I’m Alive

 

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….but the past doesn’t work like that.

Our previous selves, the ghosts of who we’ve been, remain inside and form vital portions of who we are now. I’ve withstood a challenging year because of my past. As much as I’d love to close one door, barricade it with rocks and set monsters as guards, I know I have to let it all come with me.

I’m busy conquering a new fire swamp. It began with the car break in and robbery, but that has become a footnote. I’m working and exploring and getting a feel for this new home.

I’m finding my rhythm.

My expectations and well laid plans fall away as I stride forward into the unknown.

It may be hard for me on many levels, but damn I do feel alive.

 

(Poem by the exquisite Mary Oliver)

 

 

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A Portable Garden

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“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve had a few very spontaneous and almost inexplicable crying outbursts since moving to Laos. I’m not one who cries easily, so it takes me by surprise. Rob is bewildered and concerned. The last time it happened was because he couldn’t tell me what time he was going to bed. Yes, you read that right. The scenario is clearly much more complicated, but after I recovered and looked at the situation it became a bit more clear.

I have very little control over many factors in my life at this point. I live in a strange new country where I don’t speak the language and I spend a lot of time alone.  When I asked Rob what time he thought he was going to bed, it was really my way of asking how many more minutes I had with him before he had to leave again. He didn’t know this is what I needed. I didn’t even know that’s what I needed in the moment.

Everything can fall apart quickly when the world around is completely foreign and nothing resembles the life you’re used to. The important thing for me has been to spend time figuring out why it fell apart and how to not just put the pieces back together, but also to remember that it’s not the end of the world.

Fall seven times, get up eight.

For me this means I can cry seven times if I dry my tears and press on that eight time.

My tears dried, I always find new reasons to smile and laugh. Yesterday I saw a row of nude store manikins on the street, each priced according to their apparent worth. I couldn’t help but crack up. Passing me on that same street was a woman pushing a large cart overflowing with flowering plants. Amid the traffic, a portable garden.

May we all hold a portable garden in our hearts to soothe us when we feel the sting of defeat. And remember, a single defeat does not have to be a final defeat.

 

Month One

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Tomorrow marks the end of my first month in Laos. The past thirty days have raced by faster than the motorbikes on Lane Xang road. Tomorrow I’ll make my first “visa run” over the Friendship Bridge to Thailand. I’m an expat. I do visa runs. It still doesn’t feel real.

I’ve had good and bad days. As expected, I’ve had to adjust to a brand new way of living.  I’ve had to learn to turn off the part of my brain that’s geared toward NOT using plastic bottles of water. I cringe as the pile of bottles grows quickly over the days and is sent out with the garbage. Instead, I’m becoming only thankful to be able to buy and drink water that won’t make me sick.

I’m learning that just because I saw it at the store yesterday, doesn’t mean it will be there when they run out of it. Next time I’m buying every single one (I’m talking to you Hummus). It’s also a lesson in the simplicity of fewer options. Having only one or maybe two of something to choose from really takes the frustration out of it.  The errand of buying mustard, for example, was simply finding regular mustard and purchasing it. The finding becomes the hard part, not the choosing.  As a Libra and a middle child, I appreciate fewer decisions in my day.

Hot water isn’t to be taken for granted. We don’t have hot water in the kitchen and it often quits in the bathroom. I’m lucky to be able to get it fixed rather quickly and I’m thankful to have it every single time it’s working!  With the heat, humidity and dirty streets I’m happy to have that shower twice a day sometimes.

Using less of products is becoming even more of a habit for me in Vientiane. I brought my toiletries and other supplies with me as I wasn’t sure what would be available once here. Now that I see my future options, I’ve taken to using minuscule amounts of shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and lotion. I use only what I really need or less. Using less is such an important lesson, I’m more than happy to practice.

These are only a few of the lessons I’ve learned this month as a foreigner freshly landed in Southeast Asia.  I’m certainly about to learn even more in the weeks and months to come.

March holds new adventures already. I’ll be starting language classes and Rob has his first block off time when we’ll be traveling over to Thailand!  (‘block off’ is pilot talk for time off)(pilots like to use fancy words for everything).

Thanks to everyone checking in and cheering me on. I feel so supported and there are days where your presence in my adventure makes it all easier.

 

 

 

 

 

Akin to Panic

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I don’t want to call it “Panic” per se.  Maybe more than basic fear but less than terror.

Basic fear? Is that a thing?

I woke up this morning and made my coffee (french presser for life), went to the gym and walked home in the cold.  As I washed the sweat from my face I suddenly felt the intense urge to cry my eyes out.  Of course, I did what anyone would do. I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror and said “Pull yourself together lady!”. Then I was upset that I called myself lady because it made me feel old like when the clerk at the store calls me Ma’am.

So, back to the panic.

I started doing more of the cleaning and little packing things one does when moving to a third world country. All the while I couldn’t actually breathe.

It began to snow slushies outside. I went to the store for supplies and also to be around humans so I was forced to act normal. No crying in public. It’s a rule for me.

Back at the apartment I was still counting the hours left before driving away from Missoula followed by counting the days left on American soil. Not many days left. Before I was scared shitless, I was overflowing with excitement about fulfilling my dreams. Now my dreams started looking like nightmares because what if? WHAT IF???

What if?  Surely you have felt the dreaded What If Disease before. It’s brutal.

I know that what I seek is on the other side of fear. I know it. I know that if I’m not afraid I’m not really living. It’s the part where I have to feel the fears turned up to eleven that kills.

I’m doing it. Friends, I am doing it. I’m feeling the fear and I’m not turning back.

Today I win.

Anonymous Horse

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I’m striving for balance. The fine line between holding on and letting go is difficult to walk. Most days find me leaping from one side to the other never to land in the middle.

The word that defines my ultimate goal is “Equanimity”.

Equanimity (Latinæquanimitas having an even mind; aequus even animus mind/soul) is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.

My bizarre brain decided this word sounds like it should mean “anonymous horse”. Equine Anonymity.  I also decided that this might be the real meaning of the song “A Horse With No Name” by the band America. Maybe wandering the desert is a metaphor for stillness and balanced emotions.

I’m about to live in a mostly Buddhist country. Perhaps I’ll soak up some of the calm and mindfulness wafting off of the monks and emanating from the Temple walls. It certainly can’t hurt.

Or maybe I’ll be searching for that anonymous horse even in Laos.

………………………………………..

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

After two days in the desert sun
My skin began to turn red
After three days in the desert fun
I was looking at a river bed
And the story it told of a river that flowed
Made me sad to think it was dead

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

After nine days I let the horse run free
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
there was sand and hills and rings
The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

~A Horse With No Name

Such a Pansy

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It’s been two weeks since Rob left for Laos. I knew this time apart would be taxing, but today it feels endless. I’m a hermit by nature. Rob calls me his “lone wolf” and I have to say I find that a very fitting description.

I prefer solitude. My alone time is when I recharge and refill the emotional tanks. I like a quiet life of simple things.

Even a hermit gets lonely. Two weeks totally on my own has me feeling admittedly sad today. As I looked for some inspiration to forge ahead, I remembered the little Pansy that grew outside our front door last Fall. This little guy held his head up even when the leaves fell. Snow came and even when that first white blanket melted he rose up strong. I was blown away every day to see my little Pansy friend holding out against the bitter weather.

I used to think Pansies were fragile little things, like the butterflies of the flower world. Now I know that to be called a Pansy is a sign of courage and strength.

Today I am going to be such a Pansy.

(Photo is the actual little Pansy I admired so much)(I miss him)