traveling

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~

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Grounding

I worked in the wine industry for a few years, and there is a belief among winemakers that the wine turns out better if you stress the vines. To my understanding, this is a debatable practice. But the theory is if you under water the vines, the fruit will become more rich and dense (er… something like that).

My point is, I’m feeling stressed. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing. And it’s completely understandable really. I’ve been thrust into a very new and very different environment. Who wouldn’t have some level of stress? Besides, we actually need a little bit of stress to live a healthy life. For example, working out is a way of putting stress on your body. If you do it gently and in the correct doses it actually leads to optimum physical health and well-being. If we experienced absolutely no stress, we’d be catatonic limp noodles. Stress is really just a straining and stretching. The problem is when stress gets out of balance (and unfortunately way too many people are way too stressed).

I don’t feel too stressed, but last night I really started to feel it in my body. I haven’t been sleeping enough, waking up in the 5:00-6:00 hours, no matter what time I go to sleep. I can feel I’ve been clenching my jaw in my sleep, waking up to sore jowls  (what am I holding on to?), and today I feel like I’m getting a little bit of a cold- lots of ear, nose, and throat inflammation. Which, again, is understandable. Being on a plane for a total of around 17 hours, with no air circulation, then arriving to a completely new world where I kind of have to be on extra alert, to figure out everything, that shit is bound to take it’s toll.

I finally met someone! A woman staying at my current homestay. She’s been here for five weeks and she basically said that I’m right on track. It took her about a week to start to feel normal (I don’t understand how people could do a trip like this and only stay for a week). She also said there were a lot of people on her yoga retreat that had gotten a cold like this in their first few days. That helped to hear.

So, yesterday I woke up in my overpriced, mediocre homestay. My breakfast was some other sort of green “cake” with some sort of pumpkin dish and black rice sticky pudding. I was laughing to myself because I realized that it was October 1st, and even in Bali I can’t escape pumpkin spice! I was excited for the black rice sticky pudding because I’d heard about this dish when I was planning the trip, and I’ve been a huge fan of black rice for years (if you haven’t tried black rice, it’s seriously the best. No joke- once you go black you will not go back!) It was all really good.20161001_082147

I moved to my next homestay which is overall way better, and cost less. Better neighborhood, easier to access, beautiful grounds, bigger bed, much bigger room- even has a little fridge (which is really nice to be able to keep my water cold) and a kitchen (most of the kitchens here, even in the restaurants, are pretty much just glorified camping stoves).  Oh, and I finally figured out that all those beautiful doorways are the entrances to homes and homestays!

Even though, overall, this is a better place, the room is a little dingy and the bathroom sucks. The hot water doesn’t work, which is ok later in the day, but even lukewarm would be nice. I’m big on bathrooms. I consider them sacred spaces. All of the apartments I’ve lived in, the bathrooms have been Buddha themed. So, the gross, dingy bathrooms are a big disappointment to me. It’s where you go to get clean, so it would be nice if it seemed, y’know, clean in there.

I’m only booked here til tomorrow, then I move on. I wouldn’t mind staying at this place a little longer, but there are no openings. So, I just booked my next place, even more in center of the cute neighborhood that I’ve been getting to know. And it has a pool! I’ll be there for 5 nights, which will be nice to stay someplace a little longer.

I’ve been really feeling like I need some grounding. I usually stretch and meditate every day, at home. If I go more than 2-3 days without it, I start to feel really out of sorts. Well, I didn’t do much meditating the week before I left, and I haven’t meditated at all since I’ve been here! So that has added to the stress on my body.

I finally decided to bite the bullet and take a yoga class at one of the trendy places just down the street. First of all, it costs about $10 USD for a yoga class here (at any of the places), which is complete and utter bullshit, and I think it’s because white people own all the yoga studios. I can pay that much in the states! I could even find accommodations here for that price. Not great ones, but still. Anyway, I figured it would be a place to meet people and my body could really use it.

And oh my fucking God Truth, I am so glad I did. I finally started to release some of the mass amounts of tension I have been feeling in my body. And I actually kind of sort of met some more people. Finally! So I’ll probably spend some more exorbitant amounts of money doing that again.

And I also found my expats and my gays! Yesterday when I was walking around, I saw two men walk out of a shop across the street, and in my mind I gasped Yes! Some gays! Or wait, they look alike, maybe they’re brothers. Oh! They’re holding hands! Gays! Yay! I didn’t get a chance to talk to them (yet), but I definitely gave them a big “hi guys!” smile.

Before that, I finally got tired of the shitty instant coffee they serve at the homestays, and decided to go check out one of the trendy coffee shops. The first one I happened upon was called FREAK Coffee. So I made myself at home in there. It was filled with expats. Of course. Across time and cultures the two places where people always come to gather (besides church) are cafes and bars/pubs. So I’ll probably start drinking more coffee and beer.

I still haven’t gotten my flowy dress, a new bag, nor my money changed, but that hasn’t been due to avoidance, it’s been due to distraction.

Once I started exploring this new neighborhood, eventually I found myself at the entrance of the Monkey Forest, which I don’t feel like paying to go in, and I don’t even need to. There are monkeys all over the place outside the entrance. That was pretty cool. Although I found myself a little scared of the monkeys too.

I’m kind of glad I feel a little sick. I feel like all the fears I’ve had- my body doesn’t have the strength to hold onto anymore, and my guard is coming down a little. But I could definitely still use a massage or three. That’ll be next.

Today was really about amping up the self-care. That yoga class was great. Putting myself in environments more conducive to meeting people was good too. And for lunch I had some Tom Kha soup. I also ordered a large coconut water (my body loves and thrives on coconut water). I didn’t realize how gigantic a large was. It could’ve easily served three people.

So I finally feel like I’m starting to settle into the vibe here a little. And starting to get some grounding.

I’d also like to mention- I’m really surprised how attractive I find a lot of the Balinese men. Beautiful really. Especially the little dudes that are all styled out in the skater vibe. I think it’s something in their eyes. Or their smiles. Or maybe it’s that whole brown complexion that I’m such a sucker for. I don’t know, but it does something to me. I wonder if it’s taboo to hook up with the locals? That’s a question that google wasn’t able to answer for me. I guess I’ll have to ask one of the expats, when I start to get to know them.

 

 

Milestones

So far my experience here reminds me of two things. The meditation retreat I went on, and Burning Man. Realistically it’s not like either, but I have a long running inside joke with a friend of mine, that everything reminds me of Burning Man. This stems from when I was a kid- well, my early twenties, but that’s still kind of a kid, right? This friend of mine used to get so irritated because I was constantly saying “oh my god, that totally reminds me of Burning Man! …that totally reminds me of Burning Man! …THAT totally reminds me of Burning Man!”

In hindsight, Burning Man was the only thing outside of my normal life/comfort zone that I had ever really experienced at the time. It was the only thing I had to compare to. So anything that was reminiscent of my experience there or evoked a similar feeling “totally reminded me of Burning Man.”

Here are the ways in which I find my experience in Bali similar to my experience of Burning Man:

-Walking around in a disoriented state of awe, taking in the mass amounts of stimulation and newness.

-Wandering around confusing back pathways trying to figure out where my “camp” is.

-Finding little restaurants (“theme camps”) hidden way back in the middle of nowhere along these confusing back pathways.

-Roofs but no walls.

-Heat.

-Dodging unruly motorbike traffic (at burning man it was non-motor bikes)

-Making sure to carry water with me everywhere.

-Being glad I brought a headlamp

-Showering outside (open air bathrooms)

-Brushing my teeth with bottled water

As for the meditation retreat connection, that is simply because I haven’t really met anyone yet, so I’m really alone with my thoughts- and having a lot of them! I’ve been journaling a ton! Thank God Truth I love, and am well versed in, the experience of “thought watching” and really being comfortable with riding my internal experience. Also, thank God Truth for my journal/writing. It’s a great way to unload and process my thoughts and experience, then transferring it to this forum allows me to take you all with me on this journey!

So here’s where I’m at today. I am getting ready to move to another homestay. A lot of the places I was looking at with pools were already booked for these next few days. But there was a place that a friend of mine recommended, when I first started planning my trip, which had openings for the next couple of nights. The place has a lot of rooms, which means more likely to meet other people and it also seems closer to some of the popular yoga studios.

There is a couple of yoga studios that I have read and heard a lot about in my whole trip planning process. I’m not that into yoga. I have my little morning routine, but other than that I have little interest in the yoga scene. And I really was feeling put off by the idea of traveling across the world only to be surrounded by more white yogis. But I have to say, I wouldn’t mind finding some white yogis now. Just to feel a sense of familiarity to give me some more grounding.

There are lots of white people/westerners here, but they are clearly tourists passing through. And seems like mostly couples. This is a great place for a single woman traveling alone. Not such a great place for a single woman not wanting to have ‘being single’ rubbed in my face. Which just proves the old adage- wherever you go, there you are. I have to say though, I have been amused at the amount of couples I have walked past, who were in mid-argument. I guess the stresses of being strangers in a strange land have gotten to them.

Anyway, I have to admit, I think I have not ventured away from the most touristy areas yet, so that is likely part of the issue. I find myself seeking two kinds of people right now. The expats, and the gays.

This isn’t a place where you can go waving a rainbow flag or same-sex couples can walk around openly being a couple, but I have good gaydar, and I’m keeping my eyes open. In most of the experiences in my life where I have taken big leaps outside of my comfort zone, it was the gay folks who really greeted me on the other side. They were my first friends when moving to a new place, my first clients when starting a new business, my cheerleaders and supporters. I have so much love, respect, and gratitude for the gay community. So I’m looking out for my gays.

Yesterday I did finally branch off the beaten path a little bit, and finally started to find some areas that felt a little more along the lines of what I expected Bali to be like. So far, in this particular area, here in Ubud, there is a lot of hustle and bustle. I find myself craving open spaces. All of the houses are cramped together and the streets are buzzing with motorbikes, taxis, and tour busses. So it was nice to find some more quite side roads.

Aside from finally branching out a little bit, I experienced a few milestones in that last couple of days. My first blisters. My first rip off. My first bargaining. My first encounter with a street dog.  All of which were bound to happen at some point.

So let’s break it down…

I mentioned how badly my feet swelled from the plane ride. I have yet to tighten the straps on my sandals. They are not as bad as when they were on the plane, and they are better when I first wake up (especially if I sleep with them elevated) but this heat has definitely caused my feet to swell a little and therefore I’ve gotten my first blisters. Fascinating, I know.

Next, I did my research, I know that you are supposed to bargain here- which was one of the many fears that arose in the trip planning process. I hate bargaining. Some people totally get off on it. I fucking hate it. But I also realized in that process that it would probably be really good for me to get comfortable and confident with it. There is an undeniable and inextricable connection between money and fear in my life. And those fears have arisen a lot, not only in the planning process, but since I’ve been here as well. I’ll get more into that later.

So I know you have to bargain, but from what I’ve read, you bargain with the street vendors, but inside the shops you do not bargain. Some of these “shops” are in a grey area. I’m still getting the hang of it all. And I really wanted to try to find a place where I could buy a SIM card for my phone and get my Balinese phone number set up. I wasn’t seeing anyplace, until finally I happened upon a little shop that had a giant rock outside with gold letters etched into it “SIM card”. I asked him how much and paid the price he asked. It was roughly $15 USD. When I got back later I did some googling only to find that I could have easily gotten it for about $5 USD. It felt shitty when I realized, but my first rip off could have been much worse, so I lived and learned.

After that, while booking my next homestay, I asked if they could send a driver to pick me up. I asked the cost and they quoted the equivalent of about $7. It’s a short drive, which I could easily walk if I didn’t have heavy bags to carry, plus I still find getting around very confusing so I just wanted someone to take me exactly where I needed to go. But even for that, I know that $7 is ridiculous. Again, I’m still not totally clear on which situations you are supposed to bargain, and which not. I’m paranoid about offending their culture here (that’s just one of my many fears I am being confronted with). But bargaining is part of their culture and I thought to myself, I have spent way too much of my life worried what other people might think of me, and not wanting to offend anyone. What’s the worst that can happen if I just ask if they can bring the price down? Like I said, this is a difficult, yet important, practice for me to gain confidence in, here, and in my everyday life. I bargained the price down to $5 which, after the fact, still seemed like a rip off, but it’s a start. Baby steps.

Later is when I finally decided to branch off the main drag and found some charming little streets. There were lots of beautiful doorways with statues in them- I couldn’t tell if these were doorways to temples, houses, or businesses.

Whilst making my way down these streets there were many more street dogs than on the main road (there were plenty on the main road as well). I had assumed that it would be a struggle for me, as an animal lover and particularly a dog lover, to try to ignore them, but I have had no problem at all. These dogs are scrappy. And savvy. I made the mistake of making eye contact with one, and he proceeded to start growling and barking, and my heart started racing. Another fear: rabies. Or, rather, rabies in a foreign country. But it was fine, I looked away and kept walking while making a note to self: do not make eye contact with the street dogs- they know what’s up.

I’m realizing on a whole new level just how much this trip is about confronting the mass amounts of fear in my life. I think that’s why the first half of this year was a little rough for me. I was stuck in a state of fear and I was letting that fear control me. Just deciding to take this trip was an act of facing my fears. Even before I decided to do it, just contemplating it was facing a fear.

I remember the fear I had around simply spending the money on buying a Lonely Planet book on Bali. Because deep down, I knew that it wasn’t just a book, it was a step. And if Neil Armstrong has taught us anything it’s that one small step can actually be a giant leap.

I leapt and I’m here. And now I am being confronted by my fears on a whole new level. Especially my money fears- getting robbed/pick-pocketed, getting ripped off- by vendors, by money changers, spending money, which could lead to running out of money. But I have to remind myself that here, I am literally a millionaire!

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RIP pretty hippy messenger bag!

Yesterday I looked around for a legitimate place to get my money changed, but I’m still having trouble figuring out what is considered hole in the wall here. I think I’m starting to spot the difference. I ended up just going to an ATM, but I can’t avoid it forever. I also can’t avoid the vendors and the bargaining. Because I definitely need to buy a few things. My hippy messenger bag that I love, especially because my nephew gave it to me, the zipper broke. Thank God Truth it made it through the trip over here. I also need to buy some clothes. I didn’t pack a lot and what I did pack was pretty light, but not light enough. My leggings and tank tops feel like sweaters here, so it’s time to pick up some of those flowy Balinese dresses.

I will be happy to have clothing more suited for this weather. It has been especially hot the last couple of days, which I will also note, has made the water in the “bum gun” hot. “Bum gun” is a term, I think coined by the Aussies, for the water sprayers used to clean yourself, instead of toilet paper. TP is only used for drying purposes here and is not to be flushed. So anyway, hot water on the bum was a little startling.

On that note, I’m off to find some more suitable clothing.