Since arriving in Bali, and writing about my experiences, my blog stats have shown way more readers than usual. Like, way more! Apparently people enjoy reading about exploring a tropical paradise much more than they enjoy reading about intense personal development, facing (and exposing) parts of the self that most of us don’t want to face (much less expose), and doing the hard work to transcend. Hmm, go figure.
Lucky for you I am able to weave them together! Ha!
So, now that I have a bigger audience, I want to talk about something really important. Hair and make-up.
Okay, as a “Curly-Girl”, my hair is not happy in this humidity. I knew what I was getting myself into, so I came packed with an arsenal of my anti-frizz products, but it’s futile. It’s not just the unbearable frizz that makes me look like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket, it’s the unruly fluff that comes with it. I will probably end up embracing the chaos, but I haven’t given up just yet.
But what I’m happy about is that I have barely worn any make-up since I’ve been here. That’s really rare for me. I usually like wearing make-up. I like decorating myself in that way. And when I don’t wear make-up, it is a very conscious act and I am very aware of it. I feel naked leaving the house without at least a little mascara. But the moment I arrived to Bali, make-up was barely even an afterthought. Part of that has to do with the humidity and how gross it would feel to have a bunch of make-up on, but part of it is that I just don’t care. And that is very new for me. The first few times I went out, it barely occurred to me, and when it did, my thought was basically: Nah.
This is meaningful to me because. Although sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, or lipstick is just lipstick, to me this is a sign that I am feeling comfortable in my skin in new ways. Even though I genuinely like to wear make-up, if I’m being truthful (which is my duty) I do usually feel insecure without it. So to just naturally not give a shit, without conscious effort, feels really good. (I have been starting to wear a little makeup here and there, when I feel like it. Key words: “when I feel like it”. For fun, not because I feel naked or insecure without it).
You know what else feels really good? My flowy Balinese dresses! Another very important subject. Okay, so, I got some more dresses. And some pants. And a shirt. And I’m getting even more used to the bargaining (still a little wobbly though). Again, if I’m being truthful- even though I didn’t think I’d ever get used to the bargaining, when I bargained the really good deal, it did feel pretty good. And now that I am getting more suitable clothing, I also no longer feel like I stick out as much. Not that I was terribly out of place, but I didn’t feel as much in the flow of things here (no pun intended). Everyone here wears flowy clothes. Men and women. You have to. Or you’ll be miserable.
Now that I have bargained a really good deal, first of all, I will totally go back to that guy, and second- I realize the first dresses I got were not such a great deal. And only one of them I loved. I think I was just so overzealous about getting some flowy Balinese dresses that I overshot it a bit. One of the dresses I realized doesn’t even fit me right. So, SPOILER ALERT: someone’s getting a flowy Balinese dress for Christmas!
Another thing I realized when I was shopping, was, once again- the decisions!
I touched on this in my last post, but seriously- I never realized how many decisions we make in a day! So many of our decisions are habit based and automatic, but from the moment I wake up, it’s decision after decision. What do I want for breakfast? What do I want to do after breakfast? Which direction do I want to walk in? Which street do I want to take? Which spa do I want to go to? What spa treatment do I want? Which shop to buy flowy Balinese dresses in? Which flowy Balinese dresses do I want! There are so many! Then, same thing all over again for lunch, then dinner, and everything in between.
I am a little on decision over load here! Now I know what the president must feel like! Yes, spending a few days in a tropical paradise is just like being President, Commander in Chief, and basically the most powerful person in the world.
Anyway, along with decision overload, my anxieties started to rise about not having really met anyone yet. What if I don’t meet anyone the entire time I’m here? Those dirty little “what-ifs”, they belong in the same place as the “shoulds”. But I humored myself- okay, so, WHAT IF I don’t?
Well, ever since my week-long meditation retreat, a couple years ago, I’ve wanted to do a month-long. So if I just end up being alone with my thoughts for six weeks, that would certainly be a trip- in all senses of the term. But let’s be realistic here. I’ve only been here a week, and for the most part I’ve either been completely disoriented, or sick. The more time I spend here, the more I settle into the rhythm of the island, the town- and most importantly myself.
As soon as I embraced that truth, wouldn’t you know it, today I made my first friend here! For as much as I am ok surfing the thought waves (if I were to I find myself alone with them for six weeks) I have really been craving some intellectual conversation. Then, today, on my way home, I stopped for lunch at this really good Balinese restaurant I tried the other day (brace yourself for a food focused blog post one of these days). I ended up meeting another solo traveler there. A Frenchman. We got involved in a very long, intellectual conversation. He is (was?) a psychotherapist, so we were definitely on the same wavelength. Like the Dutchman, he’s been here before and really knows his way around. There’s a little lapse in communication and translation with the Dutchman, but no issues with the Frenchman. We made it official and added each other on Facebook. And just like that, another travel milestone.
This head-cold is still lingering, so I’m still taking it easy. I’ve finally been taking advantage of my pool. And I also finally meditated last night, which felt good.
I feel like I’m really starting to hear myself again. During my meditation, the words “IT’S TIME TO UNDO… all that’s been done” kept coming to me.
Okay, here’s where I’ll actually get serious, like, for real. The night before I got sick (so, maybe day 4?), when I started to feel the stress in my body, and when I noticed how badly I was clenching my jaw, I started wondering –WHAT am I holding onto? And that question has been pervading me. Because the more I settle, and the more layers of the onion I peel in my solitary experience, the more I see how tightly I am holding on. Every layer that comes undone, there is more holding.
I’m sure it has to do with another observation that has pervaded me- worrying what people think. Seriously? I thought I worked through this shit! Apparently not. All this time alone with my thoughts made me see just how concerned I was with what the locals (native and expat) might think of me, in so many different scenarios. And so worried about being judged. It was much worse when I first arrived. I think it’s getting better now. Or maybe it’s just getting buried?
With that question pervading me, and those words coming to me in meditation last night, my intuition is gnawing at me from within. I can feel that there are some seriously deep, thick, and hardened layers of self that need to be pierced, peeled, and extricated. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I can feel those layers being pierced. And I sense the undoing beginning.
I feel as if all of the hard work I’ve put in over the last seven years is about to surmount a momentous crest.
Maybe that’s where the letting go comes in. I’m sure it is. Maybe, now, it’s about not working hard.
In the movie Dirty Dancing- Havana Nights (which was actually much better than I expected. You just have to disassociate it from the original) Patrick Swayze of course made a cameo, as a dance teacher. The main character, Katie, was struggling with her ability to assimilate the free flowing Cuban moves with her very regimented ballroom training. Patrick Swayze gives her this whole lecture about moving through fear (of letting go), and how to move with the music. Then he holds his arms out in a ballroom stance, as an invitation for her to join him, looks her in the eye, and says “now forget everything I told you and just dance.”
So, as much as I love “doing the work”, and building my life around that work, maybe Bali is calling me to just dance.