous; most if not all of the new faces I keep encountering, I meet in this way.

I study part-time, and work part-time; the duality of this life I currently lead is drastic. When not absorbing as much knowledge on Dutch Art–with an incredible emphasis on seventeenth century Dutch paintings–I’m reading, studying, and revising notes. A few days a week I still cycle toward a gorgeous studio near Museumplein, to play with pictures and words. Yet when there, my heart is elsewhere. I’m present, but I’m aware that there’s much more ‘out there’. There’s much much more in the world that I had previously not seen, or, perhaps more poignantly, knew was possible to engage with. Having moved to Amsterdam at the age of 22; I’m now 28 (and I’ll be 29, very soon). What I initially filled my time with in this city, no longer feels completely right. There’s no need to search for what’s next, either. Because it’s already begun. And it feels oh so right.

When I cut my finger, a few months back, the moment immediately after I created the cut, was one of the most surreal of my life, thus far. I had cut myself during my youth quite often; growing up in the American countryside allows a child to do so fuildy. Yet those incidents were all different. None entailed clean cuts made with knifes; they all involved collisions between myself and trees, fences and rocks. When I cut myself that morning, I didn’t feel anything. At all. At least for the first five seconds, during all of which I was in a state of shock, as I stood over my kitchen sink, left index finger out and in mid-air, profusely bleeding into the sink below. As I stood, hovering above the sink, my finger numb and nearly painless, a stream of blood flowed and flowed from my finger. It seemed endless. And it was surreal to stand there, fully conscious, in minimal pain, profusely bleeding as if that were totally normal. Surreal. That it was.

It was at that point that I realized something that I’ve been on to for some time: the mind and the body, though often seemingly separate, need one another. Without my beautiful body, my beautiful mind would have no home. Without my mind, my body would be motionless. And yet, as one deteriorates the other is completely capable of standing still, motionless, independent of the other. As much blood as there was falling from me into the sink that day, I didn’t feel it. I could only see it. What would have happened had I stood there forever? Would my hand, and body, have lost so much blood at some point that I would have fallen over and fainted–womb left unclosed, my mind would succumb to my body’s injury. Luckily there are such things as hospitals, and medicine, and bandages and ointments with which to dress today’s wombs. Finger fully healed, I now look forward rather than mull over my mind and body’s symbiosis. But I’ll never forget what I feels like to not be able to feel my body’s slow demise. I know that with each day, I’m closer to death. And also closer to life. I won’t see my body’s demise, daily. So if anything, I’m happy to be aware that my time here on Earth is limited. While still here, I want to always say ‘yes’ to life. ‘Yes’ to joy, sorrow, pain, happiness, love... That’s life.

My beloved Gehry-Piérré, a hamster that’s been part of my family for the last 2.5 years, passed away this weekend. Throughout his last days I was there, by his side, making sure that his cage was clean and that the food he did have, he was able to reach. Having this hamster as an integral part of my life made me more empathetic; he taught me how to care for others, in addition to myself. He was dependent on me for his survival, and I showered him with love. The steady decrease within his energy over the past few months was prominent and arresting; both his motion and alertness, slowed. This past Saturday he took his last breathe as I watched on in despair–a fighter, even until the last minute, he always was. That’s why my husband and I chosen to adopt him in the first place; he was fierce. And also gentle. Gehry the hamster’s passing is a notch into the post that constitutes my ever evolving relationship with Amsterdam. He taught me much. And along the way, he strengthened my capacity for compassion and patience. His passing marks a period of renewal in my life, as with one ending’s arrival, another new beginning, begins.