I was 20 years old, living in London as a nanny, drinking more pints of beer than my body weight at the time and enjoying the freedom of being a foreigner, away from anything familiar with all the potential ahead of me.
The Notting hill carnival is one of the biggest street parties in Europe (at least it was back then.) A carribbean flavored block party with a million strong crowd. It was all spandex, flair and big flavors. The streets of Notting Hill are closed off to the traffic and for the entire weekend all you hear is reggae, ska and calypso influenced music. I don’t know what the set up is like these days but back then, people would pull up in a flat bed truck loaded with speakers, hit play and the entire street would start grooving.
It was at one of these scenarios where I was captivated by him. A white elderly man with high wasted pants and a tucked in polo shirt, having a grand old time on his own, getting down to the music. The soulful journey he was on was obvious, as he closed his eyes and moved to the music. You know how we love old white men dancing? So, he was wholeheartedly getting into it when a young, buxom black woman approached and started grinding up on him. It got some of the crowds attention but what would follow bought the entire street over. The man didn’t flinch, instead he stepped right into beat and started grinding with her. The crowd went wild. But, still, that wasn’t it.
When the music went down tempo and the excitement waned, the girl gave the man a hug and said goodbye and the crowd when looking for action somewhere else. I stood watching the man, still dancing, but now on his own and a little slower. I noticed he had stayed close to the ‘stage’ area and shortly after his soul train moment he gingerly walked toward his stuff, bent down, picked up his bag and a walking stick and then walked away. Except the cane wasn’t just a regular walking cane. It was his white cane. He was blind.
He hadn’t seen a single thing.
Can you stop for a moment and think about that? About this man, walking through a million strong crowd in a London neighborhood, finding himself in a street with pumping ska music and deciding to just go with it. Did he know there was a crowd watching him? Did he have an inkling of doubt or hesitation about dancing in the dark, with a crowd of strangers around him?
It doesn’t really matter what this man registered, the point of it all was that he was alive and he was feeling his life.
In some ways, this is how I felt when I first stepped off the plane in India nearly 2 years ago. I had no clue what was going on around me and I just had to go with it. Of course, I could see the mayhem but still, I felt handicapped in a way that made me feel vulnerable and yet alive at the same time. What happened though, what really kicked into gear was my instinct and that, my friends, was the force that kept me moving and really feeling my life and I believe it is what has stirred in me ever since.
If you closed your eyes right now, would you feel content? Could you trust that you didn’t need to see what was right in front of you but instead, feel it? Can you truly know that your life is right here, it’s ok and you don’t need to see so far ahead, or know everything right now. Can you trust that your dreams and desires are valid and that this precious life is for living, not for contemplating and waiting?
P.S. from now until Dec 15th, the deposit for my India retreat is now only $250