I Didn’t Realize …

… (or didn’t want to realize) how much I was struggling in my last few days in Lao. I had been feeling so happy with the laidback, easy, relaxed way of moving through my time – the languid days, the bicycling and wandering that was comfortable and so very pleasant for me.

That is, until I arrived on Don Khon Island – and while I’ve already given the funk I was in there plenty of air time, there’s still some processing I need to do about it – and nothing works quite like writing (except maybe a therapy session and well, that’s out of the question at the moment)!

So here’s some more to say about the journey out of there!

It serves me well to remember some of the lessons learned that I can bring forward with me. It took leaving, though, and now, for several days, being in a new country, a new place, and a new pace – to recognize that the funk was really funky. And I’m glad it’s over. And yet, it too is a gift, like everything is!

I also realize now that I didn’t want to pay too much attention to it – I knew I wasn’t feeling so hot, was cranky most of the time and that I didn’t really like it there … and in retrospect those feelings scared me. I’ve traveled before for extended periods of time … and I know well some of the challenges. And without ‘calling them in’, I know they will likely present themselves again this time out. But I didn’t want them this soon and this intensely; and I thought ignoring could help minimize them. It wasn’t to be. There they were and there was more to ride out than I wanted – frustration with lack of being able to communicate, overwhelm with the potent, ever-present and all consuming poverty – yikes, I thought – how will I survive if these things are already penetrating me so deeply? Another lesson learned – there’s simply no avoiding what is so.

But still I was scared. I didn’t want my difficulties there to mean something, to indicate that this kind of traveling is too hard for me. I want to be able to do it and to continue to do it. I want to be able to be way off the ‘normal’ tourist track and be fine. To be more than fine. And I didn’t want to give those difficulties any more attention, in fear that it meant my days of traveling like this were numbered. But like sometimes happens inside my head and my world, I was just over-thinking wayyyyy too much.

Part of what I learned there is that I can’t stay in grungy places anymore. It’s not like I seek them out – I’m a pleasure and comfort queen as much as anyone, maybe more. But generally, I’m also so incredibly adaptable to what is presented to me. And I love that about myself as a traveler. Except there, I wasn’t. And that last place really gave me the creeps. So, it’s decided, no more creepy places!

In my zeal to keep within my finances, I’ve cut a few too many corners, particularly there, although it’s not like I had a choice – nothing else was available! So in the vein of ‘everything is perfect,’ I’ll take the lessons from there and gratefully move forward!

I think Don Khon is example of tourism gone wrong. They are a very, very poor people who’ve been living way on the edge – without electricity, running water and anything else … and then poof, without even knowing how they got there, they’re on the alternative tourism map and every hut they quickly throw up is booked solid every day, as it was when I was there. Being sold out every night doesn’t give one the sense that anything is wrong. And they threw these places up, of course, coming from their life experiences and standards, not to the ones travelers may expect; at least this traveler (maybe the hippie-types think it’s cool, but really, I didn’t). So they couldn’t begin to address the inner entitled American who reared her ugly head – me being cranky about water faucets and shower heads not functioning properly, the fan and overhead light working only intermittently – and their inflated prices that were double of anywhere else I stayed in southern Lao – no, they couldn’t begin to deal with any of that. Nor could I!

It was also the first place I felt taken advantage of in regards to prices. We’re talking Lao standards here, remember; and the fact that they were all charging about $9 night for a creepy, yucky room with only cold water and well, pretty disgusting ambience (there’s a funny word combination, eh?!) just seemed wrong. I hadn’t paid that much anywhere else in Lao and yet had a higher standard everywhere else. I had been particularly spoiled in the place I had just left on Don Khong  — my French colonial villa place, where my room was palatial, spotless and almost half that price. Waaahhhhh-Waaahhhhh-Waaahhhhh!

So, enough said – I was obviously carrying some energy around this and even though I’m posting this way after the experience has already been long processed, I think it’s important to pay attention, to remember and to learn. And to let all of my process out here be seen – to not hide away the challenges and present only the pretty pictures. That’s not life and it’s definitely not life out here.

As Rumi tells us in his wonderful poem,

The Guest House

This being human

is a guest house

Every morning

a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness

comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all

even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture

Still treat each guest honorably

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing

and invite them in

Be grateful for whoever comes

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

So, dear ones, as you are reading through these posts (and thanks for doing so, I love that you are!), I humbly ask that you don’t hope for me to feel better or wish that things were any different for me than exactly how they are. With all due respect, if you feel the need to wish anything for me, let it be that I just feel it all and have the grace to find equanimity throughout the journey. Or don’t – and then I’ll have an opportunity to learn to be with that, too! 🙂

What I know is that my work, my life, my path is all about opening to receive everything exactly as Rumi says, as a gift … the struggles as well as the ease and delights. And if anything, what I ask is your encouragement as I face these and other challenges to come – after all, I hardly need encouragement to delight in the delights – that’s the easy part. But what I’m learning to do, more and more, is to wish that everything turns out exactly as it does – to trust that nothing is bad or wrong and that who knows – what may seem like something I don’t want in the moment is just the ticket to bring me exactly where I need to be!

Written on 2-22-11
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