life lessons from traveling

Mama Bear

The thing with writing about my most personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences, is that people read them. And when those thoughts, feelings, and experiences involve other people- who read them- things can get interesting.

I woke up yesterday to a message from The Handsome Indian man I hung out with in Bali. He read what I wrote about him, our interactions, and my confusion around the context. And he wanted to clear up the confusion.

He explained that he did indeed have a girlfriend, and told me why he didn’t mention it (basically he didn’t want to be presumptuous about where I was coming from). He also apologized for any way in which he may have misled me, though he was intentionally trying to not mislead me by intentionally not do anything he would normally do when trying to drop hints or make a move, which is basically just showing affection.

When I first read it I thought, Aww that’s really sweet of him to communicate that. I truly appreciated it and still do. But the more I thought about it, the more I found myself stricken by something he said. The ways in which he drops hints and makes moves. Showing affection, holding hands, touching, etc., simple, right?

It made me realize how rare it’s been for me to have men do that as a means of dropping a hint. Those few actions, which he considered dropping a hint- as in, just the beginning of what he has to offer in a relationship- have been pretty much the extent of the effort most men dudes have made for me- as in, the end point of what they have offered me- even deep into relationships. It’s more often been me to be the one to do those things as a means of dropping hints.

I started to wonder, is this a cultural thing? Are American men just lazy, unromantic, and incapable of chivalry? Probably. Is it (and I say this as a proud and avid feminist): the ways in which I think feminism has damaged modern relationship building? Possibly. Or was it just my experience with men dudes, the ways in which my own issues have played themselves out time and time again, and the men dudes that I got myself involved with being a reflection of who and how I was at the time? Most definitely.

The thing with The Handsome Indian is that he was just a handsome Indian man I became friends with, and for a moment I thought something more might be happening, until I realized that it wasn’t, and now he’s just a handsome Indian man (with a girlfriend) who I’m friends with, again. That’s all it is. But you know me- nothing is ever “that’s all it is”.

I’m always going to look for the lesson and deeper meaning in every situation (because it’s always there).

It felt so good to have him clearly communicate to me (another thing a lot of American men seem to lack). It felt so good to be in a space of unobstructed Truth. But the more time I spent in that Truth, the more I could see and feel that it was exposing a wound that still needed to heal.

See, I wasn’t even trying this time, yet I still, even if just for a brief moment, found myself in a situation where I was allured by an unavailable man and ended up feeling a sense of rejection.

I have done so much work around this. I have gotten to know that pattern well- too well. I have become very conscious of my old, detrimental ways. And I have gained so much knowledge about how to shift those old ways. I have grown and evolved and become a much healthier person. But despite all of the growth and all of the knowledge– I still hadn’t truly learned.

And this time I could feel it, deeply. I am done. In the depths of my Truth I am so done doing this to myself.

That pattern has played itself to death.

I’m an intelligent, attractive, kind, caring, funny woman, to say the least. It’s not unreasonable for me to want to be treated with a basic sense of value… to say the least.

Yet, it still tends to be an anomaly for me. And it hasn’t just been with guys either. This has existed across all genders and contexts.

And one simple, parenthetical set of words, said by one handsome Indian friend, has really gotten me to take a deeper look at all of this.

When I look back at my tumultuous past, and think about the things I permitted people to say and do to me, I am fraught with indignation like never before.

After years of inner child work I finally… truly, feel like a mama bear protecting her cub, when it comes to taking care of the innocent little Julia inside me. I can finally say- and without a shadow of a doubt mean it- “Never again.

Whether it was family, friends, lovers, co-workers, or bosses, I always found ways to say, “It’s ok.

“It’s ok for me to be treated this way.

“It’s ok for me to be underappreciated, taken for granted, walked all over, used, and abused. It’ ok for me to be disrespected and disregarded. It’s ok for me to be underestimated and over-scrutinized. It’s ok to not be shown common courtesy and common decency. It’s ok.

I’ll do it.

“I’ll be the one to treat you how I want to be treated. I’ll be the one to initiate contact. I’ll be the one to make plans. I’ll be the one to make the first move. I’ll be the one to make romantic gestures. I’ll be the one to communicate… I’ll be the one to apologize.”

And I did it again, and again.

But I’m not going to say “It’s ok” anymore. Because it’s not ok.

It’s not ok to say and do the horrifically manipulative things that so many people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to do the heinously aggressive- and almost worse, passive-aggressive- things that people have said and done to me throughout my life. It’s not ok to antagonize and throw tantrums, then play the victim when there’s a reaction. It’s not ok to gaslight and guilt trip.

It’s not ok. None of it is ok.

I am finally, from the depths of my Truth, saying, “No more.”

I will no longer make excuses for people. I will no longer believe the lies. I will no longer take the bait. I will no longer hold out hope for others to become anything other than what they have shown me.

And that has never felt more true.

The Handsome Indian wasn’t doing any of these things- he’s a wonderful person. He just held the magnifying glass over an old wound, gently touched it, and proverbially said, “There, that’s where it still hurts.”

Had none of this happened the way it did, I would not have arrived at the profoundly important place where the mama bear within me can wholeheartedly lick the wounds of her little Julia cub, so those wounds can finally heal.

I guess I know what my current totem animal is.

mama-bear

I have no idea who owns the rights to this image, but it is perfect.

Everyday Adventures

I’m sitting here, on a slightly sunny, slightly cloudy Monday morning in Marin County, California. I’m slightly rested, and slightly tired. But I’ve made a commitment to myself to write every single day. Even if it’s terrible. Even if I don’t share it publicly.

I’ve attempted this before, but I’ve never committed to it. And I never had my energy in the right place in order to accomplish it before. I usually have plenty of things on my mind that I can write about, but this morning as I opened up my empty Word document, I had no idea what words would come out.

As I muse, I’m thinking about where my personal evolution has led me. A few years ago, when I first started this blog, I was on a determined mission. My life, and the work I wanted to do, was devoted to mindfulness and personal growth, and how to share and spread those lessons.

Part of the healing I’ve experienced in the work that I do has been letting go of perfectionism. As I’ve released the tight grip that perfectionism had around my neck, I feel like I’ve shifted direction quite a bit.

My work seems a bit less fixated, and a lot more authentic. Not that it wasn’t authentic before, it’s just that now it showcases a more full spectrum of who I am and where I’m at.

I have long considered my number one job to be: doing my work and telling my stories about it. That means it is also my job to tell my truth. The more work I’ve done, the more relaxed and vulnerable I have become in showing you who I am. Not just certain parts of me, but all of me.

Instead of just revealing the part of me that loves mindfulness and personal development and wants to help others heal and grow, I am now revealing the Julia who is passionate about women’s rights, LGBT rights, Black Lives Matter, and the atrocities that have been happening to the Native Americans at Standing Rock. The Julia who is silly and messy and real and raw. The Julia who loves hip hop and comedy and nature and art. The Julia who is still unfolding and evolving every day.

I can’t just be a one faceted person, nor do I want to be. As I get more honest with who I am, I also get more honest with you.

In my travels, both globally and internally, I have continued to learn, grow, and evolve, which has shifted my focus and re-framed my mission a little bit.

Although I think I will always consider my job to be doing my work and telling my stories about it, I think, as a Writer and Truth Seeker, the emphasis has become more on telling my stories.

When I saw the enthusiastic response I received from sharing my adventures in Bali, I saw how beautiful it was to be able to take you all with me wherever I go, and how much people seem to enjoy feeling like they are on the ride with me.

Since I’ve been back in The States, I continue to tell my stories about my experiences, but I try to think of it less as telling my stories about my personal issues that I have to overcome, and more sharing my everyday travels with you. Whether those travels are the journey self-discovery, exploring life without anxiety for the first time, my experiences walking around town or in the woods, or whatever new adventure I plan to embark on (I have a few in the works right now), there are always lessons to learn from the experience. And there is an opportunity to share those lessons by taking you on my journey with me, which draws upon one of my favorite aspects of life- human connection.

I feel much more connected to all of you this way. It’s like I’ve broken the fourth wall. In fact a lot of my walls have come down. And I’m just here, showing you Who I Am, in various circumstances.

Another way in which I feel this new approach brings you inside the experience with me, is because instead of just generally talking about how I may have worked through a certain issue, let’s say insecurity for example, I can actually give real life, real time, examples of which insecurities I am working through and the who, what, where, when, why of it all.

I can talk about my fears, as a general concept. Or I can talk about my fears of getting money exchanged in a foreign country or riding a motorbike for the first time. I’m still confronting fears, and I’m still showing you my process and my lessons, but I’m giving life to the lessons and letting you feel the wind in your hair as you ride the motorbike with me.

I’m also allowing myself to share something else I love with you- taking photographs. In our device driven, selfie-obsessed world, I have shied away from whipping out my phone to snap a picture of everything all the time. Plus, as a mindfulness practitioner, I feel like it often takes us out of the moment. But I have always loved taking photographs. So now, I am thoroughly (and mindfully) enjoying capturing the moments of my life, and instead of just stock piling my own collection of images, I think of it more as providing you with visuals to go along with the stories I tell.

I love my life, and I love getting to share my experiences with you!

Maybe my next story will be about the answers to life questions that came to me in meditation, or maybe it will be about that incredible time I had at a Mos Def show the other night. Both experiences brought me closer to my truth. And both are opportunities to bring you inside the experience with me.

Stay tuned!

 

 

 

A New Trip

Sticking with the theme of my life lately, the lessons (and gifts) I’ve received from my experience of going to (and returning from) Bali, I’ve been really tripping out at how different I feel on a daily basis. I am different. I’ve changed, as I’m sure anyone does when they take a giant leap outside of their comfort zone in pursuit of their heart’s desire. I don’t feel the same inside and I don’t operate in quite the same way.

When I left, I was in a default state of anxiety. I’d have moments of clarity and bliss and ease, but those moments were exceptions to my default state. And now, it’s the opposite. My default state is at ease and happy and clear- even when I’m tired and foggy.

I’ve lived with anxiety pretty much my whole life, even when I didn’t realize it. So, it’s quite interesting learning how to live without anxiety. My standard operating procedures have shifted tremendously, in a very subtle way. I notice it all the time- the ways in which I approach situations- what would normally be automatic fear-based reactions, I now approach with ease and openness. And it just happens naturally. There’s no conscious effort in trying to not have anxiety. I just see that it’s not there, where it used to be, all the time. It doesn’t hang over my shoulder, controlling me like it used to.

It still shows up sometimes, but it’s not my default anymore. And when it does show up, even when it takes up a lot of space, I am able to remain detached from it.

Having that distance from it has allowed me to gain new perspective. I see more clearly where my anxiety stems from. Well, I know where it stems from. It stems from a sense of not feeling safe. But I think, for me, that sense of not feeling safe is more of its destination than its starting point.

It felt like it began with an internal conflict. Having everyone else’s voices in my head telling me what I should and shouldn’t do, what I’m supposed to do and not do, which conflicted with what felt natural for me to do or not do. It’s almost like a “should” button got pressed inside of me. Whenever it got pressed, it activated my anxiety. I might have been feeling, thinking, moving one way, then the “should” button got pressed, and I started to fear the “what-ifs?” And one “what-if?” leads to another, and another, and before you know it I was paralyzed with fear. So, I stayed put. I held back. There was a halt to my natural state and I no longer flowed freely. I contracted. And I did not do anything.

It’s funny how not doing anything can use so much energy. But it does. It takes energy to hold myself back. It takes energy to halt momentum. It takes energy to restrict energy. And that was my default state.

I remember so many times sitting in my therapist’s office in tears, lamenting, “I don’t want to keep living like this!

But I didn’t know any other way to be. I didn’t know how to not live with anxiety. It was a survival mechanism that had been programmed into me through years of abusive relationships, through years of everyone around me telling me it’s not ok for me to be who and how I am.

But when I went to Bali, and was able to have so much physical distance from all of my triggers, I got to experience what it was like to just Be– without condemnation.

I had the opportunity to just do whatever the hell I wanted to do, or not do, to be however I wanted to be. And I didn’t have to worry about old ghosts tormenting me there.

When I first arrived to Bali, I could feel myself still holding on. I knew, in the depths of my being, that there was some serious letting go that needed to happen. But I thought that the letting go and the openness would feel more defined. It didn’t though. It wasn’t like there was a specific line that I crossed that felt like, “ok, I’ve let go now and now I’m open.”

It was more of a subtle shift, where I started to notice that I was operating differently. The same old mechanisms were no longer at work. But there wasn’t a specific moment. And thank God Truth!

I’ve done the Aha! moments. And I fucking love them! When you really experience a major Aha! moment, it’s like being in altered state. Yet, it’s better than any drug (that I’ve ever tried). But the thing is, you kind of are in an altered state. A flash of insight has altered your normal way of seeing things and disrupted your standard operating procedures. More often than not though, those altered states revert back to old ways. And those are the crucial moments, when you really need to get to work, integrating the insights into your daily life and behaviors. Because if the Aha! moments aren’t supported by doing the work to shift your behavior, then that’s all they were- moments, that passed.

I loved doing that work. That work is my life’s work, in every sense. But, as I talked about in my last blog post, I have been working way too hard for way too hard, and I was exhausted. So, when I went to Bali, and finally stopped working so hard, I was still able to experience a profound shift.

So, there was no specific Aha! moment this time. The shift was subtle, yet powerful. My standard operating procedures have been dismantled and now everything feels like it runs more smoothly, flows more freely.

I catch myself in these moments, and I say to myself, “did you see what just happened there? Normally you would’ve closed yourself off to that. You would’ve reacted from fear, and you would’ve shut down. But you didn’t this time!

I have those moments all the time now. I’m pleasantly perplexed by them. I’m not used to feeling this way. When I was so used to living with anxiety, even when I’d have good days, it usually triggered even more anxiety. I’d obsessively try to figure out what caused the goodness, so I could try to make it stay. I wanted so badly to be in a default state of goodness, with anxiety being the exception.

And now, I’m there, where I’ve always wanted to be. I really wasn’t sure if it would ever happen. But I am at ease, by default. I can truly understand on a deep level now that good days just happen. And then they don’t.

Not every day can be the best day of my life. Just because I am not having a really good day, doesn’t mean I am having a bad day. I can just have a day, and enjoy it, and be grateful for it, without obsessively trying to make it anything other than what it is.

I’ve known this for so long, but now I feel it and experience it much more profoundly than ever before. I inhabit it, instead of just thinking about it.

It’s a whole new trip. And just like my trip to Bali, I am so grateful I get to take all of you on this trip with me!

It took facing my fears, moving towards them, through them, and to the other side of them, to be able to put them behind me. It took traveling to the other side of the world to finally come home.

None Of My Busyness

In just a few more days it will be one month since I’ve been back in California. I have settled pretty seamlessly back into life here.

I was expecting more of a culture shock when I returned, but I actually felt the total opposite. I just kind of felt nothing. My first thought upon entering my driveway on the way home from the airport was, “so, like, that’s it? I’m just here now?”

Everything was exactly the same as I left it. I knew what I would be coming back to. Yet I was still surprised I didn’t feel a stark contrast in my environment.

But I did feel a stark contrast within myself.

One of the first things I noticed when I got to Bali was a deeper awareness for the senseless busyness that seemed to be everywhere in California. And it didn’t take me long at all to notice how exhausted I was with trying to keep up with it all.

When I first learned mindfulness a few years ago, I discovered how detrimental busyness really is. It’s being stuck in a state of doing instead of a state of BEing. It’s an endless chase of the next, instead of truly experiencing what IS.

So, learning all of that, and immersing myself in the practice of mindfulness, I really shifted my way of living. I retired my busyness. And it changed my life, in the most beautiful and profound way.

Unfortunately, I felt like I was the only one around me who got this. So I became passionate about wanting to pass on this new knowledge to people. I wanted others to get to experience the profound shift that I did.

But after several years, I finally realized that not many other people are that interested in it. They may be interested in what happens after the shift, but doing (or not doing) what it takes to create that shift was more than anyone was willing to participate in. I couldn’t even get people to show up- in every sense.

So, I found myself in a space where not many other people were. And that’s just it- there was space. I had created so much space in my life to be able to actually live and thoroughly enjoy my life with those I cared about, but it seemed like nobody else had created that same space. Everyone was too busy.

I started to feel judged for not being too busy. Like busyness was some sort of standard and I didn’t have enough going on in my life to actually constitute a life. But my life has been very intentional. I created space for people and things that I cared about. They just weren’t showing up.

So I’d run around trying to keep up with all of the busy people around me. But I can’t run that fast. Nor do I want to.

So when I got to Bali, and gained distance from what my life had been, I finally realized just how much I had been chasing unavailability, and how deeply exhausted I was from it.

Because I had been chasing that unavailability my entire life.

Starting from childhood with my family, then sticking with what I knew, recreating the chase in almost all my other relationships, of any context. And it all ended up directly reflecting into my career (or lack thereof), my finances (or lack thereof), and my issues with trust (or lack thereof).  It was all just a metaphor for my relentless chasing of unavailability.

I have done so much work around this stuff. I couldn’t believe I was still so engulfed in such an old pattern.

I worked so hard for the approval of abusive people who could never be pleased- people who only knew how to take and not how to give. They were bottomless pits of “not enough.”

I worked so hard to try to make a satisfying living and life for myself in a place that has never felt right for me, despite how breathtakingly beautiful it is here. I worked so hard to prove myself- to others (and therefore myself). I worked so hard to try to gain permission to just be Who I Am.

I worked so hard to heal from the years of abuse, control, and manipulation. I worked so hard at cleaning out the toxic drudge that lived within me. I worked so hard to become the best version of Me that I could possibly be.

And once I became a better version of Me, I worked so hard at trying to stay healthy. I worked so hard to try to keep good people in my life.  I worked so hard at trying to make so many other things (or people) work, when sometimes they just didn’t.

I kept working and working. And I loved that work! But I worked so hard only to find myself still working so hard.

No wonder I was exhausted. I’ve spent so much of my life working so hard.

And the grand irony is that the harder I worked and the more I chased unavailability, I myself became unavailable. I was unavailable because my energy was focused elsewhere- on unavailability. I was consumed by unavailability.  And I wasn’t available for anything (or anyone) that was available, which includes the relationships that I want, the career that I want, the bank account that I want… the life that I want.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my life. But there is much of my life that has felt like it’s just been waiting for me to step into it. All the while my back has been turned with my energy and focus on all of the things and people that were unavailable.

And the thing is, all of the unavailable people that I have been chasing, in various contexts, are busy with their own chase. They’re not actually inhabiting their own lives.

Neither was I.

Even after all that work.

So, when I got away from all of the unavailability, and took a big break form the chase, I was able to see just how hard I had been working for so much that didn’t work for me.

I went to Bali. And I let go.

It took a couple weeks, but I settled into a flow. I didn’t have to try. At all. People and places and circumstances just showed up. Because I was available for them. Everything just fell into place with such ease. Because I let it.  The life that had been waiting for me was finally being lived.

Then I had to leave. And go back to a home that has never really felt like home to me, a place that no matter how much the sun shines has never felt warm to me, a place where no matter how little crime there is has never really felt safe for me, a place where no matter how many decades I have spent there I have never felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I have felt more of a sense of longing than belonging here.

So when I came back to California none of that felt any different. But I felt different. And therein lies the contrast.

I’ve been back for just about a month and I am still getting used to the new skin that I’m living in. I am getting used to experiencing being able to approach situations with ease instead of anxiety, with curiosity instead of fear. I’m getting used to no longer chasing the things (and people) that don’t work for me. And I’m getting used to the feeling of being completely and genuinely ok with it all.

Experiencing the contrast really helped me gain perspective on what I was really returning to. I was not planning to return to unavailability, no matter how prevalent it may be. I was returning with a renewed focus. That focus being on two things- writing (and finding a way to build a sustainable income doing that), and how to get back to Bali as soon as possible (based on finding a sustainable income that will allow me to do that). Those are pretty much the only things I have the energy for anyway.

I no longer have energy for the chase, even if I wanted it. It’s not there anymore. I have exhausted it all. That resource has been depleted.

My energy is now being spent creating, instead of working, on allowing, instead of chasing, on taking steps, instead of running… on living the life that’s been waiting for me, instead of perishing inside a life I don’t even want.

And I finally, truly feel ready and available for all that I’ve ever wanted.

~Maktub~

Writers and Coffee and Gays, Oh My!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Part of the reason, ironically, is because I attended a writer’s festival last weekend, and it really took a lot out of me.

When I first contemplated this trip, and bought my Lonely Planet guidebook, I was pondering what time of year to go. October was what felt right. So, I looked in the guide book to see if there were any special events happening in October, and lo and behold, there was an international writer’s festival happening. The Ubud Writer’s and Readers Festival.  That was a clear sign. So, I planned my trip for the month of October (which then became part of September and November as well).

Yet, I did not buy my ticket for the festival. I thought I might volunteer, because anyone who knows me knows I love to volunteer, plus it would save a chunk of money on the ticket. Yet, I did not apply to volunteer either. This is what I do. Or don’t do.

Actually, scratch that. Change the language. This is what I used to do. One of my forms of self-sabotage. I’d hem and haw, procrastinate (i.e. push things further away), and in the end, make it all much harder on myself.

So, I hemmed and hawed, and deliberated for five months– from the conception of this trip until a few days before the event. Then, finally, I had a moment with myself when I thought about how good the experience would probably be for me, and reminded myself of the fact that I decided to come in October because that festival showed up… and now I was really thinking about not going? Old patterns die hard, and before they do they can be quite cunning.

I looked into volunteering again, but I was too late. The application was closed. So, with loving support from the The Brit and The Other Brit, reminding me that this would be a gift to myself and an investment in myself, I charged the ticket to my visa card. As soon as I did that I realized how silly it was for me to consider not going.

And the theme was “Tat Tvam Asi”, Sanskrit for “I am you, you are me.” Which is so fitting for me

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I’m so glad I went. The funny thing about events like this is that I usually go into them looking for inspiration from others, waiting for someone to say something that pushes me in a certain direction, but often what I get out of it is not anything that anyone else says, but a yearning to be a part of the conversation. Hearing questions asked to the speakers and really wishing I could be up there chiming in my own answers. Because I have something to say. And I have valid responses to people’s questions. And that is a pretty clear indicator to me that I truly feel like I belong in that role. Not from a place of ego, but from a calling, deep inside me.

There were a lot of incredible Writers, Speakers, and change makers that I had the privilege of seeing. And a lot I missed because they conflicted with other panels I wanted to see. But there was nothing that anyone said that shifted anything for me. It was what I had to say, and the yearning to say it that brought me closer to my role as a Writer.

But I still must mention some of the highlights of the event. My absolute favorite was a guy named Mayank Austen Soofi. A gay Indian man with a personality akin to Sophia Grace from the Ellen show. I have not read a word of his work yet. I tried to buy his book at the festival, but it sold out (so happy for him!). That tells you how much people loved him. He was hard not to love. He had the most pure, raw, joyful, exuberant, and magnetic personality. I really wanted him to be my friend.  Readers, please check him out!! I plan to get his book when I get back. He is a special soul and he deserves support and success!

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I really wish I had gotten a better picture of him

 

Another favorite was the award winning writer, Mitchell S. Jackson, who wrote a novel based on his real life journey from crack dealer to Writer, and Professor at New York University and Columbia University. I swear my affinity had nothing to do with finding him attractive, and my weakness for brown skinned men. Of course not.

I absolutely love real stories of people transforming their lives.  And from the book excerpts he read, it seems as though there’s a rhythm, almost a beat, to his writing, which is quite intriguing to me as well. Plus, anyone who knows me knows that I find the brain to be the sexiest part of the body and intelligence is a huge turn on, but I swear my attraction to him (and based on the way he looked me up and down, I think it’s safe to say the attraction was mutual) was purely professional. Yeah, totally.

My one other favorite part of the festival actually had nothing to do with writing. It had to do with something very close to many writers. Coffee. There were many food booths there, and one coffee booth hidden way back in the corner. My first few days I wanted to caffeine up before I arrived. But on the last day I just wanted to go straight to the festival and decided to get coffee there. I am so glad I did, but so bummed I only discovered this place on the last day.

Coffeenatics is a coffee company out of Sumatra. These guys came from Sumatra to Bali just for the festival. And they were not only one of my favorite parts of the festival, but some of my favorite people I have met on this trip.

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They were the best!

I walked up to the booth and one of the guys immediately said, “You look good! I like your style.” Motioning his finger up and down in the air. Now, I’m a smart, intelligent woman, a deep thinker, a spiritual being. I believe I have a lot of wisdom and insight to offer the world. I also carefully picked out my flowy Balinese outfit that day. So, it made me really happy to have my efforts recognized. After all, fashion is still a creative process.

That was a nice way to begin our interaction. Then, as I waited for my coffee to be made, I walked into the grassy area to discover a lovely, peaceful hammock, just waiting to cradle me. When I imagined coming to Bali I was hoping there would be a hammock involved at some point, when I exclaimed about the hammock the Coffeenatics said, “Go lay in the hammock! We’ll bring the coffee to you!” As if they hadn’t already completely won me over! The only thing that could’ve topped that would’ve been if they started fanning me with a giant banana leaf. I officially loved them at that point.20161030_101659

I lay in the hammock for a few minutes, but at that point I actually was more interested in hanging with them then hanging in the hammock. So, I left the hammock and sat by them for a bit. They then offered to fill my water bottle with cold water, which is a big deal for a several reasons. Hydration. Hydration is important, especially for us whities who aren’t used to this heat and humidity. Trash is a big deal here on Bali. And it really sucks to have to keep buying plastic water bottles. (That was my one real complaint about the festival- they need water refilling stations). So, it was awesome to be able to get my water refilled and not waste another plastic bottle. And it was cold! Most refillable water is in big 5 gallon jugs that of course aren’t kept cold. So, cold water is a bit of a luxury. Oh, and there was lemon in it!

Did I mention the coffee was good too? I visited them again later in the day and had my lunch over by them. In the big scheme of things I only spent a short amount of time with them, but I felt like I instantly had new friends, and they made me want to go visit Sumatra, and of course stop by their café when I do. That’ll be the next time I come here.

As far as the rest of the festival, there was a slew of intriguing writers, and amazing activists. It felt really good to be in such an intelligent environment. Some other people to highlight:  Suki Kim, the investigative journalist who lived undercover in North Korea (for I think 2 years?). She is the only person to have ever lived undercover in North Korea. But, because she is a woman, her book is marketed as a memoir and given a pink cover. I’ll just leave it at that.

There was Shandra Woworunto, a survivor of human trafficking. And holy shit. That woman is amazing. After all of the horrific abuses she experienced, she has triumphed with a bright, beautiful, positive spirit.

There was Baz Dreisinger, a New Yorker who has worked in prisons all over the world and does a lot of prison-rights activism. She was so fucking intelligent I just enjoyed hearing her brain make words.

There were some really great auxiliary events, some free and some extra charge. There were workshops, children and youth programs, movie screenings, speaking engagements and poetry slams. I attended the main festival  poetry slam with The Handsome Indian.

The event opened with an Australian Muslim hip hop group. I was excited and had high hopes because I thought their mission was pretty cool (to spread awareness and break the shame and stigma of being Muslim). I had wanted to find some hip hop since I arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t think they were that great. I still give them credit for doing what they do.

The poets, however, were fantastic! It was so marvelous getting to hear people from all over the world bring all kinds of poetry to the stage.

Another highlight for me, which deserves honorable mention, was actually one festival speaker’s partner. I attended an evening event, which was advertised as something way different than it was (there were a few of those). The speaker was pretty boring, but at the end, when he introduced his partner, that was worth it. His partner was bold Balinese man wearing a plaid sarong, platform heals, a huge wide brimmed ladies hat, t-shirt, blazer, and fanning himself with a hand fan. God, I loved him. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Remember I said I wanted to find my gays? (By the way, The Brit turned me onto a spa run by a couple of flamboyant Balinese gays, so I’ve been getting my pedicures there. If there is anything better than just any Balinese person, it’s a flamboyantly gay Balinese person).

The festival ended with a big closing ceremony celebration. I was so tired and worn out from that festival, it was really hard to drag myself out to that last event. But I’m glad I did. That hip hop group performed again, a little better this time, because they had a more of a party crowd vibe to play off of (but still not great). There were fire dancers, more poets, the most adorable MC’s who made me feel like I was at something between a high school rally and an Asian variety show. And then, to close the night, they brought out a band called The Soul Brothers, which I knew would make me happy. I was so low energy I didn’t think I could get myself to dance, but then they played Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai (my obsession band from 2001-2006) and I couldn’t not dance.

If I don’t like the music then I don’t really enjoy dancing that much. But with the right music, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. And I’m not sure if it’s physically possible for my body to not dance when Jamiroquai comes on. Plus, one of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was dance, and I managed to remind myself of that when I was thinking about how tired I was. Just dance, my soul whispered.

They played all kinds of other disco hits, a couple more Jamiroquai songs, and closed out the night with Jungle Boogie, which was probably the most fun song they played.

The second the music ended I was out of there though. I got a ride home on a motorbike taxi with the sweetest older man, named Wayan, who enthusiastically recognized me from the last time he gave me a ride home (I did not remember, which is rare, but he knew where I lived so I guess he was right). He exclaimed what a good arura I have and how I bring good energy to Bali. He gently held my hand to his heart when he dropped me off and I put his number in my phone for when I need another motorbike ride somewhere.

I’m really glad I bit the bullet and went to that festival. It was an investment, and not something I will ever regret spending the money on.

Next year I will apply to volunteer early though.

There is so much more I have to say about my experiences over the past couple weeks, but for now I’m keeping this post just about the festival.

Today is my last day here in Bali, and if I don’t get to a blog post before I leave, I’ll have plenty of time at airports and in flight to get some writing done.

But for now, I’m off to meet up with The Brit and The Mini Brit for one last Bali experience.

~

There was also some incredible art as well.

Don’t forget, you can see more of my pics and video on my Instagram page.

Environment Matters

My houseplant taught me something, right before I left for this trip to Bali. I was doing my final plant watering before leaving and I noticed how happy my fern is in its current spot. It gets just the right amount of filtered sunlight for it to flourish. And it dawned on me: environment matters.

A cactus cannot grow in a swamp, and a lotus cannot grow in the desert. Environment matters.

This was a bit of an aha moment for me, because until then I had been telling myself, for so long, that “wherever you go there you are,” -which is totally true, but… environment matters too.

And that thought has traveled with me across oceans and continents to accompany me here in Bali.

From the moment I arrived, I’ve wondered what’s going happen when I get back to California. All I could think and all I can think is that when I try to reach people, 90% of the people I talk to will be “too busy”.

And I simply do not have the energy to chase people around and beg for a timeslot in their schedule.

Many of these people I love deeply, and their circumstances are not solely on them. I mean, shit, with the OBSCENELY high cost of living in California (especially the Bay Area), everyone is swimming against the current. But I’ve worked too hard and spent too much time designing my life around having time and space for my loved ones. So, to still feel like I have to chase people in order to have a relationship with them is beyond my capacity at this point. And it’s taken me ‘til now, here, across oceans and continents, to get honest with myself about it.

I’m not thinking of any one person in particular, I’m just speaking generally. I carve out time in my schedule for what I call Relationship Building and Maintenance, and I can think of very few people who do the same. Most of the people I carve out time for- to check in on, to see how they’ve been or what they’ve been up to, I would easily go six months to a year or two without hearing from them, unless I contact them. Except, of course, for the percentage of those people who only contact me if they need something from me (even if all they need is to hear themselves talk to me).

And don’t get me wrong, I love being there for people! But there needs to be balance and mutuality. If all I am to someone is: there, for them– then what kind of a relationship can truly be had?

Different relationships require different levels of attention and energy. I have plenty of mutual friendships where the give and take is the same and we still only manage to see each other every few months. That’s fine, and it works. Then there are people who I put so much energy into, and still only see them every couple of months.

I’m not looking for constant contact, or for people to revolve their lives around me. And I’m certainly not interested in anyone feeling obligated to put energy into a relationship with me. That would probably feel just as shitty.

I know this is not something personal. This is not something that people are doing “to me“. It’s just that they don’t have the time and space for this person that is Me. So, I’d rather put my energy into people who do have the time and space and energy.

It’s unfair to both of us (whomever the ‘us’ may be) if I try to wedge myself into any little slot of someone’s time. Because really, in doing that, I’m lowering my own self-respect, which is not an authentic way to live and love, and it’s not bringing my Truth to the relationship. I’m putting more on their plates instead of looking towards people who have room on their plates, and invite me to their feast. Wedging myself into someone’s schedule, and therefore life, also enables The Other to continue taking people for granted. And do I really want to spend my energy wedging myself  into someone’s life? Wouldn’t it be better to simply open my arms and be met by another pair of opened arms?

I have cultivated a truly beautiful community of truly incredible people. I love my friends, just about as much one can love. But no matter how incredible they are, I can no longer carry the weight of my relationships. I have been down that road way too many times. I’ve cut out so many people from my past because of this very same issue (combined with them just being toxic people).

So, I am coming to terms with the fact that I may not have the same relationships when I return. This does not mean I am cutting people out, disowning, or closing the door. It just means that even the thought of how much energy I spent on people (especially in comparison to how little they spent on me), is exhausting.

So, I’m not going to do it. I will no longer work so hard to get a piece of other people’s time.

And this does not mean I don’t love them. In fact, it is going to be very difficult for me, because I love them. I love each and every one of my friends so, so much.

But I can no longer over-give and show up faster, further, and more available than others show up for me. I have to take a step back, and only give as much as has been given to me. Otherwise, I am just depleting what I have to give.

I will return to California with new boundaries and start looking elsewhere for people who can really understand and live this with me.

There is absolutely no love lost. The love is all still there, it just could not flourish in that space. So, the time and energy must be allocated elsewhere.

It’s time for this lotus to bloom.lotus