Living in Quito, and now alone until Howie and the kids arrive on June 22, I have a sense of being in Limbo. I am in my life, in that I am working and writing and breathing. But, I am not in my life, in that this is not my ordinary existence.
My time here so far has gotten me thinking about the subject of parallel lives. Geneen Roth’s work on food and body brings this up: who is it that we are spending so much time and energy trying to be, rather than living our lives as we are? We try so hard to achieve some ideal that we fail to live the life that we have before us. We daydream it away. This is not dissimilar from mindfulness teachings and practices, which are aimed at bringing us back to where we are now. In this sense, I have to stop worrying over what I “should” be doing while here and just take one step at a time, seeing what I discover in the archives. Every time I am in Quito, I feel like it’s vaguely unreal. Yet, I have been here many times before and I have a record of work and publication to support the idea that I certainly belong here, doing what I do.
Parallel lives are also about contemplating the choices we did/didn’t make. I am away from the home and family that are usually at the center of my life. Instead, I am in the midst of unusual circumstances and people I don’t often see, and it makes me contemplate choices and paths that take us in one direction or another in life. What if I had never met Kim Clark, would I still be an academic now? What if I had not had kids, would I feel freer here, or would I just experience a deeper loneliness? What if I had never met Howie, or had not called him when I returned from my dissertation work in Ecuador? Would I be with someone else, or alone?
In short, Quito makes me wax philosophical. Maybe I need to read a trashy novel or watch a crappy movie.
What paths have you chosen? What alternate lives do you imagine?