In 2010, Jessa was teaching in South Korea. Several months before my sixtieth, the phone rang. “Mom, why don’t you meet me in Bali for your birthday?” Bali? My only frame of reference to that word was the movie, South Pacific…here am I your special island, come to me, come to me…
“Can you come?”
I thought it over for about two-and-a-half seconds. Why not? I was in the midst of a bitter divorce, jobless, I had nothing better to do. Why not meet her in…Bali? Where on god’s green earth was Bali?
Bali with Jessa, February 2010
I’d been living on savings. In February I snatched another chunk of change from the dwindling account and left. To go from winter in Minnesota, to resplendent greens, thick humid air, happy people, and sunshine, sunshine, sunshine, does a number. My body loosened. My parched skin plumped, and wrinkles disappeared. I felt years younger.
We were with a Balinese guide making our way through farmlands and jungle. “I show you rice terraces,” he said. I pictured more green paddies of the kind I’d seen everywhere. We rounded a bend on a narrow piece of trail and my breath caught in my throat. The mountains formed a semi-circle around us. Cascading down their slopes were pools of water, each one reflecting the sun, sky, and clouds. It was the most unearthly beautiful sight I’d ever seen. Something settled into my heart that day. I didn’t know what it was then. I do now.
Back in Minnesota, still winter, late February, I hit bottom. After Bali, the cold felt colder and the dark gray of winter seemed endless. I toughed it out with hours of Qigong and Kettle Bells. Qigong stilled my mental spins. Kettle Bells wore me out. It was the perfect combo.
And I wrote. Writing brought peace.
The emotional pain of that time was glorious. I had the sensation of my body being separated from its parts. An arm floated out in front of me. The left side of my face hung off my shoulder and the ground was too close. Every step jarred. I have never been so disconnected from myself. I felt nut-bucket crazy.
But I had one thing going for me. Over the years I had perfected the appearance of sanity. No matter what kind of chaos was churning around or within me, I maintained a placid, controlled, exterior. There was nothing I couldn’t handle. “You’re so calm,” people said, and I’d smile, certain that if I opened my mouth all the bats in the belfry would fly out.
Crazy or not, employment was a necessity. Driving past a strip mall one day, I noticed a banner in the window. TURNSTYLE CONSIGNMENT, COMING SOON. Consignment shopping wasn’t really shopping to me. It was a treasure hunt. I’d spent happy hours buried in the aisles of such haunts. Turnstyle was a familiar chain in the area. They’ll be hiring, I thought, and did a wheelie into the parking lot.
Two months later I was their newest employee, earning $8.16 an hour. As far back as I could remember I had never made so little money and worked so hard. But I loved it. We were all women, most younger than me by at least half, some two-thirds. It felt like family and it was exactly what I needed.
A friend’s spare room had been housing me. Now, gainfully employed, I found a two bedroom apartment in the Kingfield neighborhood near Uptown with an enormous living room. I didn’t need anything that big, but the minute I walked in, it felt right. The built-in buffet, hardwood floors, and adorable kitchen, charmed me. Plus it had a garage, a luxury in that part of town. I had been there about two months when Jessa returned from Korea. She came to my spare bedroom and stayed a year.
Jessa at sunrise – California coast
Teaching in South Korea was life changing for her. While there, she had immersed herself in yoga and was ready to pursue it professionally. The living room in our apartment became her studio. We pushed the furniture against the walls to accommodate yoga mats. Each week people from the neighborhood came to her classes. I was a regular.
The year with Jessa was a happy one. I took writing classes and started working on a novel. I held workshops to teach the writing processes I had created and found that it also worked for others. I enjoyed my job at Turnstyle and I adored having Jessa living with me.
Morning after morning in the kitchen nook, with my steaming coffee and notebook, I took myself into the dark places, the wounded places, the broken places. I was nearing retirement. I felt like I had one last chance for a do-over. This time I had to get it right. There were huge pockets of grief as I came face to face with myself. I gave in to it, allowed it. I knew that the more kindness I afforded myself while I learned these lessons, the more quickly I could move on. I was birthing a new life, and this time it was my own.
Our apartment was a hotbed of change. Jessa’s yoga classes were growing. We needed space. My discovery writing pointed more and more to a simpler way. I’d read a book by Karen Kingston, Clearing Your Clutter with Feng Shui. She advised that in order to make room for the new we have to clean out the old. All of our stuff holds energy from the past. Photographs, furniture, everything. We should be mindful of what we keep.
I looked around me. Much of my furniture had been chosen by someone who was no longer dear to me. From the art, to the rugs, to the china, there was a pretentiousness that had never been my style. Looking at my possessions that day, thinking of the boxes stacked in the storage room in the basement of the apartment complex, feeling the overwhelm of it all, I made a decision.
Craigslist became my new best friend. Stuff flew out the door. I began to imagine freedom. The thought was intoxicating.
And then one morning I knew. I knew what I wanted. All the writing, the revelations, the pain, the uncertainty, had brought me to that moment. I wanted to go back to Bali, but not just for a vacation. What if I could retire there?
Fear kicked in with a vengeance. “You don’t know anybody.” “You’ll be lonely.” “What if you get sick?” “What if you hate it?” By now I knew how to handle those inner voices and simply wrote them out of the way.
I booked my first trip for two months. It was a trial run. I figured even if I hated it I could stand anything for that long. In the Bali Advertiser, a magazine for ex-pats with an online presence, I located a writers’ group with an e-mail contact. I began corresponding with two of the women in the group. Technology also connected me with Dewa at Jati Homestay. I secured a room. He said his driver would meet me at the airport.
As the departure date drew near I was suffused with peace. An underlying excitement existed at all times, but the sense of having fallen in line with something bigger than myself, persisted. I had nosed into the slipstream of divine purpose and was cruising at altitude. It was effortless.
My heart brims full as I write this. The BoHo shirt (Part One) is no longer with me. Come to find out, I prefer less drama in my clothing when my life is full-on incredible. But BoHo ignited a desire, woke me up from a long, slow, sleep.
My reality now defies even my wildest imaginings. When I was gripped with emotion at the rice terraces, I didn’t understand. But, for me, the island is irresistible. I am in love with this place. It supports who I am and who I am becoming. It nurtures my body and reverses the aging process. Its profoundly feminine energy promotes an ever deepening spirituality.
Danielle LaPorte, the creator of The Firestarter Sessions, says, The journey has to feel like the destination. My journey, if anything, has intensified in Bali. The joy of it baffles me, thrills me, fills me with immense gratitude. It is sheer bliss.
If your journey doesn’t fit who you are…
If you’re still waiting to kiss your frog…
Or win the lottery…
Or if you’re in the habit of saying, “Things will get better…”
STOP. Please just stop.
Write a new story.
And if you want help with that, come to Bali! We have a delightful group gathering for the retreat in February. Jessa and I are excited to meet you here on this special island. Come away…come away!
February 21 – 28, 2014 Writing for Self-Discovery and Yoga Retreat
Bali 2010 Jessa and Sherry at Besakih