EIGHT THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR TODAY:
1. Waking up early enough to experience cool air and the sun showing up. It’s never quiet in our neighbourhood but in the morning I can hear birds singing, babies crying and watch all the sweet local kids kiss their parent’s hands before they go to school.
2. Getting my sweat on. No doubt, it’s the dry season here in Bali. While this does not mean dry by the standards of my practically-desert hometown, it does mean less rain to cool things down. Simply being in Bali right now is synonymous with breaking a sweat. Benefits? Detoxification, improved circulation, lowered body temperature and natural cleansing - bring it on!
(Side note: All yoga in Bali = hot yoga, so sweat and my yoga practice go happily hand-in-hand)
3. Little ones: possibilities and joy. On the way back from the market today, Scout and I stopped to play with a rogue bunch of tiny boys who had teamed up to create one very massive kite constructed of plastic bags and straws. They did what they could with what they had and the smiles on their faces when the wind caught their kite were amazing… Their victory dance was pretty cool too.
4. Walking Scout. I have lived in Bali for over seven months now and I have never once seen a local person walking their dog. When I take Scout out for a nightly jaunt (or in this case, to the local market) people’s reactions are hilarious. Some people laugh, others point, pretty much everyone calls something out and a kid in the fruit stall even burst out in tears when he saw her. It’s like walking with a controversial celebrity and it always cracks me up.
5. Family time at the beach. Day off, blazing sun? Beach time! We took Scout to the beach with some books and plenty of water yesterday. She finally got up the courage to follow us out into the ocean and clung to Josh’s knees like they were a life raft. Tons of dudes were kitesurfing and put on a good show. We chased each other around, getting thoroughly sandy and also soaking up a little too much sun. Simple. Perfect.
6. Videos of my nephews. What is it about them - why are they growing up so fast?! When I left Canada, my youngest nephew was babbling incoherently and crawling with little purpose. Now, he’s walking and talking and melting even more hearts than before. His big brother can ride a bike without training wheels (fearlessly, I might add) and is truly a pint-sized human these days. I am counting down the days ‘til I get to hug and play with them, but until then I am so grateful to my brother and sister-in-law for granting me frequent glimpses into their lives.
7. Cuddling, any and everywhere. Those extra five minutes in bed in the morning. Scout falling asleep on my stomach. Getting close to people (and puppies) I love brings me joy.
8. Inspiration. It’s flying at me from all sides. The more I do what I love, the more goodness shows up in my life. Beautiful people, experiences, words of wisdom and moments are flooding each day. It feels like sweetness and grace and depth.
…And I am grateful.
Long time, no blog. S’okay. I’ve been thinking thoughts and feeling things out and haven’t really felt compelled to write anything at all. Since we need to get back to Canada with enough time left before J’s passport expires, we’re going to head home in the summertime. This makes these months our last three Bali months (for this year, anyway) and that has me reflecting on the past four and a half with a smile. I’m so grateful for my time here. I have learned so much. There is a certain kind of soul stretch that I feel you can only get when you’re traveling, when you’re floating around outside your comfort zone. It’s delightful and stressful and humbling and empowering in turns. I got my soul reshaped living like a local down here, that’s for sure. Here’s a list of some things that I made room for:
1. Discipline. I have learned that I am whenever I wanna be. If you’d asked me back in Canada to describe myself in five minutes, I’m sure the word “procrastinator” would have popped in there. No more. New affirmation, folks - this girl’s been flexing her discipline muscles. That (and knowing what my body feels like when it’s been stretched too) is what gets me to the mat six days a week. That’s what has helped me build good, necessary habits to make life easier. That’s what has shut down some struggles. 99% is a bitch, but 100% with commitment and discipline - that’s grace. Feels sweet.
2. Tolerance. There are things you can change and there are things to accept. The culture in Bali is very different from Canadian styles. Most foreigners experience a tiny, extremely limited taste of this. Having Balinese friends, neighbours, co-workers and acquaintances is like gorging yourself until you’re a little too full (but still so happy with what you had) and craving a nap. I’ve learned to complain less about things I am unwilling to change and to be creative when it comes to switching things up respectfully. Setting boundaries is a must. Setting them kindly is too. So help me, I lost my temper more than once in the early morning… But I’ve cooled down (or warmed up) since.
3. Magic. Ooh, there’s magic all around us! It’s easy to feel in Bali but it is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Every day I see things here that warm my heart. I love watching the ancient grandmothers sitting on their front steps with their beautiful grand babies in their arms. I love watching holy men rip around town on their scooters and eat cheesecake with rich ladies in foreigner coffee shops. I love riding home at 3 in the morning only to discover that a giant statue of the devil (complete with outrageously large nipples) has been erected and is “di jual” at the local banjar. The earth has a pulse out here and everyone believes in magic.
4. Fear what? If you are going to ride in Bali, you’re in danger the second you pull out onto the potholed road. We’ve bailed. If you’re walking on the sidewalk, take care not to fall into a giant pit of broken glass and shit and trash. No broken legs yet, though. If you’re renting a kost, welcome your new neighbours - mice, cockroaches, an army of diligent ants and more bugs than the geckos can eat for you. Get scrubbing. It could very well freak you out. It drove us a little crazy sometimes. We decided to rise to the occasion… And we’re super, ridiculously good at cleaning house now too.
5. The root of everything is beauty. That’s the truth. Bali is a lot more than what you get to see in a week or two. It’s a crazy play on opposites that somehow balances perfectly. It’s pristine nature and cramped, littered roads. Rich, deep traditions and overflowing tourist attractions. Elders that can’t even speak Bahasa Indonesia - old school! - and young kids striving to emulate the bules they meet in every way they can afford to. $5000/night villas with infinity pools (plural) and local workers making roughly 50 cents an hour. Temples and graffiti. Clouds of incense and cigarette smoke. It’s all happening and it all feels alright if viewed with the heart.
So there’s little mini-update of what’s been up in Bali. It’s not all sunshine and white sand beaches and, truth be told, I like it that way. Both sides of Bali resonate with me - the grime and the shine. We’re excited for Canada too, though. We’re missing our families and my nephews are growing up faster than I can fathom. I’m feeling a little nesting urge (not babies, just houses) and I’m still loving this adventure. Truth? I’m a traveler for life. I may have a place or two but wandering is in my blood. It’s the soul stretch, people. It’s totally addictive and rewarding in a million and one ways. Time to wake Josh and get this day started. Sending you love from Bali to wherever you are.
Big, big love.
P.S. We’re planning big adventures for these coming months!
“Having only joy is great. Having only fear sucks. But having both … that’s life-defining.” - Leo Babauta
Joyfear… Yes. The minute I read this word, I understood it with my whole heart. All of the greatest and most memorable moments of my life have been drenched with this emotion. My heart beating in my throat as I bought a one-way ticket around the world. My mind thinking a million thoughts a minute as I stood on the brink of each truly life-changing decision. A feeling of terror somehow infused with bliss as I flung myself out of a plane. Lightness, grace and clarity - fear fully intact - as I hurtled toward the earth.
Joyfear makes me feel alive. It shows me that I am brave enough to take a leap of faith, strong enough to keep from collapsing and fiercely, fully present. I can feel it expanding my soul from the inside out. It tastes bitter and sweet. I am chasing joyfear with all that I’ve got. Scouring, searching, jumping in with both feet and a prayer. What shakes your spirit? Makes you smile and ache? Follow it. Hold onto it. Don’t let go. That’s your joyfear.
10 things I am grateful for today:
1. Waking up healthy and warm in a comfortable bed.
2. The delicious bowl of raw organic muesli and soy milk I ate.
3. The fact that I can e-mail any of the people I love whenever I want to.
4. That I get to share every day of my Bali life with one I especially love.
5. The big, beautiful ocean I can float for hours in.
6. The equally epic blue sky and sun shining down on me when I do.
7. Stand. Up. Paddleboarding. The quiet breeze out past the boats and beachgoers.
8. Young green coconuts to drink and so many mangosteens.
9. A daily practice of the Primary Series.
10. Kindred spirits all around the world, sharing the love.
Happy day. Happy moment. Keeping it real by counting a handful of my blessings.
I wake up with a smile on Monday mornings in Bali. It’s not because the work week makes me weak in the knees or because I like highly concentrated traffic as everyone heads back to their responsibilities. It’s because I know that at 9 A.M. local time, my family is sitting down to Sunday dinner at my parent’s place. I imagine my favorite little nephews simultaneously causing a ruckus and everybody’s hearts to overflow. There is likely to be some food flying. I can practically taste the incredibly meal that my beautiful mama has prepared. I’m sure that someone (we all know who) is cracking a filthy joke at one end of the table while a deep conversation is happening on the other. There is laughter, comfort and big love going on.
My mom started cooking Sunday dinners when my brother moved out of the house since she still wanted to see him every once in a while. She knows her food is irresistible. Over the years, the cast of this tradition has varied. Friends, relatives and people who have nowhere else to go have taken turns pulling up a chair. Meanwhile, I traveled the world, moved to different cities and missed almost every Sunday. Yet no matter where I went, that ritual always managed to stay fresh in my mind. I thought of my family eating when I was star-gazing in Moraikobai, Guyana - the tiny little indigenous village I volunteered and lived in on my first real solo adventure. I imagined them as I was drifting off to sleep in Haiti, my mind striving to comprehend that far away from all the rubble and the loss they were enjoying dessert. Sometimes, I even called or Skyped and got to see all of their happy faces. 6 P.M. their time is when I’m sure that most everyone I love beyond words is in one place. It’s so awesome.
Meeting kids around the world in different circumstances, I know that I won the lottery of life when I was born into my family. I’ve known children who had every material possession they could ever want but parents who saw right through them. Others had parents who loved them so deeply that they were willing to send them somewhere safer, somewhere full of possibility so they could have a different life. Some had nothing - no food to eat, no place to sleep, no parents to speak of. Despite this, they shared whatever small concessions happened to come their way. I grew up blessed with it all. I have never felt loved less than unconditionally by my family. I was never starving, abused or close to death. Instead, I had sleepovers in tree forts and collected ladybugs. I read my way into new worlds and sang at the top of my lungs and was cuddled and celebrated just for being. What a gift.
When I let go of all my so-called “realistic thoughts” and imagine a world I am really proud to be a part of, I see all those kids enjoying a slice of the cake I grew up eating. I envision them all having a safe haven, a community and the knowledge that they are loved beyond condition. Food in their bellies and grins on their faces. Not without challenges but always buoyed by hope and the knowledge that they can do, be, change, create anything they can imagine. I want every child on this entire planet to have the same things I wish for my sweet, rambunctious nephews. I want them all to know love so true that fear pales by comparison. I want them to have good people supporting them and creating the space they need to become exactly who they are, too. I want them all to sit down at Sunday dinner, wherever they are, and feel the simple easy joy of being at home.
Today I’m sending all my love to the kids I’ve encountered on my travels and those I’ve yet to meet. It may not be happening right now but my goal is to give you all the gift I have been lucky enough to receive. Some truths are undeniable. That every child deserves love, health and freedom is one such truth. 9 A.M. on a Balinese Monday morning reminds me every time.
With gratitude too huge to be contained,