Date: Tuesday, 31 March 2015, Location: Glenview, IL USA (a north suburb of Chicago)
My name is Veena Vasista. I’m a Yank who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, went to university in upstate New York and left the States at age 23 to live in Europe – first Germany and then England, which – more or less – has been where I have lived for the last twenty years. My parents migrated to the US from India in the 60s.
In autumn 2010, I consciously started a journey of walking out and walking on.
Until that point, I had spent around fifteen years in the social policy arena. I worked with campaigning organizations, think tanks, business leaders, the British Government and the United Nations. That autumn, I became particularly dis-spirited after doing a report for a think tank on discrimination in the private sector. I felt like I was just another player-pawn in a game that I didn’t particularly like. The rules often didn’t make sense to me and I often felt out of place. I felt caught up in behavior drivers that included scarcity, fear of failure and zero-sum politics (for me to win, someone else has to lose). By autumn 2010, I felt like I was suffocating or drowning.
I walked out of the game.
At the same time, I consciously set an intention to walk out of another game I was in: a battle being played out in mind, body and spirit. I was living a life overly fueled by shame, rage, fear and deep sadness. I desperately wanted out of that game. Walking out wasn’t all that straight forward – the journey began with the intention and then zig-zagged all over the place.
Where am I now, four and half years later? What have I walked on to?
I’ll be forty five in a few months. I am writing this from my parents’ house – the house where I grew up – in the north suburbs of Chicago. I am here to help out my parents. On November 10, 2014, my 83 year old dad had a massive heart attack and underwent triple bypass open-heart surgery. For the last four years, my mother has been suffering from a condition that’s relentless – one of those illness that is thus far incurable and takes its toll. She experiences non-stop pounding and various noises in her head that shift and change in the course of any given day, from being tolerable to being unbearable. The cause, said the Mayo clinic, is a nerve dying and wreaking havoc in her brain. Yes, this as frustrating and maddening as it sounds.
So, I’m here with them trying to be useful and supportive. I have a sister who lives with her husband about 10 minutes drive away and a brother who lives with his wife in Maryland – a few hours by plane. I still don’t have clarity on what exactly will unfold in terms of my long-term role in caring for our parents. My siblings and I are grappling with this question of what I call elder care.
Right now, I’m experiencing this as as a balancing act – being loving and caring for my parents at the same time as tuning into what thriving means to me right now in terms of where I live and how I live. Sometimes, truth be told, the two commitments seem to be at odds with one another and I feel quite wobbly.
Meanwhile, after walking out of the social policy arena, I followed my intuition and started exploring the arts and their role in cultivating equality, justice and well-being. I now identify myself as a Wake-Up Artist. I’m putting my self out in the world as a writer, facilitator, mediator and theatrical clown – working with organizations, groups and individuals. In all that I do, I aspire to promote [r]evolution – the daily practice of consciously rooting our creativity and power in love and justice.
Ask me my life’s purpose and I’ll tell you I am here to manifest (display the qualities of) love, beauty and play and to be a storyteller for the human spirit. I am currently writing a book about performing arts and [r]evolution, going in depth into the work of Wise Fool New Mexico and the Peñasco Theatre Collective.
This game is playful, risky, exciting, collaborative, inquisitive and soulful. I feel enlivened by it.
Since spring 2012, I have been living nomadically: Mexico, London, Santa Fe, Chicago. This is by no means an easy way to live – for starters, I’m finding it tough to be back in the USA. I’m befuddled and challenged by all sorts, including the culture of busyness, the so-called healthcare system, the notion (and bureaucracy) of being resident in a particular state, as well as country.
And this nomadic life is not sustainable for the long term. Truthfully, it isn’t how I want to live.
Unrooted as I am now when it comes to naming my home place, I have clarity that I’m looking forward to putting down roots (believe it or not, I’ve spent my adult life in London never quite allowing my self to root firmly). The art, practice and discipline of love equipped me to walk off that battlefield that once was my internal world. I now feel well-equipped and ready to belong to, thrive in a vibrant, diverse, getting-our-hands-dirty-with-cultivating-love-and-justice community.
Where will it takes place and what will it look like in practice? I don’t know right now. My life at present is very much a meditation on living with uncertainty and change.
That’s my story – or at least how I am telling it at this particular point in time.
I’ve just reached your blog, Veena – could we have met up several years ago on a walk along the Medway estuary, Kent, England – and find what you say pushes me up a notch or three in my own thinking levels. I was searching for an explanation of social learning from photographs and my erratic trail led me here. I’ve printed off several of your recent blogs, hoping to digest them, and come back with relevant responses. In the mean time, I’m a follower.
Michael – I remember that walk and you and our exchange. How delightful to cross paths again. I look forward to your responses to recent blogs. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts and for letting me know that they are informing your thinking. That’s why I do it – to encourage all of us to look at social change from different perspectives. Best. Veena