I hope you enjoy this collection of moments from my life over the last few months. Let me know in the comments which you like most, and why.
The baby elephant can’t keep its feet. He gets up and falls over numerous times, slipping on the muddy floor. His mother uses her large trunk to steady him to get up again each time, and I can almost see the excitement in the baby elephant’s eyes. I know humans have a tendency to anthropomorphize, but this elephant is definitely broadcasting emotions across the park: Interest! Excitement! Curiosity! Safety! Love!
Boxes and webs
What’s it like to keep such a big secret? I asked him. He shrugged, and said he was a private person, and found it easy to compartmentalize. Yes, I said wistfully, you’re good at putting things in boxes. And your thinking is more like a web, he said. With everything connected. Hard to think of anything in isolation. And we agreed that both styles had their pros and cons.
At the bar
I look around the bar, and it’s mainly guys, who are mostly drinking. It’s been a while since I have been in this environment, an environment with which I used to be very familiar. And I’m uncomfortable. I guess the crowd is younger than me, but as I’m not drinking, I feel out of place. The noise and the merriment feels overwhelming. I stay for a while and push myself to chat to a few new people, some of whom are interesting, some of whom are self-absorbed. And when I leave, the night has been fine, but not one I would seek out again too soon.
Travelling in style
I’m driving behind a guy in his 30, who seems to have his Grandma on the back of his motorbike. I would estimate she is in her late 70s or even 80s, with her back bowed over with age. Her hands, one of which is holding a juice box, are care-weathered and her face is lined. The extraordinary thing is not just that she is on the bike at all, but that she is sitting side-saddle, with both legs to one side. And she’s sitting on the bike as if it wasn’t moving. As if she was drinking her juice in her living room, in her favourite chair. It’s balance and a casual grace I don’t even have now, let alone in 50 years’ time.
When you’ve been really ill, really sick – food poisoning lasting three days – the absence of pain on the fourth day is more like a presence than a lack. Like you’ve been filled with health, the poison of the pain that’s been gnawing away at your insides gone, replaced by blessed normality. At least that’s how I feel today, grateful I’ve been lucky enough to get just one bout in the year I’ve been living in Thailand.
After 20 minutes of asking questions, I ask the Monks if they have any questions for us. We end up talking in two pairs. The Cambodian Monk (thin, silent for much of our questioning) talking to me reveals he has studied some psychology. He understands I’m a professional psychologist, but he doesn’t understand the flavour of psychology that I practice. When he finally does, he asks me, with a disarming simplicity and directness, why I wouldn’t want to be a clinical psychologist so I could help people. I stumble in trying to explain my choice of work psychologist, firmly centred in business instead of mental health.
Today it’s exactly one month until I leave Chiang Mai to go back home to the UK for Christmas. A year ago, a month away was impossible to imagine. An incredible luxury. More holiday in one hit than I had taken in over 13 years. And now it seems like nothing, a flash, like no time at all. The moments here pass quickly, my days are busy. I am in flow.
Sleeping on the job
I’m sitting in another café, two Japanese gentlemen at the table next to me. I see them here a lot. There are only two tables outside, and mid afternoon we usually occupy them both. I wonder how the café survives given its lack of customers. It’s pretty mysterious. I have no idea how business works here. Especially as its main employee is quite often asleep.
Kill to cure
I hate feeling ill. This morning my body feels horrid – achy and painful and tender and sore, and I have a headache too. My body and I don’t get along too well – we’re currently working on a more civil relationship, learning to live with each other better. I’ve already been sensible and skipped one activity I wanted to do this morning, and it looks like I’m going to have to disappoint another friend this afternoon too. Sigh. The really tedious thing is that the flare up is because I saw a medical practitioner yesterday who probed and prodded and pushed and pulled and generally knocked me about, all in the name of healing – but “it might get worse before it gets better.” Don’t I know it.
A clear and present danger
I’m at Chiang Mai airport, and go through the security scan. I’m stopped after the screening of my hand luggage, and I open my bag for the person searching. She takes my plug adaptor over to the security x-ray screen and she and the operator compare it to whatever they saw. Nope. She takes my wash bag and goes through it. Nope. Another member of staff comes to help search. I feel a bit uncomfortable as we’re at my PJs now. I’m only going overnight to Singapore, so everything I need, delicates too, are in this bag. She tries something else. Nope. Nope. Nope. Finally the other woman snatches something too quickly for me to see, they turn to compare it to the image on screen and the offending article has been found. An apple. The fruit, not even the computer. It’s not deemed to be dangerous, and I am allowed to continue on my way, slightly bemused, but avec apple.
Sometimes an ache fills my soul, and I find myself longing for something else. But the catch is, I don’t know what that longing is for, so I have no hope of fulfilling it. Because, goal setter that I am, if I knew, even if it was to be an astronaut, or to find a particular deep sea creature, or to discover the origin of humanity, I’d set myself off in that direction. But this directionless sadness – longing, ache, emotional pain, suffering of the spirit – is hard to pin down. And thus hard to actively remove. Luckily, it only happens every now and then, and there’s always dark chocolate and American crime dramas to get me through it.
I look up at the sky, and I can see the sparks of hundreds of orange lanterns floating serenely across the sky. Each one taller than me on the ground, looking up at them scattered across the sky they seem as numerous and tiny as grains of sand. At the main release site to the North of the city, over 10,000 have been let go, each one with hopes, dreams and the weight of secrets in their flames. Tonight they are beautiful, tomorrow they will land in gardens, trees, pavements, building sites and many other places as litter. I hope that I burn as brightly and as beautifully before I’m composted.
I sit there, thinking this would make a perfect vignette. But far too personal, and identifiable. I wonder how Niall and other bloggers like him do it, expose the very raw and intimate details of their lives to public scrutiny. And how they don’t leave a trail of annoyed friends and acquaintances behind them. But then, of course, it’s still a managed flow of information. A choice. But this particular vignette – perfect though it is in the words in my head – will stay there, inside. A reminder that my whole life can’t and shouldn’t be described in tweets, facebook status updates, reddit statements, or even vignettes and blog posts.