Battling the Terrors

My past frightens me. It is a long, arduous trek through unconsciousness. So much of it seems to have happened to someone else. In all fairness, I should have been institutionalized long ago. I should have cracked. But I was lucky. I perfected a serene, composed exterior. No matter what kind of hell was breaking loose just below the surface, it was my secret. No one ever knew, no one but me.

I rarely tell my life story. When I do, people are aghast. Some refuse to believe me. Some are awed. But all listen unaware of their gaping jaws. The things that are easy to reveal, the five marriages and five divorces, are startling enough without getting into the more disturbing details. “You seem so normal,” they say. I smile, serenely, “I am,” I reply.

Trauma remains in the body. No matter how good a person is at coping with life and covering up the scars, trauma lurks in cell memory. It can manifest as depression, panic attacks, or hundreds of other psychological disorders that keep therapists in business. There were times when the roar of terror and hopelessness in my ears threatened to tear me apart. But I have always seen myself as a happy person. Terror and hopelessness are unacceptable to my self-image. Writing became my salvation. I could scream the outrage into poetry or prose, pound it out on the keyboard turning the insanity into something manageable. But ‘manageable’ was merely survival. I needed to believe there was more to life than that.

Then three things happened almost simultaneously. I began doing Qigong meditation. It quieted and focused my mind. I developed a way of writing that took me behind the scenes in my psyche. I learned my truth. And I made yoga a daily practice. Yoga opened my heart. I’ll never forget the moment I first saw myself with compassion. I felt an outpouring of love for the brave soul who had  willed herself through life, raised three daughters, owned businesses, worked so very hard to be perfect while neatly, in quietly civilized fashion, battled the terrors within. I made a commitment that day to her. It was a promise to pursue the joyous journey no matter what. It was an intention let loose in the universe. I had no idea what metaphysical magic I had put in motion.

But any of you who have been following my blog have an inkling of the results of that promise. I have achieved what few are able to in this lifetime, bliss, in giant portions. I live in a place that nurtures and supports my journey. And the terrors? They are being squeezed out. I love the Leonard Cohen lyrics, “there’s a crack, a crack, in everything…that’s how the light gets in…” My tightly held perfection has cracked wide open and light is pouring in. Natural light. Healthy light. And when the little terrors poke their ugly heads out, they’re zapped!

 

Rumah Kita…way better than “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel!”

If you haven’t seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I highly recommend it. That and four other movies helped me pass the 26 hours en-route to paradise. It is one of those heart-grabbing tales that touches truth with humor and sensitivity. The movie evoked tears and laughter, both in abundance.

And now I’m back! I’m living in the house of my dreams,  in the place of my dreams, doing what I love. (Pinch me!) When I first saw these rooms filled with light from the 8′ windows on three sides, my first thought was If I ever have the chance to rent this house I’d take it in a heartbeat. I inquired and my name was added to the bottom of a long list of “hopefuls.”  In early June, about a month after returning to Minnesota, I found out my name had, by some miracle, risen to the top of that list. I could have the house for 4 months starting mid-July but had to decide in 24 hours. Although I pretended to weigh the pros and cons, the decision had been made months earlier when I first walked through the door.

Here is my 10′ x 25′ balcony overlooking treetops and rooftops.

My breakfast is served here, on the balcony, by Ketut, my ‘house helper.’ Just so you can be completely envious, this house comes with staff. There is a house manager and a house helper. Pasek, the manager, takes care of the financial affairs of the property and shops for food and other necessary supplies. Ketut’s job is to take care of me. He prepares and serves my breakfast, cleans daily, and changes the bed and bath linens every three days. He keeps the house filled with fresh flowers…truly filled…and tends the gardens. When I want tea, or coffee, or a blended fruit drink I simply request it and it appears with Ketut, on a tray, along with another fragrant bouquet. I am already spoiled beyond recovery!

The night I arrived it was approaching 2:45 a.m. and I had told them to expect me between 1 and 1:30 a.m. But I no sooner stepped out of the taxi and Ketut was beside me, all smiles, in his grey hoodie sweatshirt. He hoisted my HEAVY suitcase over his shoulder and off we went, winding down the narrow path that leads to Rumah Kita, my beautiful new home. As I turned in at the gate I glanced up. The upstairs shined like a beacon. We walked up the staircase to the private entrance and opened the door. Every light in the house was on, the white tile floors were spotless and glistening. And flowers…the perfume of frangipani and blooms of unknown species wrapped me in fragrance and welcomed me in.

Ketut made sure I was comfortable, told me he would see me in the morning, and left me to unpack. Yes, I’d been up for about 28 hours straight by then, but there is something about unpacking that grounds me. When I finally peeled back the blue quilted comforter on the bed it was approaching 4 a.m. But all I could do was gaze in awe out the windows at shadowy palms and a sky full of stars and laugh and laugh and laugh. I was home.

As promised, Ketut appeared in the garden below about 7:30 (sunrise is 6:30 and the roosters and I were up at the crack of dawn!) “Would you like your breakfast?” he called up to me. My stomach had been rumbling for several hours by then…”Yes! Please!” He flashed a big smile…”What would you like?” Uh oh! I didn’t realize I might have options…”What are my choices?” I asked. Come to find out, I just have to let him know and I can have anything I want. I settled on fruit, omelet, and coffee, took my journal out to the balcony, and within moments breakfast (and more flowers) appeared before me.

I dined in sheer bliss listening to the Bali morning noises that I love. The house is near the river and overlooks banana palms, coconut palms, and a profusion of flowering bushes and trees. Some of the sounds are different from the chorus of the rice paddies that had become so familiar during my last stay. I love them all!

And I am intrigued by what I am beginning to call the ‘bliss factor.’ There have been times when there were one or two aspects of my life that brought me happiness. I learned to focus on those and if you asked, I would have told you that I was happy. There have been times of tremendous stress and pain but still there was happiness.  Here I experience something else. When I step off the plane and feel the warm softness of the air, see the brown faces and white smiles, my heart leaps into my throat. Tears well in my eyes. I feel a blinding shock of joy explode in my heart. It is a sensation I’ve never experienced anywhere else. I can only call it bliss. Some people meditate for years to achieve this altered state. I simply step off the plane.

From the edge of my balcony….Bali night.

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