Friday, December 01, 2006

Coming home... going home...

"Anonymous" asked me why I am so drawn to Thai culture, so much so that I have chosen to adopt it here. That really took some thought and even then, there is only a partial explanation. Part of it is experiential and doesn't lend itself to description ~ because it is a feeling.

There are aspects of Thai culture that to a born westerner are obnoxious. The lack of specifics, the disregard of time, the clearing of nostrils in public, squat toilets, trash cans filled with used toilet tissue, the lack of follow-through, (A Thai person will say anything, as long as it works in the moment), elements of kreng jai that feel dishonest and an assortment of other behaviors that really grated on my nerves. And that's not to mention the heat and the bugs.

Still, there was a visceral connection letting me know that somehow, for some reason, I *belonged*. It felt familiar. There is something inherent to the culture that acknowledges and recognizes our humanity. There are rituals and customs that honor the emotional and spiritual dimensions of us that are not present (in my perception) here.

I've never belonged here. Honestly, there is a not a single day when I felt at home, comfortable, accepted or included. I always felt alienated, separate and not embraced. Western culture feels sterile to me, one-dimensional and market-centric. While it gives lip service to family and friends, bonding and shared experience, there is nothing in the culture that actually supports it. It supports all the things necessary to make money, to obtain power and to be better than everyone else. It supports self-esteem over regard for others and it supports individual freedom above the good of all. "Rational self-interest" is a perfectly acceptable cultural edict. I'm sick of focus on the "self". Sick, sick, sick, heartsick of it.

In Thailand, I felt almost instantly "at home". The habits and customs took root rapidly. They just seemed so natural that it was seamless. I was smiling and wai-ing like I'd been at it all my life within a few weeks. My smiles were quite authentic, too, because everything was comfortable. It was like being included for the first time in the cycle and rhythm of life. Even the begging taxi drivers didn't bother me much. It all seemed to be part of the deep, rich tapestry that is Thailand.

When I came back, it felt like being thrown into a pool of freezing water. Being away from Thailand hurt so much that it caused me physical pain. That is when I came up with the rather radical idea of bringing Thailand to me here until I can get there. Some of us are so open, so vulnerable, that we need these rituals and customs to maintain a feeling of connection. I'm probably on the far end of that continuum. While Thailand is in my heart daily ~ all the time ~ I also want the outer manifestations. I want to touch it, smell it, see it, and hear it. That is why I am surrounded by Morlam music. That is why I carry a small amount of Thai soil in a locket necklace which never comes off except when showering. That is why I cook Thai food. That is why I bought all the clothes (which I can ill-afford). Do I miss my jeans and t-shirts? Hell, yes! But my connection to *it* is so important that I willingly give up old ways that didn't serve me or anyone who surrounds me. The name of the country is tattooed on my wrist. You know, I am saying this rather obviously. I'm fully committed.

The customs reach deep to the core of who I am and allow creative expression of who I truly am. By internalizing all of this, I have become a better person because my heart is full. That helps me to contribute to the lives around me in a more meaningful way. By allowing me to express more of me, I have much more to give to others.

And, yes, there are probably some people who think I am a flaming nut. I made a radical decision and radical decisions sometimes have radical consequences. That needs to be okay because if those perceptions limit my ability to be the best person I can be, we all lose.

I will answer this further as things come up of possible interest. :) Thanks for asking, Anon.

Peace to all ~



jen said...

i keep wanting to say this and don't, so here goes...

whatever form your spirit took last time around (or the time before that) was so obviously Thai, and all you are doing is returning your spirit to it's rightful home. it's almost as if you have no choice in the matter. and probably, because you are so in tune, you are able to heed the call better than a lot of us, who allow excess noise to crowd us and keep us stuck.

you are so lovely.

Anvilcloud said...

The variety of people and their thought is amazing. You are a more exotic variety than most.

Sevenwinds said...

If you believe in destiny, then this journey of yours makes perfect sense. All your life, you have been preparing for this move, but didn't really know it until recently. All the skills and experiences you have learned will be yours to give when you move over to Thailand. You appear to be a very talented and beautiful person. Its like the ugly duckling not knowing that she was really a swan, being taught by other ducklings to understand how being ugly can feel. Not to imply that you are ugly in any way, but maybe not the beautiful real person you are destined to be when you move here.

"With great wealth and privilege comes great responsibility" an old saying goes. You will by Thai standards, have both (wealth in knowledge and the privilege of living there without burdens) and they will be eager to learn from you. After you have settled here for a bit, you will find your natural instinct and desire to give back to the people who have welcomed you to their wonderful country. That is what fate is preparing you for now - to take on that responsibility you were destined to have. Enjoy the ride.

liv said...

i really believe that a strong longing or preoccupation presents an opportunity to discover what the universe wants for you, and what you want in it. i love that you are being present to your own needs in each day. your need is clearly of Thailand---my friend and i are fond of saying that someone "is doing it" when they are steadily cranking along in a world that might not whole heartedly support them. so, keep doing it!

Chani said...

Jen, you are right. When I first went there, my spirit was at ease.. perhaps for the first time in my memory. Even with the negative stuff, the things I didn't like about the place, it wasn't an abrasive dislike. It was just "oh, hm. don't care for that much" and then move along to the next thing. I never felt battered or bruised.You know, I never had any trouble with crowds, light or noise in Thailand. I do here. It's an energy thing.

Some friends and I joke that the stork got lost and dropped me in the wrong place... by 10,000 miles or so.. and a left turn. (g)

Much more on all of this of course.. but not for blogger. :)


Anvil, yeahm. I'm kind of on the unusual side. LOL


Sevenwinds, right on all counts. I recognize this. I can't be a swan here. It's not possible. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to know at 30 instead of 55. What a different life! :)


Liv, agreed completely. If we listen, we will know where we're supposed to be.. and I'll definitely keep doing it. :)

Peace, guys. Thank you for reading.


heartinsanfrancisco said...

This was lovely, and made me wish that everyone could find his or her true self and know so clearly where home is. Thailand is your North Star, where you are meant to be.

I am also positive that you have experienced other incarnations there, and that your soul remembers them. I don't think you could feel such a great sense of belonging otherwise.

Meanwhile, in bringing as much of the culture as you can to your present surroundings, you make this time of waiting bearable, and an adventure of its own.

I feel so many touchpoints with your story, and hope to share and compare them with you as time goes by.


Lucia said...

This brought tears to my eyes, and I can only believe that this touched something in me. Right now I feel like I've been thrown into freezing water coming back from Nepal.

Anonymous said...

Chani, thanks for responding to my request! I can totally relate to what you feel, but do you ever wonder, as you have never spent a lot of time over there, that after a few years you might not like it or miss and want to return to the States? I'm not asking that in a negative way at all, but really curious. My heart too is in SE Asia, but at one point I felt like I needed to leave for a bit. Now I want to go back and am pretty confident I will stay. While I adapted a lot of habits and customs and still practice them today, I also feel like I will never be 100% of that place...even though I can feel 90% comfortable. I hope you know what I mean??