Don’t get me wrong, I love the sunshine, the cool nights, the hipsters glasses, and all the sneaker color combinations you can conjure. BUT, Los Angeles and I have a past.
I came here one month after I graduated from college. I was on a dating show, flew back to Houston and then a month later drove with a Chevy truckload of stuff to Orange County. I stayed with family friends in Balboa and worked part time as an outdoor educator and in surf retail. I rode my bike to the ferry each day, hopped the ferry from the peninsula to Balboa Island, ate flautas and chocolate covered bananas, taught kids about estuaries, painted the surf shop’s floor and life was grand. I migrated north to LA for a few months to live with my boyfriend. I temped for an infomercial company in Beverly Hills and was robbed at gunpoint in Los Feliz. He stole my car keys, hairdryer, a change of clothes and the last bible I ever owned (my parents gave it to me when I was 12). He left me with my truck and a rush of adrenaline followed by several months of episodic rage at the world. The people I met and experiences I had there shaped a large part of who I am today. So, for better or for worse, I am indebted to LA. Just as I am indebted to anyone who teaches me anything of value—anything that helps me grow and shift.
I came here because of my brother who has lived and worked as a personal trainer in LA for the last decade. He married my new sister-in-law, Sonia yesterday. The last 5 days have been interesting as I have traveled here with my parents and shared a suite with them. Due to the fact that I am 35 years old and used to traveling and living alone…this arrangement has been challenging. When I am stressed, I am less like a prairie dog seeking comfort in community and more like a bull elephant charging into the nearest forest for a little solitude. And this is where I now find myself…alone for a few hours in the hotel lobby.
This week has brought up a lot of stuff for me, as I am very torn about the institution of marriage. But, for some reason, I have been moved to post the 5-minute speech I gave last night at the reception. So, here it goes:
“My name is Sunnye and I am Todd’s favorite sister. I have had the incredible opportunity to travel around Southern Africa for the first part of this year. And all along the way, I was thinking of a gift for Todd and Sonia. I decided on baskets. There are 4 other people involved in the giving of these baskets, so when I call your name, please give the basket to them. All of these baskets represent the idea of nurturing space, resilience, and cycles.
Bram (man of honor): This is a Zulu basket form South Africa. I hope that this basket will remind you of the tightly woven bond between you, but also of the space between. The elegance and grace of this vessel should remind you that each of you alone, but more so together, can withstand heavy loads and are designed to last if cared for properly. Obviously the basket itself is beautiful and unique, but so is the space inside of it and in between the fibers that allows it to be what it is. So should you be with each other—allow space for each other…to vent or to be silent…to be sane or crazy…to celebrate or grieve…to just be…so that ultimately that space will strengthen your tie to one another.
Marco & Emily (Friends): The Himba basket is a symbol of resilience. And resilience is defined as the ability to come back to your original form—to recover. The Himba people are an ethnic group in Namibia made up of roughly 40,000 people. They have endured guerrilla warfare, attempted genocide and in the 1980’s it was thought that the Himba would be wiped out all together after a massive drought killed 90% of their cattle. But they recovered, continuing their traditional lifestyle and even becoming activists to protect their ancestral lands from environmental threat. So, I hope that you put your car keys in this basket so that every day you have a subliminal reminder to be resilient, when you walk out the door into the world and when you come back home—to help each other come back to your original form and recover from whatever you face in this lifetime.
Sonia’s Dad: This last basket is my favorite and it is a symbol of cycles. I am of the mindset that relationships are cyclical and not linear. If we see them as linear—with a beginning and an end, then we are subject to slow and gradual decline in energy with everyone we know and love. Taking the attitude that things just eventually fall apart. But if we view each relationship as a series of cycles, we can be renewed like a backyard garden in Montreal. So, when you grow weary of yourself or of each other (because it will happen), re-purpose or compost your relationship into something new and nourishing. The women’s co-op in Namibia that created this basket literally took control of the pollution and garbage around them by wrapping colorful plastic bags around their more traditional reeds that they use for basket making. So just as these women used their creativity, resourcefulness and hope to create wealth in their lives, do they same with each other. My new proverb for you is, “when life gives you garbage, make baskets.” Take control of what troubles you and make it work to your benefit.
In closing…Todd. Sonia. You both inspire me and I am proud to have both of you as my family. And although it is said that you are a product of your environment I think that more so (and as you can see around you), your environment is a product of you. You both have such incredible power to positively effect and inspire those around you and I think I can speak for everyone by saying that we are thankful to be a part of that environment.”
I am not quite sure where this came from--apparently some very deep part of my heart & soul where I store wisdom and advice that even I can't access until the moment calls for it. Guarded by both my angels and demons, this inner space is complex system that (from what I can gather) funnels data from all experiences in my life in order to create wisdom. I have not really been able to wrap my head around how someone like me could ever give relationship advice, but I did. And I gave it in my own words. And what I said wasn't a blubbering disaster. And because of this, I have hope. Hope for any of us who feel a bit beyond repair, lonely, despondent, listless...whatever it may be; we can embrace this, learn from all of it and make it work to enrich us (and dare I say) others around us. Cheers.