Ask Yourself

“I feel sorry for beautiful people. Beauty, from the moment you posses it, is already slipping away, ephemeral. That must be difficult. Always having to prove that there’s more to you, wanting people to see beneath the surface, to be loved for yourself, and not your stunning body, sparkling eyes or thick, lustrous hair.”

-excerpt from Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

i asked her
how does it feel
do your bones ache
is your heart too heavy to carry
sometimes
i play dress up
pretend i am beautiful, too
when i’m done
i have to clean up everything
it is exhausting

how does it feel
do your days linger on
are you sure of the breath you carry
in your chest
my mother would tell me,
lies your true beauty
and only brave souls have the strength to seek it
i wonder if i am coward

how does it feel
how many times do you check the mirror
(do you check the mirror?)
is love far too easy to find
these days
i get what i can get
the smell of rain
quiet breeze spilling into my bedroom
a good book steady in my hands
feels a lot like love

how does it feel

she opens her mouth
and laughter rushes out
her words pour slow and easy like honey at my feet
“darling, ask yourself”

i blush

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Changes

There have been so many changes–physically, mentally, emotionally, occupationally, relationally, spiritually–I’ve experienced in the span of two years. You’d think after all of those changes I’d embrace everything ahead, but that’s not the case.
Soon I’ll be making another big move and it’s scaring the crap out of me.

First, let’s get a track record of my physical moves:
1. Moved from the U.S. to Thailand
2. Moved into a tiny apartment in Ramkhamaheng
3. Moved into a new tiny room in Ramkhamheng
4. Moved to a new city, Samut Prakan
5. Moved into a dorm-styled apartment with seven other foreign teachers

I don’t know if all of this moving has developed a fear of permanence or a crave for it.

Tomorrow I might very well sign the papers to my new condo, which is exciting and probably the most adult thing I’ve done on my own, but I’m nervous that this move will change nothing about my emotional state.

Let’s just be honest, I’m incredibly isolated in my little town.

Sure, I have my co-workers and 32 of the cutest faces you’ll ever seen in your life, but I’m still over and hour away from really close friends. What’s worst than feeling alone? Feeling alone with people just doors down from you. On top of isolation I feel like my entire life is work–I need some separation.

I found an adorable place right on the metro line: close enough to take trips to the city and hop on the bus to work. I’ll be roughly 30 minutes from the city and 10-15 minutes away from my school. I feel like this is a great compromise: I’m still not totally in the middle of city life, but I never really liked the city much anyway, I just want to be closer to friends, and I’m not ridiculously far from work either which is great!

It’s just terrifying to put all of this money into hopeful thinking…
I’m hoping I’ll do a lot better emotionally. I’m hoping I’ll be a happier, more balanced person. I’m hoping I’ll have a better time living in Thailand. ❤

Anyway, wish me luck!

Extremes

i don’t know what living a balanced life feels like
when i am sad
i don’t cry, i pour
when i am happy
i don’t smile, i beam
when i am angry
i don’t yell, i burn
the good thing about
feeling in extremes
is when i love
i give them wings
but perhaps
that isn’t
such a good thing
cause they always
tend to leave and
you should see me
when my heart is broken
i don’t grieve
i shatter

-rupi kaur

When God Sends A Salsa Dancer

This week a guest salsa/bachata dance instructor came to visit Bangkok. Once I found out that he taught a specific style of bachata that I’m really interested in, I immediately sent him a message asking for private lessons. Unfortunately, I ended up not being able to learn with him because of financial reasons.

While we were discussing the possibility of me studying with him I noticed that at the end of his messages he always signed “God Bless”, one time he even wrote a scripture, but I didn’t think much of it, I figured that maybe it was some type of hippie/spiritualist thing, nothing serious.

Monday night comes along and I decide to go to a dance social that was happening in the city. Originally I wasn’t even going to go, but I ended up changing my mind last minute. It didn’t even occur to me that I could possibly bump into him, so at the party I was surprised and happy to see his face.

I went up to him and introduced myself, and later on we shared a dance. After dancing together he told me about a class he was going to have the following day at a salsa club nearby and encouraged me to come. Despite it being a school night, I decided to go.

The class was packed! It was a great experience: everyone was having fun and had a great time learning. During the class I noticed that on the back of his shirt there was a scripture; the thought came to my mind that maybe he actually was a believer. When we got the chance to dance together I asked him about it–to my surprise, he is a true Christian. (Listen, you don’t know how hard it’s been to find other believers who enjoy salsa dancing as much as myself).

He wasn’t always a believer though, he admitted, a supernatural experience encouraged him to follow Christ. Me being nosey curious, I asked what that supernatural experience was, he thought it would be best to talk about it another time, a two minute bachata song wouldn’t be long enough to hear the whole story.

We made a plan to chat more about it.
The next day we met at the same salsa club and headed out for dinner.

He shared his journey and how he came to start following Christ, then he started to ask me questions about my journey. I told him where I was at now: lost, confused, struggling with my Christianity. He had a lot of wisdom and spoke from a place of love.

Before taking the bill he offered to pray for me once we reached back at the salsa club.

This part is the funniest to me: we’re in the middle of a bar and empty bottles are still scattered about the place from the party last night. Upstairs there is a private class going on and bachata music blasting. All of this “non-spiritual-ness” is happening around, but in the middle of prayer it becomes a place God just… enters. God’s like, really, you’d think I wouldn’t come here, to meet you? I’m all around you, daughter.

Friends, it’s been a very long time since someone has prayed for me in person and that alone made me bawl. The prayer was good for my heart and soul. We prayed for my job, joy, peace, direction concerning moving to S. Korea, etc.

We finish and I’m teary-eyed. He said I looked fresher already and asked if I wanted to keep praying. So, we kept praying. This time my heart and chest felt so warm, almost burning. God… I just knew God was with me. When we finished I told him about the warmth I was feeling. He let me know that both his mother and himself have this gift where people get sleepy after they pray and recommended that the best thing for me to do now was to go home and sleep, not even listen to music, just sleep–I would feel much better when I wake up… I’d feel different.

To be honest, that was a hard decision for me, I’d planned to go dancing after our dinner. I wanted to dance really badly, release some stress, have some fun. Setting time apart to just be with God is scary for me, I wanted to go on about my life and not face the huge reality that he just showed up right there.

The thing is, I live an hour and thirty minutes away. I usually take the bus or train, but he thought the taxi would be best, the most comfortable. I could sleep on the train, but the best thing for me to do was to get home as soon as possible. I was concerned because there was traffic and it’s about 300 baht to get home when the roads are like that (I’m trying to save money at the moment, so this month my pockets have been skinny).

Before I left he asked if I needed any help with anything, but I was too shy to ask for help to pay for the taxi, especially after he paid for dinner. I went to go break my 1,000 bill at the 7/11, but they ended up not having any change. Thankfully there was an ATM just outside so I took out a bit of cash. I’m in the taxi and my heart is still warm. I do feel sleepy, like surrounded by something sweet, but powerful… I – I can’t explain it. I’m in this good kind of fog, like, What just happened to me?

I get in the taxi and I drift off to sleep. This whole taxi ride feels like a miracle: I’m sleeping for what feels like days! And my taxi was only 150 baht. My eyes couldn’t believe the price I saw. That’s never been the case. One time I took a taxi early in the morning, when there was nooo traffic, and I was even closer to home, I probably spent about the same amount or a little more. I remember waking up for a second and we were still in traffic: how in the world did I end up paying only 150 baht?

I kid you not, the whole ride felt like a dream, like the taxi driver was an angel and he let me sleep for days. When I came home I couldn’t believe all of that just happened in the same night. I still find it hard to believe. I went straight to bed, but was so scared because I didn’t have an alarm clock to wake me up for work. Of course, I woke up on time.

All of this happened days ago, but it still feels like a dream.

God sent someone all the way from India, a dance instructor, not a missionary or a pastor or evangelist, a dance instructor, who danced a specific type of bachata that I enjoy just to tell me that he loves me and is with me, sees me.

I didn’t even recognize the craziness of it all, the instructor brought it up after we prayed. We laughed about it, too, he was like, thankfully he teaches bachata because had it been something else this would’ve never happened. We realized it was never about us having private classes together, it was all about that moment with God, in a salsa bar of all places.

God planned all of that just for me.

What the heck.

Dying to Live Here

In only a few more days it will be my 2nd year anniversary of coming to Thailand… I’m nowhere near where I thought I’d be emotionally. I remember my first night here begging God to let me stay, now I find myself begging to leave.

I’ve been thinking about moving on for a while now…
because I’m bored with work.
because I’m lonely in this new area.
because of always having to pick my heart up when people treat me like dirt.

And tonight just felt like one giant nudge to get the heck out of here.
I’ve expressed on my blog before the struggles of being Black in Thailand, but tonight was something I never imagined would happen to me.

The bus was packed; I ended up having to stand and wait for a seat to open up. Mind you, I was having a great day: I worked out, had a good meal, bought a cute top, played Dance Revolution, and saw a movie by myself. I was on cloud nine, the happiest I’ve been in a while. At that moment I didn’t think anything could bring me down.

Sadly, I was wrong.

So, I’m standing there, squished between a number of bodies, with my three heavy grocery bags waiting for an empty seat. The bus starts to slow down to a stop when a girl begins to get out of her seat.

She pushes me out of the way, literally, P U S H E S me.

(For those who don’t know Thai culture, Thais are not aggressive people. Had this happened in China I wouldn’t care because that’s normal. One step further, had this happened in the city, I probably wouldn’t care either because in the city things are a bit different, but I live on the outskirts of the city–people are not like this, it’s out of character to push.)

So, yeah, the girl pushes me then proceeds to offer her seat to EVERYONE else but me, even though I’m standing right next to her seat, with my three heavy bags.

(For those who may argue, “Maybe it’s because she doesn’t speak English.” I’ve been here long enough to know that language doesn’t need to get in the way of kindness; there have been times where the Thai look at me and gesture to sit down. This is not a language barrier thing.)

Now, I’m so shocked I don’t even have words to say, even though there were a number of not-so-nice words that came to mind. The lady next to me must’ve been shocked too because she just looked at me as if she wanted to say, “You’re really not going to sit down? I didn’t sit. I just stood there, baffled.

What should I have done in this situation?
I have a list of advice people have given when I tell them about the prejudices I face living here:

1. Smile, they’ll smile back.
2. Forget about it.
3. Pray.
4. Be happy!

Please, do tell me, which one would’ve been a suitable response?

When I finally got a seat I curled into myself and cried– it was the best response I could think of in that moment.

It was then that I realized the only person that truly, truly understood my pain was Christ, himself. He came down to his own people, people he loved and they treated him like dirt. Hated him. Yet, he stayed. Even died for them.

I’m not at all saying I’m Christ in the sense that I’d give my life up for the Thai, but in a small way I have. Two years of my life has been spent here, and none of it has been easy. I’m always having to collect my heart off of the ground and still smile, and still laugh, and still love this place and its people

Love even when people do hurtful things.
Love even when people don’t believe me when I say people do hurtful things.
Love even when people give me stupid advice about how to deal with people who do hurtful things.

It’s been an honor, I guess, to feel connected to God in this way, but I’m still human and have limitations. Tonight did more than just hit a nerve, it cut the last one I had left.

After two years I think I’m ready to move on, I can’t keep “dying” for a place that doesn’t love me back.

Rain Dance

Maybe it’s because I’m burnt out from working, but as of recently the “Amazing Thailand” hasn’t been everything but amazing. I’ve been thinking of places I could move to next–South Korea, Japan, somewhere in Europe–wondering if I could find a good job (maybe even a better one) and a group of people that will love me within close proximity.

It’s hard to imagine living and working in a different country, especially since this is the first place I’ve ever lived on my own. I feel very attached to Thailand and can feel the tug on my heart whenever I pass by a familiar place, e.g. my first apartment; the market my friends and I would watch tiny bats as they danced over the water, collecting their dinner, we oohed and aahed as we ate ours; my old, crowded, soon-to-be-gentrified street.

I’ll miss a lot.
And I don’t even want to think about the people I’d have to leave behind.

Honestly, I can’t tell if this is a real, lasting problem or a temporary issue. How serious I am about changing course is a mystery to me. In many ways Thailand has kept me balanced, but right now every area in my life feels very unbalanced.

In the midst of all this “unbalanced-ness” I feel like there is this other life, my life, dangling over my head. Suspended in midair. And I’m on the ground trying my best to reach, on my tippiest of toes, some pieces; desperately searching around in the grass, hoping to find a few that may have fallen down.

I know everything will fall down soon, not in a destructive, the world-is-ending type of way, but the way rain gently glides down and nurtures the earth back to life.

I think that’s what I’ve been doing all along, all this reaching and searching has been my rain dance. What I truly want, what I’m painfully waiting for is fresh rain to give me life.

Eat, Pray, Love (and Sleep).

This New Years’ I spent my time in Yasothon, a province in the Northeastern part of Thailand, with my closest friend and her family.

I could’ve stayed in Bangkok with all the glitz and glam New Years promises us… I’m so glad I didn’t.

For two whole days my schedule looked like this: eat, read, sleep, repeat. A month ago I would’ve felt so guilty for living this life of do-nothing luxury, but at that point I wanted to soak in every second of it.

Within the last two weeks I’ve wanted to pack up my bags so many times and hop on a plane to anywhere, anywhere far from responsibility and waking up at 5:30 AM. So many mornings I just lay in my bed enduring the sound of my alarm clock, then I’d return home ignoring the long list of “to-dos” in the back of my head. I felt like I was crumbling, like I was completely giving up.

EAT

I learned fairly quickly the language of love in my friend’s family–food. Good food. We ate huge, warm, delicious meals three times a day, and snacked in between. Every time I slept it was always on a full belly. We made a joke on the way back to Bangkok that all we did on this trip is eat and eat! Surely, if we stayed a month long we’d be rolling ourselves back to the city.

It was all okay though because everyone was too busy enjoying themselves to even consider their waistlines. Food brought us all together in laughter and happiness. We made plenty of fat jokes, but none of it was ever taken to heart, no one, not even for one millisecond, thought about turning down a second helping.

PRAY

I’ll admit, I didn’t do a ton of praying up there, but I did spend each night staring at the moon and stars. That to me, felt a lot like praying.

On the last morning though, I did actually pray, a thankful prayer. I’ve been constantly asking God, “How to be a good Christian?” For numerous months now I’ve felt like I’ve been sucking at it. That morning he finally led me to the folly in my endeavors of following him–my entire motivation had been about escaping hell. Before getting on a motorcycle or on an airplane, before going to sleep, I constantly feared something bad happening because of where I might end up next…

The moment my motivation changed from love to fear is the exact time I started misunderstanding the whole reason and purpose of following Christ in the first place.

LOVE

I am a complete sucker for love stories and anything romantic, so finally having the time to submerge myself in a good novel was like heaven. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell, I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of YA books and could use a little escape.

I’ve read so many times–in a hammock, in the back of a pick-up truck with the breeze kissing each strand of my hair. I’ve laughed and cried, had my heart burst into a billion butterflies–all things my body forgot how to do.

Between reading Eleanor and Park’s sweet love story, I’d take the time to dream about mine… well, my nonexistent one that is, but that’s for a later blog post. I’m just so thankful that my weak heart was able to experience someone’s love story, even if it is fiction; the emotions that sprinkled over me felt very real.

***

I couldn’t have asked for a better vacation. Sure, I didn’t have the fireworks, but I had family. I didn’t have a countdown, but I counted the stars. I wasn’t decked out in some fancy wardrobe, but the perfect weather draped itself over my skin.

For the first time in a long time I was at peace with myself and the world around me. The countryside has a way of making you slow down and appreciate life again.

I try to center my life around a line in one of Mary Oliver’s most famous poems, When I Am Among the Trees, this holiday I think I finally lived it in full…

Walk slowly, and bow often.

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some of the family

 

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cutest smile i’ve ever seen

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harvesting snails

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riding along a lily park

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hammock reading

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pure sky