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Fearless or Fearful

It is the beginning of a new year, 2019. Today is January 2, 2019, Wednesday. What a difference a year makes. Last year on this day, I was in Miami, resting and recovering from a very difficult 2017, with the illness and death of my older sister. Three friends in Miami were so kind and generous to let me stay in their homes to rest and recuperate and to try to find myself again.

I was aching emotionally and spiritually and physically, I had pain in my joints and muscles and found it difficult to sleep. The physical pain overshadowed everything because it was difficult to move and I realized how much we take for granted on a daily basis.

After seeing two doctors and taking blood tests, I was told on February 7, 2018, that I had lupus. I truly believe that the stress of 2017 and the continuing stress of matters concerning my sister was the cause of the lupus. I was given medications that took three weeks to take affect to alleviate the pain. How grateful I was when I was finally able to sleep through the night without pain. It seemed extraordinary to experience the simple joy of a peaceful sleep as well as no aches and pains in my joints and muscles every day.

After consulting with my primary care physician, my two cardiologists and my rheumatologist and given unanimous approvals, I decided to celebrate my 64th birthday and the 6th anniversary of my emergency open heart surgery from a massive aortic dissection by going to India!

In 1994, I had celebrated my 40th birthday in India by scheduling to see the sunrise and the full moon at the Taj Mahal in Agra and the sunrise on the Ganges in Varanasi on my birthday. It was a beautiful and memorable adventure and I had always meant to return. Little did I know, with life's events that it would take 24 years for me to fulfill that dream. In 1994, I had traveled alone without a schedule or any booking because it was a grand adventure. In 2018, I was older and I admitted that I needed help.

I walked into a STA travel office and with the help of an amazingly helpful and personable agent, I was able to schedule a two week tour that fit my time frame. On the evening of my arrival to Delhi, we had a meeting at 6pm to meet the other members of the tour group. Romi was the CEO or the Chief Expedition Officer of the group and proved to be knowledgeable, kind, caring and extraordinary. We went around the room and when it was my turn, I introduced myself as an artist and a teacher. I mentioned my heart attack, stroke and paralysis while teaching in Kingston, Jamaica in 2012, the airlift to Miami for the emergency open heart surgery on my 58th birthday a few days later and my full recovery. I mentioned my extremely difficult year in 2017 and my recent diagnosis of lupus but assured everyone that I was there with my doctors' approvals. I said that I could live life fearfully or fearlessly and I choose to live fearlessly and to celebrate my 64th birthday in India!

We soon discovered that there were three other women in the group celebrating their birthdays also. Annmarie from Cork, Ireland, Suzie from Sydney, Australia, Sonia from Chicago, Illinois and me, from New York, New York, all of us, adventurous Aries!!! We all had much to celebrate!!!

After I declared my choice to live life fearlessly, Annmarie, who was sitting to my left, suddenly said, "That's it, that's the name of our group, Fearless in India!" And that was our name for WhatsApp, Fearless in India.

Needless to say, we had a wonderful two weeks of adventures and unforgettable memories such as a sunrise hot air balloon ride on the full moon which was Sonia's birthday on March 31. Annmarie's and Suzie's birthdays were, also, celebrated with a surprise banana split and surprise birthday cake on their special days. I celebrated my birthday in the railway station with a surprise chocolate cake while we were waiting for the overnight train to Varanasi. On the morning of April 8, we went to see the sunrise on the Ganges, I was able to say a prayer for my sister and left a memento in the sacred river.

I returned home to NY, after traveling 28 hours, door to door, exhausted but exhilarated. The remaining two weeks in April were consumed by cleaning and emptying my sister apartment where she had lived for 38 years. When it proved to be too difficult and overwhelming, I fell back on the memories of India, remembering the excitement and joy of the adventures that we had. I found myself looking at the photos I had taken, many times, as well as the photos taken by others on WhatsApp. A picture is absolutely worth a thousand words and the memories priceless. These memories truly sustained me as I moved forward with my niece through the trials and tribulations that were before us. This continued for another four months but we survived.

I have always said that life is not fair or easy but it can be as fantastic and amazing as we make it. When we are ready, willing, able and open, the Universe will give us the answers and I know that for a fact. As long as I continue to breathe, I will continue to live life fearlessly!!!

Fearless or Fearful