As I walk to work in Istanbul I pass by beggars: children just a few years older than my daughter, mothers with their bundled babies and old women selling packets of tissues for a Lira. I am not a rich person and at this point in time barely financially sound but sometimes I will give them some change. These moments, which since I have been in Turkey I can count on one hand, always have such a strong impact on me that I think about it for days and days, like I am recovering from something.
I want to emphasize here that my reaction is not much to do with my action... that is to say that I am not incredibly impressed with what I did or think it some grand step for humankind. Rather, my reaction is more of a realization of how closed off I was up until that moment of giving, just so that I don't feel too much. My reaction is really my reacquaintance with the truth of my emotional, compassionate, tender and sensitive nature, all of which are aspects that I hide and harden at times in order to cope with problems, enjoy the world and maintain healthy and growing relationships.
As far back as I can remember I have been an emotional type: easily humored, easily inspired, easily depressed and easily teary-eyed. Not only did my acquaintances with the world through travel deeply imbed the visions of poverty and desperation, but the little things of day-to-day life would bring me to moral decisions. My willing imagination gave feelings to inanimate objects and I would create groups and families of types, colors, petal and leaf shapes. I wanted everything to feel fair... even if it couldn't really feel. I wanted everything to feel like it wasn't alone, and thus I began to cope through creating communities. Communities of stuffed animals, communities of beads, communities of m&m's and communities of seeds. I felt that is something was alone it was afraid and would prefer to be paired up with one of it's kind, whether that be on a shelf, in the ground or in my belly!
The thought has often crossed my mind, "is this like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?" but I don't think it's quite the right fit. Instead it is something like "Emotionally Ever-Expansive" or "Compassion Unraveled"... "Compassion Unrivaled"? I know I am not alone here. The scene in American Beauty when the two teenagers are watching one of the boys home videos and he says:
"It was one of those days when it's a minute away from snowing and there's this electricity in the air, you can almost hear it. Right? And this bag was just dancing with me. Like a little kid begging me to play with it. For fifteen minutes. That's the day I realized that there was this entire life behind things, and this incredibly benevolent force that wanted me to know there was no reason to be afraid, ever. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can't take it, and my heart is just going to cave in."
That final line is perfect to me. That is how I feel! I have taken to a new habit, since I am seeing so many new things here in Istanbul, of taking a quick second to close my eyes like the shutter of a camera when I see something that makes me feel this way; something I wish I could capture and share. The woman peeking under her Turkish coffee cup to see her fortune, the beautiful Syrian refugee mother walking through the Metro station with her family, the young men walking with arms around each other, the woman's sideways glance from behind her burqa at the revealing lace and sequined gowns in a store window... I take an extended blink as if my lashes press the image deeper into my memory to recall upon for inspiration.