Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Recently I made an offhanded comment about being an "eccentric outsider" and it generated a few interesting responses. Of course, an astrologer friend says it was inevitable that I would be an outsider. I am a double-Aquarius. :)
I thought it might be interesting to explore how this life is different from so many others. I've come to see it as an identity, a specific personality type, a life path, and we're often misunderstood. Sometimes even despised. Dr Laura would find me appalling! (I think that may be a good thing!) Some see us as a little bit nuts ~ or maybe just plain certifiable. Some may see it as hedonistic (which it is not) and childishly irresponsible. (Hm. Maybe .. a little.) Some can be very judgemental about what they see as a life that is not "productive". (Calvinism be damned!) I see it as an occasionally difficult way of life but for the most part, completely positive.
This quote I remember from Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings sums it up well:
'What you looking at me for? I didn't come to stay.' … Whether I could remember the rest of the poem or not was immaterial. The truth of the statement was like a wadded-up handkerchief, sopping wet in my fists, and the sooner they accepted it, the quicker I could let my hands open and the air would cool my palms."
Like most young kids growing up in the 50s and early 60s, my parents put a lot of effort into trying to make me "fit". They'd try to cram that round peg into a square hole and I'd behave for a while. I'd pretend a lot. I'd pretend the things that mattered to those who surrounded me, mattered to me, too. Eventually, pieces of me would begin falling out the sides and the Potemkin village would collapse. I suspect we outsiders see colors differently and our perspectives are just a bit sharper. There's an additional dimension. We ask "why" a lot.. and not getting a sensible answer, wander away without giving it any further consideration. We don't accept something as fact, simply because it's "always been done that way".
We are willing to look at alternative ways of doing things and are rarely threatened by anyone's unusual ideas. Example: my ex-husband, also an eccentric outsider, was completely open to each of us having our private space in the house and our own bedrooms. I wasn't threatened by his going to visit a female friend for the weekend. He wasn't threatened by my exploring some very personal issues in my own life that involved other people whom he did not know. We explored ideas without emotionalism or defensiveness and had a "whatever works" attitude. C. (my ex) had a simple ethical principle that ruled his life. "As it harm none, do as ye will." When we separated and divorced, it was because it was the logical progression of our relationship. We were done learning whatever there was to learn from each other and it was time to move on.
My friends and I come in and out of each other's lives with a great deal of fluidity. It's not that we are shallow or uncaring. We care a great deal but we just don't feel the need for consistency that some do. No one is offended if one of us will disappear for a while, off to explore some new unknown. When he or she is ready to return, they get a warm, accepting reception. I have female friends with whom I correspond or visit a few times a year. And that's okay. One of us will call a "check in" and the other responds. Just last night, I talked on the phone for a few hours with someone I haven't heard from in a year. It was as though we talked last week.
It is a rather whimsical way to live but I've found that it has increased the depth of my personal relationships. The freedom we give each other "lets the air cool our palms".
There is a downside, however, and I've experienced that in its fullness, too. It's hard to see richness in it during the lonely times when nothing fits and nothing makes sense. There are no guarantees with this way of life, no entitlements, no absolute social support system. Living on the outside is living a life with vast, open spaces with very few landmarks. The condition of my life is my responsibility alone. When I crashed and burned in 1994, there was no one around to help me pick up the pieces. I'd left friends scattered around the country and world. None of them could drop everything and run to Arizona.
It is a life of and about choices and consequences. It's about creating. It is about exploring without iron-clad attachments and having to trust our ability to create again.
I find this knowledge central in my decision to move to Thailand. I am getting older now and my ability to "create" isn't what it once was. It costs more emotionally and energetically to start over than it did ten years ago when I came to northern CA. I'm a bit more tired these days. I want to feel secure. Thailand will be my final move. It is where I will grow old and eventually die. I will, once again, create a new circle of friends, a family of choice. My life will end as its always been, as an "eccentric outsider". I will leave nothing behind but an occasional breeze ~ hopefully a refreshing breeze ~ for the people who have passed through my life. I have built no empires and leave behind no heirs. In the final analysis, I don't think I would have done it any differently. Well, I don't think I could have! In that regard, it is not a choice.
Monday, October 30, 2006
** Note: For the past two days, I am no longer able to upload photos. If the system is ever fixed (not hopeful at this point), I have some more pictures of the Secret Garden from different angles to include.)
Some interesting person sent me an email last night, asking me several questions. He told me nothing about himself but it sounded like an interesting exercise so I've decided to answer them. Since there is nothing burning to be said today, I'll tackle them. Why not?
1. What do you look like? Do you resemble any particular celebrity?
That depends on age. When I was young, I looked just like Patty Duke. Nowadays, I look more like a cross between Patty Duke and a thinner Tyne Daly.
2. Do you have any tattoos?
Yes. I love tattoos but have very few. I have a lotus flower on my back and "Thailand" on my right wrist.
3. What is the best book you have read in the past year?
A Secret Life by Benjamin Weisner. It is the story of a Polish officer Ryshard Kuklinski who spied for the CIA during the Cold War. This wasn't just a good spy story. What I liked about the book is the manner in which it examined the nature of loyalty and presented some new ways of viewing that issue. What is loyalty really ~ and what constitutes real loyalty? Was Kuklinski a traitor because he spied for the US government ~ or was he a patriot? Leaving the politics aside, it is an interesting question. The book is extremely well-written and insightful.
4. Which thinkers have influenced your religious, philosophical and political views?
Religious: There is no particular individual since these things evolve over thousands of years. I would say Christian mysticism, New Age and Buddhism are the elements that construct my religious thinking.
Philosophical: Probably Maurice Merleau-Ponty, along with several other existential thinkers. The common thread seems to be a rejection of dualism.
Political: Most of the radical left thinkers have influenced me, yet I also admire Lee Kwan Yew. (I've often joked that I believe he should be appointed as Minister of Family and Culture in the USA. I'm actually quite socially conservative.) For the most part, I am definitely politically left but not Marxist. My thinking has been influenced by more contemporary writers such as Paul
Robeson, WEB DuBois, Angela Davis, Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky, et. al.
5. Would you rather be all-knowing or all powerful?
Neither. I don't want the responsibility.
Thank you, Mr Anonymous, for the questions. Since you did not say otherwise, I would welcome anyone to steal these questions if they choose for their own blogs. Good questions. Thank you for taking the time to send them to me.
Peace to All,
Posted by thailandchani at 1:08 PM
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Well, I finally got done changing all the clocks in my little space here. The only things that manage themselves seem to be the cell phone and the computer. Everything else required human intervention. Three clocks, a couple of radios, the DVD player, the VCR, the TV in my den and the TV in the bedroom, the coffee maker, the radio, the automatic sprinkler system for the garden, the clock in my car and assorted other gadgets needed my gentle touch to be in synch with the rest of the state.
I don't know why but these changes always mess me up. Perhaps it's being overly routinized which I tend to be. I awoke at 3.00 AM, really 4.00 AM, read a few blogs, had a quick quipfest with a guy in the UK who is apparently on-line most of the time and tried to go back to sleep. As always, I use the radio as a soporific. In the middle of the night there's not a lot going on so I listened to a recovery program and heard the heartwrenching story of a former heroin addict. I finally began to drift off again.
Shanti the Wonder Dog who is as routinized as her owner wanted to be let out and fed at 6.00 AM, really 7.00 AM. I did my duty for God and Dog and tried once again to go back to sleep.
Only to awaken once again as the house came alive. PJ taking a shower, Christina, the young woman who is temporarily staying here, getting up to take care of her kid, V. making coffee... I hear it all. I rarely sleep deeply enough to drown out sound.
So, I finally gave up and got up at 7.00 AM, really 8.00 AM, for good. I'm tired. It will take a few days to adjust to this new schedule. Does anyone else find this custom odd and outdated? Maybe it's just me ~ but I have always preferred Thailand Gal Standard Time which translates directly to "when I bloody well feel like it."
Peace to all,
Posted by thailandchani at 11:14 AM
Saturday, October 28, 2006
These two pictures are part of my "secret garden" on the patio and backyard, taken with the digital camera I bought recently. Heaven only knows if I can learn how to use it!
I've also filled the side of the house with more growing "stuff". Good thing the landlord is rather tolerant of my peculiarities. The most she has commented is that it reminds her of "Children of the Corn." Hm. Somehow, that may not be a compliment. :)
More to come. I wore the batteries down. When V. gets back, perhaps he will show me how to take pictures inside.
Posted by thailandchani at 6:09 PM
Ever since I got sick earlier this week, I have this major "girl" thing going on. You know, feelings out of wack, crying at Hallmark commercials and being very overly sensitive. Last night while reading email, a post came in from a guy who is currently preparing to go back to Thailand. I got unglued. Of course, dignity is very important and he certainly never knew it. Being envious is a disgusting trait and I was feeling it, so maybe a break from too much talk of Thailand is in order. I'm tired of feeling like ET. Somehow, I have to make peace with this.
Bonnie commented that I am being "dangerously open" here and should be more careful. In some respects, I think she may be right. I've edited out some of the more eggregious stuff. There's baring one's soul ~ and baring one's soul. It's important to remember this is all visible on the web. I forget that sometimes. :)
I saw Bonnie last night. We went downtown to a rally where Cindy Sheehan was due to appear. It was very brief, only two hours so we weren't able to meet her personally. The turnout certainly isn't what we expected but it was still nice to spend time among likeminded others. There were also a group of counter-protesters with some rather disgusting signs. I can't begin to imagine why anyone would feel the need to stand on a street corner with signs that say things like "F*** Cindy". Do they honestly believe they are presenting their view in a way that will appeal to others? Perhaps to others with small minds and limited vocabulary but, overall, I'd say they are not serving their side well. They are not upsetting anyone and only making themselves look like idiots.
Bonnie drove me home and we talked a bit about our ballot-counting days. Twice a year, we all get together and count ballots for local union elections. It's a temp job and there is always an interesting collection of retirees, disabled folks, old hippies, young hippies and others present. It's become tradition now for us to get together each August and December, sit at long tables and discuss the issues of the day over a few hundred thousand ballots. It typically lasts two or three days. We have a good time and make a little extra money. It's an odd little community we've formed. Even with six months separation, we all reconnect and the conversation flows as though there hadn't been a break. It's all good.
May all have a peaceful, restorative weekend ~
Posted by thailandchani at 7:28 AM
Friday, October 27, 2006
My thanks to Jen for the phrasing in the title. It fit perfectly for the question I wanted to answer this morning from WordTosser. She asked the following in my comments section:
Did you ever think that maybe...just maybe you aren't running from something...but running to something/place? Maybe you are looking at it from the wrong direction... So you aren't running away from USA... you are running to Thailand. You are running to the future?
Yes and no. It's a little of both. I have a fairly extensive history of running when things get too gnarly or unsatisfying. It probably looks just a bit crazy to post such a thing on a public blog but the day dishonesty becomes an option here, it's time to close shop. Sometimes the honesty won't make me look very good ~ and that needs to be okay.
I've been rather stable since the mid-90s when the tail end of my last run ended up here in Northern California. Prior to that, I've found myself in Washington, Maryland, Colorado, Arizona, southern California and an assortment of other places, all under the guise of "starting a new life".
In AA, they call it "pulling a geographic" and I'd become a master at it. When things ceased to be to my liking, I packed up a few duffel bags and hit the road, always believing life would be much better somewhere else. While I am not of the belief that "life is where you make it" (that's simply not true, in my experience, and rings rather hollow), I do believe that part of our job here is to find a "fit". When values and necessary behavior collide, unhappiness and discontentment take over.
Thailand is home. I already know that. But I also know that unless things are entirely cleaned up here, the ghosts will just follow me there and rattle around in the closet. It's important to be very clear what I am going to ~ and what I am leaving.
In looking at it a bit since reading that comment, I'm getting clear about this and feel "clean" about my decision to move to Thailand.
There are certain things I can live with and things I can't. The values, the way of life, the competition, the produce-and-consume quagmire, the endless struggle for quality of life and other matters not necessary to mention have made it impossible for me to live here and remain okay on any level; physically, spiritually, mentally or emotionally. It doesn't matter whether the struggle is mine or someone else's. I react emotionally the same to both. Something snapped in me in the early 70s when I turned on the evening news to hear a woman having to beg donations to buy her cancer medication. Living in this for me is just as unhealthy as drinking or smoking. It's toxic. What looks like "freedom" to many others looks like prison to me. My entire internal construct is so different that there is no way to make the two work together. Perhaps in that way, it is like a bad marriage. For those who thrive in this, it is exciting, challenging, and invigorating. For someone constructed the way I am, it is battering and bruising. The bad marriage analogy is probably the most appropriate. If I am going to stay well, given that I have created a way of life that works for me, albeit a rather small one, I must remove myself from the situation that continues to batter me.
Thailand is not heaven and it has its problems. I'm very clear on what those problems are. I've spent a number of years investigating them. Can I be there and not be emotionally battered? Yes. There's a simple reason for that.
Thai society is sociocentric. This one is egocentric. Here it is all about working hard for oneself, even at the expense of others. In Thailand, it is about working hard for the group, for the family, for the society. It is about cooperation, not competition. That is a gross oversimplification but is all I am up to at the moment. Beyond that, I don't want to turn this blog into a contest between American and Thai culture. That isn't the point of it.
When my metaphysical teacher in Tucson told me to be aware of running, she was really telling me that I need to reconcile the past in order to have a healthy future. It is a very good point and one I take to heart.
So, Word Tosser, the answer remains "yes and no". Maybe the best way is to not "run", either way. :)
One more thing: I want to thank everyone who leaves comments for me. I may not be able to answer each one because they often lead me down a path of thought. By the time I am done thinking, it's too late. Everyone has moved on to the next topic. Still, I am very grateful for someone taking the time to express a thought, positive or negative. It's not because I am looking for ego gratification. Again, it is the group wisdom. When someone makes me think, leads me to grow a bit, that is always a good thing ~ even when it's hard. So..
Posted by thailandchani at 8:39 AM
Thursday, October 26, 2006
A few nights ago, I was up late. That often happens when I nap in the afternoon. Anyway, I turned on the radio and found Coast to Coast AM which is an all-night program dedicated to the weird and fantastic. That particular night, the host was interviewing Kevin Todeschi, a spokesperson for A.R.E. which is the organization founded by Edgar Cayce.
I admit to having a fascination with psychic phenomena, the spirit world, reincarnation and all those topics that are just far enough over my head to capture a sense of magic. Swimming in the deep end of the pool is not my specialty ~ but I do know when something makes sense and when it doesn't. I'm a "gut truster" and if my gut says it's right, it usually is. My "BS detector" is well-honed.
A lot of the things this guy said made sense. He spoke of things I've read before and generally believed to be true. We make an "agreement" on the Other Side to come to this plane of existence for our soul's development. I do believe there is something "out there" that's bigger than all of us but don't buy into The Big White Guy In The Sky. I'm reluctant to use the word "God" because of the baggage it carries, yet often can't think of anything better. The idea of one final authority in the vast multiverse doesn't connect well. On the other hand, I'm not an atheist. If I had to put a label on my beliefs, it's a smorgasbord, a little of this, a little of that. Buddhism and New Age are probably the closest. Buddhism is my ethical system. New Age is how I define the spirit world. I absolutely believe we live multiple lives.
Given that, I wanted to somehow put my own experience into perspective and the experience of others I know. My friends are an eclectic collection of "misfits", people who do not live mainstream lives. The thread we have in common is that none of us feel "at home" here.
When I do a quick memory scan of my previous experience, that is the thread that connects it all. From the time I was a baby, there was little to "hook" me here. My mother tells a story of trying to please me at Christmas ~ and no matter how much "stuff" she bought for me, I didn't care. That's not to say I wasn't grateful, only that it simply didn't matter. It didn't enthuse me. My brother was the enthusiastic one, the one who bounced out of bed to run downstairs. (Interestingly, my brother is a person who has adapted fully to this culture and way of life ~ and he has thrived.) She would have to coax me. I would reluctantly go down, open stuff, say "thank you" and go back to my own space. Given a choice, I would have stayed in bed all day, read my books and listened to the radio. And I wasn't particularly unhappy. Stuff just didn't matter ~ and still doesn't.
At school, both primary and secondary, the way people related to each other and the social system being promoted by educators seemed foreign. I always had the "you must be kidding" feeling. So I'm supposed to grow up, build an empire, work for some corporation until I'm 65, get married, have a couple of kids and call it good? No, thanks. I wanted to live in a lighthouse on a cliff.
I wanted something deeper, something more meaningful. I wanted connection. Real connection. I wanted to feel roots beneath my feet, going right into the earth. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't create it because my way of thinking was so foreign to those who surrounded me. A life of competition, trying to secure my place in the social marketplace, trying to get more money than someone else just didn't flip my switch. I am a very sensitive person, one who feels things intensely. Even at my age, I still shed a tear or two when I hear "My Heart Will Go On", hold a new puppy or see a friend I've missed. I have a gentle, unassuming manner. After a while, we just come to accept these things! :)
Thus enters that little plot of land we call Thailand. Muang tai.
As soon as I stood on that ground, the world made sense. My feet took root. The air made sense. The people made sense. The customs made sense. The weather made sense. The core values made sense. The religion made sense. The government ~ sidebar: well, there's no such thing as paradise! ~ The government is what it is. The language feels natural coming off my lips. The music grabbed my heart and wouldn't let go. There is a beauty, even when my surroundings weren't particularly beautiful. My soul was at peace. I was "home".
In some respects, knowing makes it harder and harder to remain here. There's no way a bunch of clothes or furniture will soothe that ache. Life has presented me with certain challenges that make it impossible for me to leave at this time. If somehow it became possible to leave today, I would walk out the door and never look back.
So putting that in the framework of reincarnation, could it be that I was there before? Maybe. I don't think so. Maybe I came too early and was meant to get there this time? Hm. Maybe. Not likely. If I was meant to be there right now, I'd be there.
Sometimes the universe has a sense of humor. It could be as simple as someone, somewhere out in the cosmos, made a wrong turn and sent me to the wrong place ~ about ten thousand miles and one left turn?
Truthfully though, this is a soul lesson. Thailand's there. I know I belong there. It is my soul's home. At the same time, I must reconcile my experiences here first. Running away isn't an option. I have to make peace with my life here before I will be free to go there. My metaphysical teacher in Tucson told me once that I must make peace with the desert before the peices will come together for me to move on to a new place. I grew to love the desert, to see the beauty in it, to appreciate it. Then things began to move.
Quite a challenge. Looks like I might have to do some swimming in the deep end of the pool whether I like it or not.
Posted by thailandchani at 7:23 AM
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Well, I still have the creeping crud so it will be another day of pigging out on all forms of media. Right now, I am listening to Armstrong & Getty on the radio and CNN on TV with captions. I'm also reading a lot of my favorite informational blogs.
My brain is back but not functioning fully yet so some strange stories are capturing my attention.
The Houston City Council wants to create new legislation that will regulate the bagginess of baggy pants worn by young men. You know the annoying look I am talking about: the low-riding pants that look impossible for walking and droop so low that we are all exposed to the butt cracks of an assortment of sizes and shapes.
Would it be any better if they were attractive?
On the other hand, I remember how we dressed in the 60s which I'm sure was equally appalling to older people as baggy pants are to us now. We wore our tie-dye t-shirts, fringed leather jackets, boots, granny dresses, dirty jeans (preferably dirty enough to stand up on their own), peasant blouses and anything else we could find with wild, swirling neon pastels. I was certainly among them with the exception of the dirty jeans. That was too far into the abyss for a budding fashionista but all the rest, I wore with relish. When it came time to give up my rose-colored granny glasses and cut my long blonde hair, it traumatized me for life!
I adapted quickly to the fashion of the 70s and if Barbra Streisand wore it in "A Star Is Born", I found it, bought it and wore it, too. If I couldn't find it (remember.. no eBay then :), I made it. She was my fashion shero of the time. I had lots of polyester pants suits with bright-colored blouses, a curly perm to match and could have passed for Barbra if it hadn't been for my short, stocky body build, an obviously British bone structure and lack of money.
We all did the disco thing and thought it would never end. Remember those little gold leaves we wore around our necks? I was one of the last ones on my block....
The 80s came along and it was rather ill-defined fashionwise. Annie Hall did it for most of us and we layered as much as we could. I liked the look but it truly didn't work for a short chick like me. That was meant for tall, lanky Diane Keaton types.
In the 90s, did anyone get dressed? I don't remember. By that time, I was back to Bohemian wear. Lots of ethnic clothing, big clunky jewelry, Birks and colorful socks during the winter. Since I lived in Colorado for a good portion of the 90s, those socks were important! Grunge. Was that 90s?
Now we come to the 2000s. Baggy pants, wrap blouses, jeans, jeans and more jeans. Distressed jeans. Baggy jeans. Tight jeans. Black jeans. Blue jeans. We live in a sea of denim.
Thailand Gal has gone completely Thai. There's nothing particularly noteworthy. If anything, it seems to be going back to the 60s again.
All of this to say ~ while the baggy pants may be annoying, this too shall pass. Let's put legislative power to more important things. Fashion trends change with the wind and, if anything, there is a push now for the skinny leggings. Audrey Hepburn on Gap ads. "The skinny black pant." Needless to say, I will not be buying those. If I wake up as beautiful as Audrey Hepburn one day, I'll consider it ~ as long as I can keep my Hmong needlework tops.
Posted by thailandchani at 9:42 AM
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I hope all will forgive me if I occasionally lapse into discussion of Thailand, Thai people and my admiration of their culture. :)
Especially when I'm sick.
Which leads me to the now-infamous lemongrass soup story. Since I am stuck here, drinking lemongrass tea in my jammies, sick with gawdknowswhatcreepingcrud, the memory comes back. It makes me smile.
A few years ago when I got my yearly bout of bronchitis, I still needed groceries. Life goes on, even when we're hacking and coughing like active volcanoes and every inch moved feels like a mile through quicksand. I threw on some jeans, put on a pair of flip flops, gathered up the dog and began a walk to the Thai store which truly felt like the Bataan Death March.
Finally arriving, out of breath and covered in perspiration, I gathered up a few things to get me through the next few days and went to the checkout. Not being in much of a mood for chit chat, I put the stuff down and stood there, not offering my usual greetings.
Khun Suchin, the mother of the owner of the store, looked up at me and immediately recognized that I was not well.
"What's the matter with our Thailand Girl," she asked.
I looked at her with the eyes of a six-year-old. We all regress to childhood when we're sick, no matter who we are. I looked at her with my watering eyes, stuffy nose, perspiring brow and told her that I had bronchitis. While I hope it didn't sound whiney, no promises!
"You know what to do for? Where is your lemongrass," she asked. Lemongrass? What the hell does that have to do with anything, I wondered. I kept my mouth closed. It was far too much intellectual strain to work out that puzzle. Lemongrass just wasn't on the list of things I needed. At that point, it would just have to wait.
I told her that I would be fine, it would go away soon and I just need rest .. blah blah blah. I really just wanted to go back home. As much as I love that woman, even talking with her felt like too much effort. I had a fever, couldn't talk without coughing. It was just not a day for socializing.
"Come over here," she pointed to the chair where she'd been sitting behind the counter. "Sit down. I will be back in a few minutes."
She didn't ask. She told. And I minded her. Somehow, it seemed natural.
I sat for what seemed like three hours. (It was more like ten minutes.) My feet were cold, my head was hot. Shanti was fidgeting. I wanted to go home and go to bed. The sooner that could happen, the happier I'd be. As much as frugal financial decisions are necessary in my world, I knew it would be a cab home.
Finally, she appeared from a back room with a hot cup of something. I could see the steam and since I couldn't smell anything, it could have been anything from coffee to battery acid. Who knew?
"Drink this," she said, handing the cup to me. I just held it in my hands and looked at her.
"Drink it. It will fix cold."
As I said, my "smeller" was broken.
"What is it?"
"Lemongrass," she said. "We use it for. It will take away fever. Make your chest good. Drink it now."
I did as she said. It tasted rather pleasant, as much as I could taste anything. The fever part was questionable but, either way, it was good and I appreciated it very much.
She left while I finished drinking it. Finally she came back with a covered bowl of it and told me to take it home for later.
"Thank you...." I muttered.
"Yes. Good. Good. That's fine." She was done. Time for Thailand Gal to go home.
This gave me some insight into Thai culture. Thai people aren't inclined to offer empty sympathy. Never once did she pat my hand, say "oh, I'm sorry" or give any indication that my sickness was anything but a practical matter to be dealt with and dispensed. Honestly, I liked it and found it very comforting. Her actions were very loving, even without words or emotional expression. In fact, it may have been more loving because she didn't do those things.
And I swear I felt better. So today, I will drink lemongrass tea and go for a long nap. I'll leave the scientific evidence of the healing properties of lemongrass to others.
Posted by thailandchani at 11:14 AM
Monday, October 23, 2006
Some good news:
Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling has been sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in one of the biggest corporate scandals in U.S. history, AP and Reuters report. I would certainly expect appeals, but from the gist of the article on CNN, those close to the situation say Mr. Skilling getting his sentence reversed is like "a Hail Mary pass with no time left on the clock."
So mote it be!
The UPS guy came around noon. Two fairly large packages were for me. The clothes I ordered earlier in the month are beginning to arrive. I'd forgotten about this bunch. No wonder my cash flow has been so constipated. I'm broke. Some of the clothing is made from hemp. If I get too hungry, maybe I can roll 'em up and smoke 'em.
Seriously though.. it is extraordinarily beautiful! It was made in the northern province by the Hilltribe Hmong people. I was reluctant to buy some of this because it is very distinctive. My other clothing is "Thai Lite". This is "100% Proof" Thai. In looking at it now, I'm glad I have it. It is very well-made and very pretty!
Here are a few examples. I am having some trouble with alignment so hopefully, this isn't too annoying to view. Both of them are warm so will work well during the winter.
Enough of this! Sorry for the crummy layout. For whatever reason, I can not type in that gap. One day, I will learn to do this stuff. Today isn't that day. :) When I went to Target, I found a digital camera for twenty bucks. Once I've learned to use it, I'll be able to share a lot more. If it goes well and I can see well enough to take pictures, I'll get a better one. This camera is good for training ~ not much else!
Leh, it will be okay. It will all be okay ~ as soon as my brain gets back.
It is still on hiatus and should return soon. If anyone out there sees it, please be kind. It may have trouble finding its way home.
Posted by thailandchani at 3:02 PM
Just a quick thought today. I am extremely low-energy which occurs on occasion. It doesn't come from the ether, though. It comes when I spend half the weekend sitting at the computer, eating junk food. Yucky! No more! I'm off the junk food for the forseeable future. (Yeah, until my housemate offers me more of that delicious pumpkin bread!)
V. is gone for the week to go spend time with his girlfriend. He has now been sober for five days. Yay, V.!
Politics is the ongoing dialogue about "how things should be" rather than "how things are." When reality doesn't match some folks' closely-held personal views, they grasp that with which they are comfortable and ignore the conflicting data.
Magicians take advantage of this by creating illusions that appear to be very real while they are actually not. Endless repetition of the illusion serves only to reinforce the view of something being "magic and correct" when it is actually an illusion and false.
Constant repetition of how someone believes "how things should be" instead of "how things are" has the same effect. Rather than admit their closely-held personal views may be wrong, they turn illusion into an alternate, wrong reality.
This seems to be happening a lot these days.
I need a break from US politics. My positions seem to remain basically the same, no matter how much of this stuff I read and watch. Yay, liberals. Boo, neocons. No adoption for Madonna. Yay, Barack Obama! Yes, he should be president. If only it could be. Boo, Iraq. Boo, Iran. Boo, North Korea. Boo, Bush. Boo, Rumsfeld.
Yay, CSI: Miami. Yay, Judging Amy. Yay, taco salad. Yay, Thailand. It's going to be one of those days! I'm going to go over to Target, look at inexpensive digital cameras, buy two beef hot dogs and be back in time for daytime re-runs of Judging Amy. Some days just need to be that way. Even Shanti The Wonder Dog agrees.
Peace to all, and if someone finds my brain, please return it. I miss it.
Posted by thailandchani at 9:42 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Yesterday, I mentioned my rather prodigious stack of books waiting to be read. Some books I am anxious to read and find it difficult to let them sit on the stack for more than a week or two. Others, I know should be read. Someone many years ago told me that "it's always good to know what the enemy is doing."
Last night, I forced myself to finish one of those "know the enemy" books. It was very difficult reading, even with the author's rather captivating writing style. The content however, left me feeling like I was reading a well-written snuff novel.
The book is "The World Is Flat" by Thomas Friedman.
Just for the sake of truth, let's start with Friedman's background:
He is a self-claimed liberal (yeah.. and I "claim" to be young, beautiful and rich) who wrote an article in the NY Times, supporting Madeline Albright's statement that 500,000 Iraqi children had died as a result of economic sanctions but concluded that "we" had decided that "it was worth the cost".
Friedman is eager to authorize the use of US power - including military force - to support this anti-democratic world order. "The hidden hand of the market will never work without the hidden fist ... And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley's technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps."
In Friedman's perverted world, if people are to realize their deepest aspirations - the longing for a better life which comes from their very souls - they must be willing to stare down the barrel of Uncle Sam's gun.
This same guy supported the Iraq war in a NY Times article after 9/11 and then changed his tune in late 2005. Recently, he has also written several articles supporting the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
The message is "flatten the world by force." It is blatant imperialism and hegemony.
At no point in this book does he address the impact on working people throughout the world. People are pawns in this overall scheme to keep the rich very rich and poor poorer. Now it needn't be limited to third and fourth world countries. We can have it all over the world! We can exploit everyone! It is a perverse version of equality, eh? This is so obvious that it nearly made me want to heave. Somehow, the idea that someone would write a book promoting the idea that this is both acceptable and inevitable is beyond my comprehension. It reminds me of those who justify human trafficking by offering the sociopathic, "if we didn't do it, someone else would". Absolutely appalling!
Anyone who has known me for a few seconds knows that I am no friend of Big Business. Guilty as charged. The basic amorality at the root of commerce is something I find repugnant.
Friedman's persistent yapping about technology being at the root of globalization is a clever disguise. I am certainly not an anti-technology Luddite. I have high- speed zippidee doo internet, a few computers, cable TV, a cell phone and a whole assortment of technological gadgets that enlarge my world and make it more convenient. And I am far from wealthy! Like anything else, these are tools. The truth of character is in how we choose to use them. Blindly putting the tag on "technology" is shallow and careless. It hides the real objective of the globalists.
He goes on to tell us that in the future, we must begin to educate our children to understand that they will be competing in a "global marketplace". There is no examination of the human price paid for this, no examination of the ethics or morals of it and no examination of the long range implications. Nothing. Nada. Just "this is inevitable. Accept it and get used to it." How well the new "moral relativism" promoted in education will serve this objective! Wowza palooza!
He used > 500 pages to say what could be summarized in three words: Commerce Uber Alles.
Don't bother with this book. Extend your subscription to "The Economist".
Peace Uber Alles,
Posted by thailandchani at 8:00 AM
Saturday, October 21, 2006
If someone had told me back in my cynical days that we can find adventures everywhere, I would have called 'em crazy and fed 'em grapes!
This morning, I went shopping. That always means lots of walking. Since I'm really bad about exercising in place, the walking is 75% of my exercise. It's not unusual for me to walk five or six miles a day.
Today, my shopping required not only the Thai store but Target. Target is 1.5 miles from my house in the opposite direction from the Thai place and is quite large. A walk or two around the periphery at Target will really provide a fairly good workout. It also, of course, results in impulse purchases. I bought Barack Obama's new book, "The Audacity of Hope" which I can neither afford nor read any time soon since my stack is quite high. Just the same, I saw him interviewed and definitely want to read what he has to say.
But I digress. My store rounds found me in the food section as well, where I bought the last package of all wheat English muffins.
I went to the checkout counter after three walks around the store and got in line behind a woman who was near my age. One person ahead of her was being tended. She looked back, saw the wheat muffins and commented that she likes them very much but hadn't been able to find them for quite a while. Where are they, she asked. I explained that I'd taken the last package and seriously considered just giving them to her. The truth is though that my diet requires them. There are a few health conditions that are improved by all-wheat bread and I don't like sliced. Quickly I had to think this through. Finally, I looked at her and said, "let's split them. You wait for me in front and when I'm done checking out, I will split them with you."
She looked at me and smiled. I wasn't quite sure whether she thought I was nuts or sincere. She probably wondered herself in the immediate sense. You know, it doesn't happen very often but it seemed the perfect solution in my mind.
Finally, she said, "Well, sure. That would be very nice."
We met in front and split the package. As that went on, we got into a conversation about the war, about Bush, about Keith Olbermann, about various domestic issues in the country. We also had quite a little talk about music.
We stood out there for an hour.
I find it amazing how much people truly do enjoy talking with one another. If I had my way, we would all do this more often. Conversation without a goal, without an agenda and with no intention of anything future. Just right here. Right now. I had no intention of pursuing any plans to meet her again. It was just a very nice way to spend some time, hear what others are thinking about, sharing a few of my own thoughts, too, and making a momentary connection that was hopefully pleasant for both of us.
Posted by thailandchani at 11:23 AM
.... for saying what needs to be said and for saying it so much better than I would ever be capable. Give this a listen. He sums up the possible implications of The Military Commissions Act, signed by George Bush, in a concise and clear manner.
Here's the link:
I will have more to write about this afternoon but must begin walking to the store again. I'm out of essentials ~ like curry, rice and, of course, Diet Coke!
May all have a peaceful morning ~
Posted by thailandchani at 7:54 AM
Friday, October 20, 2006
Yesterday when I met my friend Jeannie for lunch, we got into quite a discussion about the 60s, how it affected us, the differences and commonalities and how we both have the feeling we will see something similar in the near future as tensions rise over the war in Iraq.
Still, we wondered, where is the energy? What is going to be the spark that sets it off? Many of us believe we need to get back to the streets, so to speak, and begin showing a commitment to the ending of this war and to improving living conditions for all working people, elderly and poor in this country. That means health care, housing, jobs, protection for pensions (I'm still not convinced Ken Lay is really dead) and take our lives back from the corporatocracy that seems to have taken hold and strangled all efforts toward progressive social change.
We did agree that the music of the time certainly drove us in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. It kept the spark alive.
I decided to spend some time this morning tracking down a few of my old favorites, the music "from the day". Below I have included a list and links to some of my favored old protest songs. They are not all by the original artists because I found some that are better or the originals are not available. At any rate, give them a listen and see if it doesn't bring about some fire in the belly ~ and, no, I certainly don't mean heartburn. :)
Lives in the Balance By Jackson Browne. This song defines the 80s.
Masters of War - Bob Dylan
Where Have All The Flowers Gone - Kingston Trio
Ohio - Neil Young's song about Kent State
I Ain't Marchin Any More - Phil Ochs
Eve of Destruction - Barry Maguire
Feel Like I'm Fixin To Die Rag - Country Joe and the Fish. Who can forget this? "Gimme an F..."
The Times They Are A'Changin - Peter, Paul and Mary with John Sebastian
A Change Is Gonna Come - An excellent version by Vel Omarr
Blowin In The Wind - Sam Cooke (watta voice!)
If I Had A Hammer - Trini Lopez
And finally: Who can forget this one?
Click on it and find out!
Hope you enjoy and that these songs will bring back some good memories. If the songs get a few people off their butts, all the better!
May we all remember what's really important ~
Posted by thailandchani at 9:55 AM
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Here's a snippet of a poem I remembered today while walking. It is a particularly beautiful poem by Emily Dickenson. It is times like this I'm grateful for those teachers in high school who forced us to memorize.
I died for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.
He questioned softly why I failed?
"For beauty," I replied.
"And I for truth, -the two are one;
We brethren are," he said.
And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names.
Today seems to mark the beginning of nearly endless political ads on TV. Since I am in California, it's all about Angelides v. Schwartzenegger, Jerry Brown (remember him?) for Attorney General and his opponent whose name I can't recall plus a variety of statements about the many initiatives and issues being presented to the voters. The commonality in these ads is that not a single one made statements about the beliefs of the candidate in question or what he/she wants to accomplish. They all indicted their opponent with hyperbole, sarcasm, and accusation. Just once, I would like to hear them state their own positions in clear English and let the voters decide that way instead of demonizing the person running against them.
I must admit the entire concept of these horse races seems odd to me but that is an issue for another day.
People who know me can tell you that "Peace" is how I always sign off my emails. That isn't a trite or cutesy phrase, just to make me different, cool or like a 60s throwback. My mother could tell you I've been signing cards and letters that way since I was sixteen years old. I meant it then ~ and I mean it now. It is the highest value, the highest accomplishment we can achieve as a species. Maybe what we should be talking about, instead of having horse races, is how we can learn to cooperate with the other nations of the world and bring it about, once and for all.
I am not a prideful or self-involved person but I'm not going to turn away a compliment, either. Today I had to attend an appointment and decided to call a friend to meet for lunch. The appointment went well and I hurried over to the deli where I anticipated meeting my friend. She was a few minutes late so I got a table and told the attendant that my friend would be arriving, she's tall, heavyset with red hair ~ will you please send her my way? He responded that he would watch for her. With my limited eyesight, I would surely miss her.
A woman sat in the next booth, reading a book. She looked to be my age or perhaps a bit older. She had the look of someone who has lived a hard life, certainly not one who is pampered. She was peacefully enjoying her lunch out. She didn't have a companion. Due to the set up of the restaurant, we were able to see each other. When she looked up and in my direction, I greeted her. Not such a big thing. Really. But, we never know how much someone else might appreciate something so small. I can remember plenty of times when something so simple brightened my day a bit.
My friend came and we began talking, ordering our food and our conversation flowed easily like a river, one topic to another, one memory to another, skipping over rocks and miles and years. The woman next to us got up to leave, looked in our direction and gave her a half-wave and wished her a pleasant afternoon. She stood for a minute and said, "I just want to tell you that you look really cute. You have a good afternoon, too."
For some reason, I so enjoy it when someone tells me I look nice. I am not a physically attractive woman particularly. Sort of okay. I don't mean to insult my parents but I'm very ordinary. My clothes are distinctive and unique. People most often notice that. This is new for me, being willing to "stand out" in any regard. I spent lifetime devoted to being as invisible as humanly possible. It never felt safe to be noticed. Being noticed placed demands on me that I couldn't meet. It feels safe standing out a little bit now. That's new. It's funny how we heal in little ways. The majority of my life, I've been terrified of being noticed. Now it is a positive thing. Who'da thunk it? Life just gets stranger every day!
Today is my brother's 58th birthday. Happy belly button day, Brotherperson. Amazing we survived this long, isn't it? Another for the "who'da thunk it" file.
A note on comments: I want to thank everyone who has left me comments. Your feedback means a lot and often gives me something to new to think about. So... thanks!
May all have a sparkling moment very soon, the kind of brings the sun from behind the clouds.
Posted by thailandchani at 8:00 PM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
So Madonna wants to adopt a little baby from Malawi.
Give me a break!
Perhaps she is competing with Angelina. Perhaps she wants to clean up her image as a self-absorbed, self-centered hedonist. Perhaps she is sincere and really does believe that a child can have a better life with her than with his own father.
Either way, I ain't going for it.
Malawi is one of the most under-developed countries in Southern Africa. It has an extremely high incidence of AIDS. All of these things are certainly relevant to the argument but I have another perspective to present that has nothing to do with that.
If Madonna truly wanted to help this child, knowing he has a living biological father, why doesn't she contribute monthly to the family? Keep them together. Allow the child to grow up in his own culture, surrounded by his own relatives and perhaps even give him a chance at higher education where he will contribute to the well-being of his own country. How can it be in the best interests of this child to be pulled from all he knows, brought to a foreign country with a foreign culture?
It takes a special hubris for citizens of certain countries to believe their way of life is the only one worth living. I don't blame Madonna. She was trained to believe the way she does. She is trained to believe that satisfying her own desires, regardless of the impact on others, is the highest value. If she wants it, she should have it. If she doesn't want it, she should be able to throw it away. There is nothing inconsistent in her actions and her cultural background.
I hope, by all that matters to me, that she will not be able to adopt that child. If she is truly trying to practice nam jie, perhaps she would be willing to commit to a monthly income for the baby and his father for the remainder of their lives.
Now that would impress me.
May we be protected from the strong ~
Posted by thailandchani at 1:40 PM
I was highly influenced by Jack Kerouac and others of that mindset in my late teen years. "Responsibility" as defined in this culture sounded smothering. It was heavily-laden with all sorts of things that reeked of Calvinist oppression. If it meant sitting at some unfulfilling job for 50 years, building my own personal financial empire and, like Babbit, never doing a single thing I wanted to do, I wanted no part of it.
When the 60s came along, we were encouraged to "freak freely" and live in a state of eternal adolescence. Like most things, there were some very good aspects and some darker aspects. We went to the extreme. We threw out the good with the bad and failed to realize there would be a price for that.
The truth reveals itself somewhere in the middle. At my age, I realize the danger in either extreme. Living the culturally-sanctioned life of burden to the economy is something I would not have been able to do. Living in complete freedom ~ which I did ~ is something that only reaffirmed Janis Joplin's words, mentioned before, that "freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose."
Somehow I had to come to terms with these extremes and find a balance ~ one I could live with. By the time I stopped running, it was too late to build the former and was too old to continue the latter.
I had to come up with a working definition of our purpose here within the context of my spiritual beliefs and my practical beliefs, that would ultimately turn out to be most meaningful.
By the time I got to Tucson, the running was pretty much over. I didn't have another run of that nature in me. On the upside, a run like that is invigorating. There is nothing like the open highway, living for the moment, not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Everything is new and we never know where the magic will appear. On the downside, it can be lonely and kind of scary. There are no safety nets on the open road. Finally, there had to be something more to life than just drifting from one place to another, never taking root, never building community and never having connection. I knew it was important to get over my fear of that. My fear was that if I gave even an inch, the world would take a thousand miles.
I couldn't exist within the confines of the socially-sanctioned "American dream". It meant nothing to me. On a soul level, it was hollow. Admittedly, I am terrible at financial stuff and money has never meant much to me. It comes in and goes out. I am able to keep my monthly budget and so on. It's not that I'm without any skills but money has never driven me. It's just a tool. It's nice to have some extra but when I don't, it doesn't bother me. I don't need a queendom. I don't need power over others. Those aspirations never took root. Having a small space to call my own is sufficient. Somehow, I manage to stay fed and clothed and basic needs are met. As much as this might be distasteful to some, I am a legitimately content person. Goals and achievements in this cultural context are basically a score card on life, validating that we are an okay person in the eyes of others. It just doesn't make much sense. I've never been good at keeping score.
So.. that brings us back to that gnarly "responsibility" issue. Am I irresponsible? Are others like me irresponsible? Is that a character flaw?
My conclusion is that it largely depends on definition. My definition of responsibility is more human-centered than market-centered. I believe "responsibility" is being kind to other people, to contribute to the well-being of others within one's abilities, social responsibility and treating all beings with respect. It means to be a good friend, family member, community member, a good advocate for those who can not advocate for themselves and a gentle influence to those who have chosen to share their lives with me. The most important thing is to know our own limitations and offer those things to the world within that framework.
My nomad days are over. I won't be loading up the back of my Geo Metro and disappearing into the ethers again. I'm too old to rebuild the community I've established. There will be one final move. That will be to Thailand. There may be an interim period in Northern Arizona where I will go to help friends. The cost of living is lower and it will be my launch pad.
I don't regret any of the choices I've made. I regret some of the consequences. Some of them weren't the best in the long term. Just the same, the learning and having had the freedom to make those choices was invaluable. None of us would be the same person without having lived the lives we have. The good things and the bad would be an entirely different configuration.
I did achieve one goal I established as a young person though. I will never look back on my life and, like Babbit, say to young people coming up that "I never did a single thing I wanted to do."
May all find contentment ~
Posted by thailandchani at 8:29 AM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
The title is a phrase from a Jack London novel read many years ago called "The Iron Heel" in which London writes about how fascism evolves. There are also many others that address this, including "Friendly Fascism" by Bertram Gross and "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis. I recommend all three, although the Sinclair Lewis book is rather hard to find.
Amazon.com gives the following blurb about "The Iron Heel":
"The Iron Heel" was written in 1908 and remains one of the more prophetic novels of the 20th century. His track record with regards to a national secret police agency, the rise of Fascism, the creation of attractive suburbs for the middle class while the unemployed and menials live in "ghettoes," is markedly better than that of Edward Belleamy's "Looking Backward," Aldoux Huxley's "Brave New World," or George Orwell's "1984," the novels that are usually lauded and judged by their prescience in terms of utopian literature.
Another blogger, Maya's Granny, wrote a very interesting post this morning about the various conditions she sees and it reminded me of the book.
As unpopular as the view may be, I do believe we are coming frighteningly close to seeing fascism in the US. .. if it is not here already.
Laurence Britt wrote an article called "Fascism Anyone?" in which he compares some of the more notorious fascist regimes and came up with 14 commonalities.
1) Powerful and continuing nationalism
2) Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
3) Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause:
4) Supremacy of the Military
5) Rampant Sexism
6) Controlled Mass Media
7) Obsession with National Security
8) Religion and Government are Intertwined
9) Corporate Power is Protected
10) Labor power is suppressed
11) Disdain for intellectuals and the arts
12) Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13) Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14) Fraudulent Elections
I will not elaborate on these. It's far more interesting to know what readers think about it. I just want to present it for discussion and thought. In future entries, I will share some of my own thoughts and experiences in the past that have led me to draw this conclusion.
May we all be free from oppression ~
Posted by thailandchani at 9:30 AM
Monday, October 16, 2006
Last week that I made a call to the Thai Embassy in Washington and received some very good news.
I will not be required to put 38.000USD into a Thai bank to get a retirement visa. All I must do is prove that I have a monthly income of more than $801.00. One who applies must be able to do one or the other - not both.
Here's the only hold-up now. One must be 60 years old.
I ain't there yet.
That will require some thought. Given the fact that there are laws in place to stop visa running, I will have to investigate other possibilities and continue calling the Embassy periodically until I get a very clear plan.
I wanted to mention a good blog entry I ran across this morning in my daily meanderings through cyberspace.
He writes so well on the topic of nam ji. The guy is an amazing writer and brings the things I love so much about Thailand to life!
Today while doing my morning shopping and walking, I met a very nice man at my cell phone provider's store. I was there to buy a new battery since mine will only hold a few hours before going dead. This guy came in and asked the vendor if he would be able to trace a cell phone he'd found in a restaurant. It was one of the new expensive razor phones. The person who lost the phone had already had the SIM card blocked so there was no way to call any of his contacts and report where the phone will be located.
The man had been to a few different places already and hit brick walls. Still, he said, "this is obviously a very expensive phone and I'm sure someone is missing it."
Nam ji in action. It was heartening to see someone willing to go to so much trouble to help another person he doesn't know. He was doing it because it is the right thing to do and he had no interest in praise or thanks.
He needs to be cloned.
If you see the banner along the left side of this blog, you'll notice that I have decided to participate in NaBloPoMo, daily blogging for the month of November. I got the idea from Meno's Blog (see my blog roll) and tracked back to the originator http://www.fussy.org/ where it is being sponsored. If you would like to participate, click on the Fussy link. Now I just hope I can possibly think of something to talk about for 30 days in a row! That should interesting. If nothing else, it will certainly generate some boring posts. Have trouble sleeping? Visit the blog of Thailand Gal! It's a better soporific than pills or booze and you won't have a hangover. :)
Today has been a bit busier than my usual days. It's time for a relaxing evening in front of the TV. Rarely do I watch TV outside of a few favorites but, let's face it, sometimes it is a worthy activity! :) There's just nothing quite so relaxing in the same way as getting passively lost in a story for an hour or two. Let's hear it for escapism!
So, it will be a few hours of Law and Order. Then sleep should come quickly!
May all have a pleasant evening ~
Posted by thailandchani at 5:07 PM
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Can you imagine? On October 15?
It is easy for me to watch this advertising and holiday pattern without getting too involved in all of it. Christmas has never been important to me so I am the dispassionate observer. My family of origin went from many to few when my parents decided to move across the country in the early 50s when I was only 5 or 6 years old. We didn't have the big family gatherings when I was growing up. Did I miss it? Hm. I don't think I knew enough to miss it. I was born with a "mai pen rai" attitude. What is, is. I don't spend a lot of energy, pondering what might have been. It has served me very well, by the way. :)
As the years went by with just the four of us, there was nothing particularly spectacular or memorable about Christmas. It was just another day. My parents weren't the type of people to invite friends to share in it. In many respects, it became utilitarian. My brother and I knew we would get whatever we needed for the next year and my mother would cook a dinner. Seriously, folks. This was not Norman Rockwell. Nor was it Hell House. It was just sort of - anticlimactic.
My ex-husband just wasn't "into it" so we didn't bother with tradition. Each year, our house would be open to the various stragglers and single folks without family who didn't have anywhere to go. We'd have the table filled with various types of food that people would bring or I would cook. To be honest, I enjoyed that far more than any TV-image Christmas. My ex and I knew interesting people; old hippies, eccentrics, spiritual folks, libertarians, socialists, and everything in between. It usually turned out to be a day of interesting discussion without any pressure to conform to external standards. We created what we chose to create.
I spent most of my "between marriage" years as a nomad, going from here to there, living in Colorado, Arizona, Maryland, New York, California and Washington. That kept me from getting too involved with or concerned about Christmas. When I was alone, I'd read all day, go for long walks or occupy myself while everyone else (it seemed) was gathered in family pods.
Now that I am living here in this shared unit, it is the first time I've felt uncomfortable with holidays. Ignoring them has always been okay with me. I see friends all year long. It doesn't bother me that they are unavailable one day a year while they are visiting with their birth families or husbands/wives/kids/grandkids. I feel no need or desire to intrude on that.
The owner of this house has a large family and they swarm around for a day or two. She has a hard time imagining that I am comfortable staying in my own part of the house and invariably tries to draw me in. There are two ways she might do this. She will either want me to come into her part of the house with all her relatives (which is sheer torture for a rather quiet-natured Thailand Gal) or she will bring me a plate filled with food that I do not eat, kind of like I'm the crazy woman in the attic who is "aallllloooonnnne". While I understand she is trying to be kind and accept it as such, it really does feel awkward. Most people can't accept that I am just fine. If I wasn't, I would do something about it.
So.. this year, I might do something about it, just to avoid this awkward time. Maybe I'll go to the beach and spend a few days in Santa Cruz. I love that part of the world. Maybe I'll go to Humboldt County and spend time wandering among the redwoods. When I was younger, I used to get in my car and start driving. I never knew quite where I might end up but it was always turned out well. There would be "adventures". There are a million options available and they don't all have to look the same. There are many reasons why one might be alone on a culturally-laden family holiday. There is certainly no reason to be lonely.
May all be free of loneliness ~
Posted by thailandchani at 8:06 AM
Saturday, October 14, 2006
It's late afternoon here and the weather has been nearly perfect. Not too hot. Not too cold. It was an ideal day for walking. Unseasonably warm without being uncomfortable. I was in flip flops. Since I was headed to an AA meeting, I had to leave the dog home. Needless to say, I got bawled out when I returned. Nothing can yap like a little dog. :)
The meeting brought up many thing. Since I haven't been in years, it seemed new. There were things I liked and things that made me extraordinarily uncomfortable.
One of the good things is that there were very few "drunkalogues", those rambling testimonies of past misdeeds and misfortunes. The talks seemed focused on positive tools used by people to maintain sobriety. Many people talked about meditation, exercise, changing diets, finding healthy outlets for aggression, dealing with depression and practical ideas for coping with cravings. That part was impressive. It was obviously geared to speak to new people who hadn't discovered any methods yet. There was plenty of laughter and a little bit of quipping, despite the rule against talking while someone else has the floor.
In general, most of the people seemed very nice. I noticed very little cliquing or any other social behavior that would alienate newcomers. It was obvious that new people were welcome as I was greeted by so many ~ along with many others.
The things that made me uncomfortable are still in "thinkin' about it" mode. Honestly, I'm not sure how much of it might have made me uncomfortable a few years ago and how much is a result of my "reculturation". That is a Thailand Gal word, entirely made up, to replace "acculturation". I have, in many ways, been experiencing a "reculturation" as I adopt more and more Thai customs into my daily life.
So, that said, the parts that made me uncomfortable are those which included loud noise and chanting. (Yes, it seemed like chanting to me.) It is a rather common reinforcement technique and I'm aware of the application. It still caused me to feel very out-of-place and awkward.
The underlying philosophy in the AA message is very western. Having never been to an AA meeting anywhere else, I don't know how that is adjusted or handled. (Another question for my friends on the Thai forums.) I can tell you that I absolutely did not feel comfortable reciting The Lord's Prayer which is not compatible with my personal religious belief system. It felt very hypocritical and not consistent with my personal ethics. One of the things I've learned over the years is that my actions and my values have to match. I will not participate in that again if I choose to go back.
I didn't care for the clapping each time someone finished speaking. AA is not entertainment to the best of my knowledge. This is also a trend that has taken hold in churches. It just doesn't feel appropriate.
As I walked home, I realized how much I have changed, how these changes within me have taken such deep root. It's almost as though my core is finally finding expression. Things sound differently to me now. My life has indeed changed. Very much. More than I realized.
My world here on a day-to-day basis is very Thai-centered. It is also very quiet and peaceful. Even with V. and D. here, I still have a great deal of solitude and meditation time. Aside from shopping, walking, exercising and occasional get-togethers with friends, I am usually right here at home. I have plenty to occupy me with the garden, caring for my dog, sewing, writing, reading, learning a new language and an assortment of other activities. My friends are very much like me ~ quiet-natured ~ and we are usually content with a picnic basket and time at a nearby park. Occasionally we go elsewhere. Sometimes we will go to a restaurant or community event, but never a loud one. The outside world of commerce, traffic, parties and such are not so much a part of my life anymore. I have a car but rarely drive. You get the picture. My life is a small one. And I'm happy.
It's hard to say whether I will return to any more meetings. Naturally, my background as an activist led me to start thinking about setting up a meeting of likeminded people, those who want a quieter, less frenetic atmosphere. I would like a round table and people would have the freedom to talk as they see fit within reason and there would be no clapping or chanting. There would be no prayers. That may yet come to pass. I just don't know yet.
Luckily, it's not a decision I have to make soon.
May everyone have a wonderful, peaceful, restorative weekend ~
Posted by thailandchani at 3:24 PM
Friday, October 13, 2006
First things first. Here is an awesome ad. This ad is a scream, and it gives me a bit of hope. :) Enjoy ...
I finally have some good news to report on the V. saga. He was seen by professionals today who have diagnosed him and given him medication. We're hoping it will stick this time.
Cindy Sheehan has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Honestly, I believe she is deserving. Regardless of her approach, disliked by some, she has certainly earned it. She has worked tirelessly for years, using any opportunity to campaign for peace. She has a stake in this, having lost her son. I would like to see someone like that, an ordinary person with such a strong commitment to a cause, to get the prize.
In this same vein, I want to pass along one of the most inspirational blogs I've read in a very long time. This is another person who should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize:
Give her a read. She's an awesome worker for peace, employing both activism and a willingness to constantly examine her own thinking. I read her daily and wish I had half her guts.
The government of Thailand apparently sent the following letter to US diplomats:
[Correction:] I misread the message in The Nation magazine. It is in fact a group of university lecturers, government officers and students who planned to submit this letter to the US Embassy, asking the US government to stay out of Thailand's domestic issues.
"We thank the US government for its concern over the situation in Thailand. However, we ask the US government to stop voicing its opinions and actions that are intervening to Thailand's internal politics."
"Please also be respectful to Thai society for we are mature enough to find solutions through the democratic regime under the Monarchy which is different from American Democracy," ...
This weekend I will be doing something I have not done in many years. Tomorrow around noon, I will be going to an AA meeting. Not because my sobriety is at risk (it is not) but I need an outlet to help others. I'll see how I feel sitting through one. My feelings about AA in general are mixed because I believe everyone's path to sobriety is just a little bit different. I'm not big on the "powerless" thing. We all have the power to change our lives with the right amount of determination and commitment. Usually, it takes finding something bigger than ourselves and a larger purpose in life. These are all just my personal opinions and everyone needs to find his or her own way. Just the same, I'll stop by and see if it all "clicks". I do love the fellowship offered by AA. Always have.
I absolutely love mor lam music (old Thai folk music) and ordered another CD this afternoon. (You'd think I have a money tree out back. Usually, it's just a matter of trading one thing for another. Would I rather buy food or mor lam music? Music wins! :) It is called "Molam: Thai Country Groove From Isan". It is at least an hour's worth of mor lam songs; many rare recordings from the 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the tracks were taken from old cassette recordings, but I understand the quality is quite good.
Hope all will have a wonderful weekend ~
Posted by thailandchani at 7:23 PM
Today, I am still a bit battered and bruised from yesterday so I'll be brief. I will be spending the day with John Grisham, finishing his book which is, by the way, very good!
Last night, a friend shared a poem with me and I shared one with him. Now I'd like to share it will all y'all. (That's not Thai for "everyone".) :-)
May all (y'all) have a restful day ~
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love, for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own, without moving to hide it
or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own.
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy
fill you to the tips of your fingers
and toes without cautioning us
to be careful, be realistic,
remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,"Yes."
It doesn't interest me to know where you live,
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what
or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
and if you truly like the company
you keep in the empty moments.
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Posted by thailandchani at 7:39 AM
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
I was asked to post this by a few ex-alkies who correspond with me regularly and who care about the future of this guy, where he goes and how his future will determine itself. I am reluctant because of the personal nature. On the other hand, may it be useful to all of us, especially those of us who have been there, and may it remind us where we came from.
I have been asked to write this letter by **** (intervention counselor) who says that it is important for you to understand the impact you have on those around you.
It is not for me to judge, to chastise, to tell you how you should live your life the way I think is right. It is not my place to lay guilt on you, tell you how destructive your behavior is or to tell you that I have a personal investment in your recovery so you owe me something.
I do not and you do not.
The decisions about your life belong to you and you alone. Others will carry on, life will continue, we will design lives that probably will not include you. It will hurt at first because no one likes to see someone deliberately self-destruct. No one wants to see you fail. No one wants to see you die. We are not heartless. I am not heartless. As much as we all want to see you get well, we know we can not do it for you. Somewhere deep inside of you is the ember that is waiting for ignition by your decision to live.
I can only tell you my experience and perhaps that will wake you up a bit. I lived in the desert of the heart in the past. It is indeed a cold and desolate place. So far, you have been fortunate. You haven't had to go there yet. However, you are well on your way. It doesn't take much, given the fragility and tenuousness of life. After a while, people drift away because they can't take the emotional beating a practicing alcoholic dishes out, day after day. After a while, no one will know if you are dead or alive, sick or well, housed or homeless. No one will know if you are hungry or lonely. No one will know if you have seen a smile or touched a kitten. No one will know. And no one will care.
That is the desert. That is where your choices will lead you. There will be no father waiting to welcome you back like the Prodigal Son. There will only be a vacant lot, empty, devoid of everything you knew and everyone you loved. They will have gone away. By then, the alienation is so complete that you will have to build all over again.
Somewhere inside of me, I don't want to give up hope that you care. I want to believe you care about your life and the life of others. I want to believe you care enough for those who have surrounded you like a security blanket, protected you from yourself and protected you from consequences. I want to believe that somewhere inside of you, this matters. If it doesn't matter to you at all, then I can only conclude that you are either the maddest person I've ever known, or you have no concept of acceptable human behavior - the latter making you a sociopath.
If that is the case, move on. Move on down the road. Keep going. Don't look back. Disappear.
If you do care, give just a little. Own just a little bit of this, just enough to motivate you and allow you to stick with a program. You design your program as you see fit. If you decide to become a beach bum on Belize, I will support you. If you decide on the rat race life, I will support you. If you decide to become a construction worker and build houses, I'll support that, too. Whatever you decide is best for you.
Things can't go on as they are. I can not continue to sit by and watch you torture your mother, torture yourself, destroy other people's lives with your irresponsibility and issue one promise after another, each one as empty as your soul seems to be. I am not willing to sacrifice that much for you.
It's time to make a choice. Let us know what that choice is.
Until that time, may you find peace ~ somewhere else.
Posted by thailandchani at 2:09 PM
Today has been relaxing so far. I took off early this morning for a long walk to get away from the "V. drama" that has taken over once more. (You can't imagine how much better it was around here during the week he was gone.)
Anyway, I am starting to get notices for all the goods I ordered from eBay. One of the sellers I prefer sends everything registered. That means a walk to the post office to pick up the packages. I am usually away or busy when the post person comes so I get "the little yellow slips". Lots of little yellow slips. They trickle in for a few weeks when I order as much as I did several days ago.
So, Shanti and I walked the mile to the post office, then headed to a park further away. I sat on the grass reading while Shanti ran and played in open spaces. (Her leash will allow 30 feet if I release it -- which I did.) After an hour so of that, it was time for the trek home. Of course, there are always dozens of things to distract me so we walked up one street, down another, got some water at a little cafe and finally went into Target to pick up some yogurt and buy two beef hot dogs. No kidding, all. If you go to Target, try the beef hot dogs. They're very good and, at least for me, they fill me up for the rest of the day. Then we came back home. According to my pedometer, I walked over 5 miles, much of it with Shanti in my arms and my bag bulging at my side with so much "stuff". She simply can't walk such distances without huffing and puffing, even when we stop for water and rest. She is very small so it's really not surprising. Next time, I'll get a bigger dog.
It is difficult for me to explain how much being out in the sun is bothersome. Don't get me wrong. I love my long walks but for some reason, my body really reacts poorly to bright sunshine. Filtered sunshine is okay. Shade is okay. Bright sun is deadly. I begin to feel woozy and a bit disoriented. No logical reason. It is just a quirk of my body. It also may be a result of being half-blind. It does affect my balance. At any rate, it is what it is.
Those who like Thailand Gal in full regalia would have loved me this morning. I finally gave in and have begun using an umbrella. If it keeps me from feeling bad in the sun, I'll just do it, even if I do look a bit strange. Good thing I have good friends who think my eccentricities are "cute".
This morning, I bought John Grisham's new book, "The Innocent Man". Ordinarily, I don't care much for Grisham. He's rather forumulaic and I can predict the outcome too soon. This is his first non-fiction book about an innocent man who is convicted of murder and sent to death row. I'll let everyone know how it is in the next day or so.
For now, I'm going to go sit in the garden, listen to some mor lam music and begin reading. I should come up for air in the next day or two. I'll give a V. update for the ex-drunks who want to know in my next entry. I am ignoring him today.
Hope all have a wonderful and peaceful day ~
Posted by thailandchani at 11:27 AM
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Last night, I spent a very pleasant time on the phone with a friend. We got into a discussion about what we wanted to do as kids. We all had some wacky dreams. Some wanted to be doctors or lawyers. Some wanted to be singers or actors. Some wanted to be princesses. My friend wanted to be a famous poet. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were her heros.
I wanted to live in a lighthouse. That was my dream. I imagined a lighthouse on a cliff, somewhere in England or Ireland. It was foggy and the ocean would pound up against the rocks. Funny thing is that I never really gave much thought to people living with me but I had a big dog. I also had cats and an entire wall filled with books.
Told you I was a weird kid!
We then went on to discuss the weird things we believed as kids. My friend believed that when she had chicken pox, she would grow a rooster head. I believed that if you cut a human being in half, it was the same as cutting balogna. You know, we'd be sliced like something at the deli. I also believed I invented peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We both laughed to the point of tears. It was a fun conversation.
For the ex-drunks out there who might be wondering: V. was sober for two weeks. He fell off the wagon last night. Reminds me of the child's rhyme: "Same song, different verse, a little bit louder and a whole lot worse." I know we are never supposed to give up on a suffering alcoholic but he is really trying our resolve. I'm not even bothered to be angry with him this time. While I wish him well, I can no longer participate in his drama. He is a 14-karat a*hole (pardon my language) when he's drinking. He's not abusive or loud but his unreliability and his lying are something I can simply no longer tolerate. There's a fine line between encouraging and enabling. I'm not crossing that line.
May all have joyful memories today ~
Posted by thailandchani at 10:31 AM
Monday, October 09, 2006
My random musings must be ruffling some feathers. Today, I got my first "hate mail", basically saying "Go to Thailand, you anti-American b*tch!"
Obviously, the author didn't give much thought to his/her writing because I have no idea what might have triggered it but I'll address it just the same.
Am I anti-American?
Am I anti-corporatism?
Am I anti-nationalism?
Do I disagree with American foreign policy?
None of that constitutes "anti-Americanism".
Here's my take on it, for what it's worth. Cultures usually develope in any society for the benefit of the power elite. Whether it is the US, North Korea, Thailand or Lower Slobovia. Pick yer poison.
What I see happening is a lot of division which is sanctioned and promoted by the social system itself. Competition, self-advancement above all else, rampant and blind consumerism, materialism and nationalism all serve to keep us at each other's throats, seeing each other as obstacles to overcome instead of fellow human beings to cooperate with each other and with other people of the world.
I see American people and families being driven into the ground by constant financial insecurity and hyper-busy lives because the culture demands that we be "on top". The idea that we should live more human-centered lives takes second place (or tenth or twentieth) to market-centrism. Human beings are valued only if they significantly participate in the economy. That is why so many are fall through the cracks and are left homeless, people dying way too soon because they don't have adequate health care and babies killed in their mother's wombs because they are either an inconvenience or because the usually-poor single mothers can't afford them. The majority of Americans can not afford a university education. Consequently, many people are in mind-numbing jobs that bring no satisfaction or meaning. I see increasing violence because people can only be drained just so dry, pushed only so hard, before they finally explode. I see a people and a culture on the brink of self-destruction. I see a culture with hollowness at its core.
Do I want to see this happen? Absolutely not! Only the innocent will suffer when the house of cards finally tumbles down. Would I like to see some kind of national revival, a turning around of these conditions. Heck, yes!
By nature, I believe Americans are probably the most generous, compassionate people in the world. I hate what I see happening.
I did my time on the front lines. I was politically active throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s. I was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement and participated in many social causes. I supported candidates in elections. I have traveled this country to get involved in and support necessary social movements. On occasion, I still get involved in something. One thing is certain: I still care. I may have burned out on activism but, by damn, I still care!
If that makes me "anti-American", I guess I plead guilty as charged. However, my personal opinion is that the ones who are anti-American are the ones who couldn't care less about the destruction of the American people. That would include greedy and amoral corporations, the military-industrial complex and the "culture warriors" who want to take back everything we fought for in the past.
Since I have chosen to move to Thailand, does that indicate that I care more about Thailand more than here? Nope. Not really. I care about Thailand, sure. It's not a mutually exclusive thing. It is possible to care about all people, not just one or two. My move means I am getting older. I'm tired. My health is not all that good. It is time for me to lay the mantle down and leave it to the younger folks. The younger generation is quite capable of handling it. There is a grassroots activism growing as I type this on college campuses. They'll do a good job. I spend quite a bit of time talking with younger people. They're awesome, powerful, well-spoken, well-educated and are ready to do the work. It's time for me to rest.
May all experience equality, safety and freedom from fear ~
Posted by thailandchani at 6:16 PM