I went to see Padmah Lakshmi read from her new memoir a couple of months ago. One of the things she talked about was how her experience toggling between two cultures- American and Indian- helped form who she is today. A big part of her life, and of her memoir, is presented through the lens of food, but it is not just her palate that is challenged from being in these two different cultures, it her mental, emotional, spiritual bodies.
I grew up with a pretty homogeneous cultural experience. My dad was Jewish. My mom was not.
Eventually, both of my stepparents ended up being Jewish as well, with my Dad's household being much more Jewish identified. Overall, I was basically "Jewish-light". I never thought of my two households being that culturally different, but they were. At Dad's we got to have hot dogs and use a microwave. We could drink soda, eat fast food, go bowling and to movies, play board games. At Mom's we didn't get fast food or soda and we rarely did activities like bowling or Monopoly. We did a lot of crafts and chores and ate stir fry and homemade pasta. I never thought of the back and forth as a cultural shift, but in retrospect, it was.
Now that I am an adult who has been managing my own household for over 25 years, I can see how significantly both life experiences played into making me who I am. And of course, there is the me I was born with somewhere in the mix as well. My sisters and I, all raised in this two household childhood, share some quirky habits. For example, my mom's house didn't have a television until she married my stepdad when we were tweens. My dad's house had multiple TVs. Television is not a big part of any of our lives, until it is. I, for example, don't own a television, but if I have a spare hour (or four), I can veg out on my laptop watching Shameless like a true TV pro. Similarly, my sisters and I are all really healthy- we eat healthily as a rule and we exercise regularly, but given the chance, we'll throw down Diet Pepsi and Red Vines over a marathon Monopoly game without a second thought.
Sometimes I feel like I still live in two cultures --- in the yoga room and out. I like to think that I can transcend the demands of my daily life with my finely honed yoga brain, but I think, if that does happen, it will be many years from now. For the time-being, I'll accept that I'm on the path, headed in the right direction. I try to practice yoga almost every day. When I am in the room, I am in the present moment, in my body, experiencing my breath. Just thinking of it now as I type these words gives me a full and grateful heart. When I leave the room, I am still me. I still possess that good stuff that I experienced in the yoga room, but the other parts of me bubble up as well. I have to return the emails. I have to order the supplies for the studio. I have to pick up Lucia from school. I have to do the laundry. I see myself going from the blissed out woman who just did yoga to the frustrated mom of a wonderfully smart and stubborn eleven-year-old.
So here's what I know. It's all me. And it's all okay. The truth is, I'm not sure I'd leave the yoga room with a blissed out body and mind if I didn't live a rich and vibrant and busy life on the other side. And, I could definitely not manage a business, a household, a relationship, and a child if I didn't have the yoga room to nourish me with quiet, calm strength and energy. I'm always grateful for enlightenment, in whatever form it comes. Thanks Padmah for sharing your story and making me think more deeply about mine.