“Do you want to do something important or do you want to be important?
She asked after finishing the drag from her cigarette. What kind of question is that? I’ve never been asked such a thing before. I’ve never even considered it. The question had hit me like loud car alarm in the middle of the night shaking a man awake from his deep sleep.
She showed no apprehension though. Her poker face remained straight behind her big dark shades and the warm dusty wind that was a constant in this barren Israeli desert.
I sat there for a minute contemplating what she had said. Something was off. Something had changed within me just from that question alone. I wouldn’t be the same after this conversation. Maybe after reading what happened to me, you will start questioning some aspects of your life as well. That is my hope in writing this.
Let me rewind here and explain how I had gotten up to this point in my life. After some soul searching and consulting with my friends I had decided to spend 5 weeks in the beautiful country of Israel where a majority of it would be spent in a community in the desert known as Kibbutz Lotan. The rest of the time I would vagabond around the corners of the tiny country and stay with family and friends wherever I could. I had never done such a trek by myself before. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.
Truth be told, only part of it was because I wanted to go see the world. As a business student, working on an ecological community where I learned how to live sustainably, build with mud and make compost seemed like the opposite of my normal lifestyle; about time for a change. But another part of me wanted to get away from it all. I wanted to leave behind the emotional troubles I had experienced in the past semester and not have to worry about getting a damn internship for the damn jobs I didn’t want.
So I found myself at Lotan. Here I got up every morning at 5 to go to work at 6 where myself and the other volunteers, mostly american girls fresh off their birthright trip along with the workers built with mud, gardened, turned poop into soil (compost) and had vegetarian potlucks. Work would follow after a small tai chi session. After work, days would be filled with going to an oasis of a pool, playing music, telling jokes, doing yoga, and a couple crazy nights out of the week would be drinking and partying with people from all corners of the world.
It’s also where I met her. Her name was Adi. She had dark skin with dark curly hair. She was older than I was but also much shorter. Her height didn’t matter though- she was a forceful girl and didn’t really fuck around with the niceties some people feel are necessary when around strangers. FIrst time I saw her, I was taking my first swim at the community pool. Watching her walk by in a bikini made me have to use all my strength that I had garnered during my dead lifting days to pick my jaw off of the pool floor.
She was always funny to me. She always wanted to meditate but not too long later I’d find her smoking a cigarette in the smoking area near the mud houses that we lived in. At times she seemed very tense – something heavy was on her mind. But at other times, she was as carefree and playful as a child and I never saw anyone laugh as genuinely as her. Two different souls seemed to reside in her.
Then the day came where she asked me THE question. She had opened up to me a bit beforehand. She told me why she had come to the southern part of an Israeli desert, away from the bustling life of her original home of Jerusalem where she seemed content almost never to return. Even for her young age, she had gone through a tremendous heartbreak and she was finding solace in the slow and quiet progression of desert kibbutz life.
We found ourselves on a couple benches near our living area where we were shaded by a couple almost lifeless trees. She was smoking her cigarette and would always look forward whenever she said something. But before we parted ways that day, she turned it around and asked me what it was that I wanted to do with my life. I stumbled around with it a bit, not really sure of the answer myself. I decided to say that I wasn’t sure what it was that I wanted out of life. That is, after all, why I was here. And then I went on to say, partly to answer the question and partly to impress her, that whatever it was that I was going to do, I wanted to do something important.
“Do you want to do something important or do you want to be important?”
I leaned over and pondered as I stared at the ground with my face in my palms. Nobody had asked me such a thing before. I didn’t know how to answer.
“Because if you want to be someone important, maybe it’s because you don’t feel important right now”
I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation well enough to recount it here. But the feeling I experienced was like part of my ego had been sucked through a vortex and disappeared, leaving me half dazed in an epiphany and a cloud confusion. We ended the conversation but that didn’t stop me from pondering over it for some time.
Was it so simple? If so, how had I not grasped onto it before? My whole life I was chasing a FEELING? That was my goal?? A FEELING? And if that is what I wanted, was it so obvious that it was what I clearly lacked in my life? Now, this left me with a new question – if all I am chasing after is a feeling, can’t I just give myself that feeling and not have to go through all the trouble?
I reminded myself of the countless self help books I had read that teach you to FEEL like you already have what it is that you want in order to get it. Could I just give myself the feeling. No need for external circumstances to change? This girl had completely turned my way of thinking upside down.
I started questioning almost every aspect of everything I did. It didn’t take long before I found a great way to test my new hypothesis.
One morning, a couple weeks later after I had left Lotan, I awoke in the house of one of my cousins and I realized I was extra aroused as I rose from my slumber. My cheeky Israeli uncle likes to say this is when “you’re friend wakes up before you do”. If you’re not catching on, I am implying that I had morning wood. An erection.
My cousins were yelling at me from the other room. I had slept in late and I had to eat breakfast and leave soon if I were to catch my bus to my next destination; Akko – a northern Israeli city with a port on the Mediterranean.
As much as I am all for being on schedule and not missing busses, I wasn’t about to run out of my room in the condition I was in. I don’t know Israeli culture too well but I decided to play it safe and assume walking around with a hard-on wouldn’t be considered polite. Besides, they had a lot of fine glass all over the place. One wrong turn without looking and *crasshhhh*. Broken glass everywhere. I’d cause more damage than Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball.
So I decided to put my new found discovery to use. I asked myself what it was that I wanted from the moment. What would satisfy my desire? What FEELINGS did I need to calm myself? How would I feel if I had everything I craved?
Immediately a lot of feelings came to me. I could feel closeness. I could feel intimacy. I could feel warmth generated as though from another invisible body. I could feel what it was like to be a man, to exert power and control. I could feel what it felt like to be needed. It felt good. Really good. But still there was something missing. It didn’t take long for me to understand what that was. It was the feeling of femininity. If men and women were two halves to a whole, it only made sense that sex was a way to feel the other person’s essence, their gender aura. With all of these feelings together, I could feel my body come alive. I felt whole. A peace came over me. My mind had calmed itself.
You know that scene in Spider-Man when he wakes up in his room and he looks in the mirror and realizes that he is muscular and has all of these super-powers. Well, that’s how I felt. I was ECSTATIC!! I had found an incredible power within myself that I had never understood or known about. I had found my spidey-sense. WA-HOO! I was really curious to find out more about what we are able to do with our minds.
I ate my breakfast and continued to have some of the most eye opening experiences of my life during the short remainder of my trip throughout Israel. I am forever grateful for all of my experiences and the people that were a part of it. Especially thankful for meeting her.
But I guess what I really want to accomplish with this post is to get a discussion going. How much of our lives are dictated by a desire of a feeling? Isn’t almost everything we do an attempt at feeling a certain way? Are we chasing a feeling that can never be fulfilled by anyone but ourselves?
If that is true then what does this mean for the pursuit of happiness? Love? Money? Fame? Success? Can this explain why we judge and talk negatively about others? Is it because we want to feel “better than”?
How much anxiety can we release from our lives if we could make ourselves feel whatever we wanted whenever we wanted?
I would love to hear any comments or personal experiences you have with this idea that we can give ourselves the feelings that we desire without a change in external situations and circumstances.
Please post your comments below. If I do not answer immediately, it is because I will be going on a retreat where I will not have access to technology for some time. Looking forward to your responses though!