Know Thyself, from Someone Who Didn't (Part 1)

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"Although I search myself, it's always someone else I see."
--Elton John, "Bernie Taupin"

I didn't know who I was or what I was doing on this planet. Yes, I was making money, living, working, having "fun," but I felt that I was missing something. Something didn't compute, connect, add up. I knew that life could be different, better, more loving. I could have more joy, more fun; not everything had to be work (work work, marriage work, friend work, family work), or perhaps work could be fun. I knew that there was something more out there, something amorphous that I couldn't put my hand on but that was real nonetheless, within my grasp yet somehow out of reach.

I don't mean to say that I was an unhappy person. I was a lawyer, an assistant district attorney for a while, and I was winning my cases, showboating at trials. Nevertheless, I had more knowledge of horrendous acts than anyone should. Was I helping to create "justice"? I loved the theatricality of the trials, but I didn't feel good about locking anyone up. I then produced commercials to get away from the criminal element -- well, not too far away. I was helping advertising agencies hawk products in a way that wasn't truthful and shove useless, harmful or plain stupid stuff that consumers didn't need. Somehow advertisers knew how to hit that subliminal spot, and bingo! Sold! And I helped them. Was that who I was, a money creator for whom the ends justified the means, and for whom the ends meant my bankbook?

I knew that I wasn't any of the above, but the concept of doing what one loves is so askew for most, so I thought, why should it be any different for me? Follow your passion. Find your bliss. My dad was a violinist, a writer. Proudly, happily, he told me how he and his partner Danny almost sold a play to George Abbott, but Danny passed, and my dad let the writing go. He had a family and a job with New York Transit. He pushed me to get into ballet, cried when I left to become a cheerleader, and loved to hear me sing, to express myself. I loved putting on shows, entertaining. I made up my own books and did reports for my teachers. If they knew, they didn't let on, but I'm sure they knew.

I knew what I didn't want in my life, but what I wanted eluded me. I was a lawyer, a producer, a daughter, sometimes a wife, a girlfriend, a friend, a skier, a tennis player, a traveler, a writer, a painter. There were numerous roles I played, multiple masks I wore. When I was in college and someone asked who I was, I would answer, "A child of God," a flip answer, I thought, because I really didn't know. Now I realize that the part of me that knows was doing the answering, and it was as far from flip as you can get. We are made up of many facets, sides, elements -- call it what you want -- different, divergent personalities, colors, sometimes in harmony, sometimes warring, sometimes coexisting, blending. But at the core, what is there? That's what I realized I needed to know.

I did a journey to the East. I went to find the holy city of Benares in India. I never got there. I did spend quite a bit of time in Afghanistan, where someone offered to buy me for I don't know how many rugs. I spoke with people, even though we didn't use verbal language. I saw myself in an old man in Turkey, in a charioteer statue in Delphi, in Tehran at a Baha'i gathering. I explored my roots in Italy with friends and family. I bounced around to Spain, Paris, Morocco, Mexico. I ended up with tuberculosis, watched my operations in out-of-body experiences, thought everyone did, studied at home and thankfully got cured. It's a massive learning experience about life, appreciation and gratitude when washing your hair becomes the activity of the day because you're too tired for anything else. I had a dog, a pet monkey, people around me who loved me, but who was I? I still didn't know.

I decided to make some money, and I did. Eventually I had all the toys, the jewels, the luxury trips, far cries from my previous travels in Volkswagon vans, buses and trains. In one of my more adventurous travels, I was visiting pyramids in Mexico for an anthropology class and climbed to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, where someone was selling ice cold Cokes. I marveled at how he got the freezer compartment up there. I woke up on a bus alongside chickens and other livestock, with an enormous, enchanted cactus forest outside my window. It was a surreal experience.

Socrates said: "An unexamined life is not worth living." I was examining and living but still no answers.