Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reflections on one month...

....of writing.

I have some mixed feelings about this past month. By nature, I am not a chatty person. I have no illusions that my life minuteia is of interest to anyone. For this past month, I made the conscious decision to write daily, regardless of how it felt. If it felt bad, good or otherwise, I sat down here at this desk and pounded it out.

Sometimes it was an awesome experience when I'd hear from others and we'd interact. To get positive feedback was very encouraging. Other times, there was a fear of hollering into the great vast nothingness. On a personal level, there was some regret ~ regret at having said one thing or another that may have brought disapproval. It made me aware that I am still far too dependent on the approval of others. While that is not a bad thing intrinsically since we need to care how others perceive us, when it is out of balance it's unhealthy. I've hit that unhealthy space a few times. The way to be a force for good in the world is to put aside the self and that kind of egoism. I have not always done that well. Lesson learning. Not learned. Yet.

Yesterday when I read Sevenwind's post, I went out in the back yard for a smoke. (Yes, I know it's bad for my health. Thank you.) I sat and thought about that. How in the world could my puny, meaningless navel-gazing could be of interest to anyone? There comes a time when it is appropriate to stop imitating Thai values and to live 'em!

And, yes, I needed to be that blunt. Yesterday, Sevenwinds was my teacher ~ and gave me a needed kick in the ass.
That doesn't mean I'll ever be out in the world "making my mark". That isn't my style and I don't want it to be my style. I am a very quiet person, not assertive, and don't plan to become such. At the same time, there are many ways to contribute more to the pool of light we all draw on.

Sometimes it's been a growing experience as I look over what I've written and peices fall into place that didn't quite make sense. In particular, writing about my years in the desert gave me some perspective on how it happened. I was always so afraid of rejection that I just stopped moving at all. I did everything possible to be small and invisible because that was safer than the risk of not being liked. It never ceases to amaze me how much unhealed crap sticks around, never truly healing until it is exposed to the harshness of light.

Sometimes someone would share a snippet of thought that would set me off on a time of reflection, a new book bought, something learned, something to consider that changed my way of viewing the world on a fairly permanent basis. One of the downsides of being a loner and a nomad is that we sometimes don't get as much input from others as we should. We can become insular. For every one of you who have consistently read what I had to say, probably even when it generated nothing more than a bone-crushing yawn, I thank you. I thank you for watching the Chani-paint dry when probably just about anything would have been preferable ... like overnight infomercials.

From here on, I am not going to commit to writing daily. I will write when I have something to say, something that is thoughtful and considerate, something that will contribute to the light in the world. My guess is that a few times a week, maybe more some weeks, will be my pattern. Sometimes every day if I'm on a rip. It's important now for me to make the choice on a daily basis.

This is not a goodbye. It is just a "see you less often". I value all of you and have come to "know" some of you as well as fellow travelers on the Internet can. I enjoy keeping up with you and knowing how you are doing, what you're thinking about, what you're reading and doing. You are all a wonder ~ and such a gift to this eccentric old loner.

So.. I'll see you later. :)

May peace be with you all ~


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Customs and their meanings....

Note: In wandering around the internet this morning, reading the blogs I read each morning, I came across this over at Sevenwinds. It is not often I will do this, but I ask everyone to skip my entry and read Sevenwinds. What I have to say below is pure crap in comparison.


Every now and then, the folks at probably like it when I write something about Thailand. :) I'm hoping that providing some of my background will provide context for the reasons I've made the choices I have, what draws me and what makes Thailand such an important part of my future.

I got into a discussion recently with someone on the Khorat-Farang forum about the differences between here and there ~ and the reasons why the customs I've adopted from there make living here more bearable. It's kind of unfortunate that the discussion went to private email because I still think it would have been a useful forum topic.

As a true child of the 60s, my primary goal in life was to expose and break down all the customs and rituals that seemed phoney and meaningless (which to a person filled with existential angst and lack of direction was just about everything). I was too young and immature to understand that ritual provides us with consistency and meaning. It provides context to a joined experience. Customs and ritual reinforce dominant culture. That's why we are encouraged in every public venue to adopt them. I was too adolescent and silly to understand that customs and ritual are critical to socialization. (I don't mean to go all pedantic here and won't.. but my educational background is in sociology. If I'd been rich and idle, I would have gone for a PhD in Cultural Anthropology.)

Anyway, I was spunky and angry which isn't a useful combination. The icons I 'clasted' weren't replaced with anything so I was a person who just didn't do a damn thing, didn't attach to anything. (That is the obvious genesis of "the desert".) The reckless part is that I knew better. It seemed "rebellious" and, oh so, avante garde. I wanted to be edgy. It was just stupid, ignorant and arrogant. It was honest-to-god private anomie. Instead of "My Private Idaho", it was "My Private Anomie".

It is within that contextual background that I adopted Thai customs. The fact is that they are beginning to have meaning. At first, it was like a training exercise. I did it because it was expected and because that's what I'd chosen. I paid close attention to each one, doing it diligently. If the rule book says I don't eat finger food with my left hand, I won't eat finger food with my left hand. This matters. They didn't have any real meaning in the beginning. "Fake it 'til you make it". I was trying them on, to see how or what they would make me feel. I became my own social experiment.

They do make me feel something.. deeply. They do speak to me. There is something about tapping into that depth of history that causes roots to form and grow, going further and further into my own core. On the surface, some of the customs appear ridiculous. (I'll detail some of them along the way ~ carefully ~ because I don't want to offend any of my Thai friends.) Yet even those have tentacles, weaving from one thing to another until it finally connects to the commonality between all of us. Isn't that all most of us are looking for?

Peace to all~


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

And thus I present a challenge....

Given what I had to tell about "the desert" yesterday, I hope one of the things that became very clear is how easily it can happen. We know someone. She appears fine each day. She's not disliked. She's not unpleasant or troubled. She's kind of quiet-natured and doesn't share much about her private life. You might know her at school ~ at work ~ at the bookstore ~ in the neighborhood, walking her dog. You might have an occasional pleasant conversation and part ways.

She might be in the desert. It happens. It doesn't only happen to people who are distasteful for some reason. It can happen with Everyperson.

I have made peace with my experience but I won't say that those who surrounded me couldn't have made it easier with a tiny amount of effort. During those times, a phone call, an invitation for coffee ~ some minor act of friendship ~ would have meant the world to me. If we'd all been able to step out of ourselves a little bit (me included because I had too much pride to admit how alone I truly was) maybe the time wouldn't have been quite so long ~ or quite so hard.

And thus, I present a challenge:

To all who are willing, I would like to see everyone make a commitment to inviting one such person to your home for the holidays. Allow that person to have a place in your family and with those known to you. Step out of your comfort zone and include someone new. Just one person.

It might just bring someone out of the desert ~ if only for a day.

Peace to all ~


Monday, November 27, 2006

I've been in the desert... and the horse has a name...

28 November 2006 (Thai-bloggers- 28-11-2549)

This one is for Gobody, my blogger pal who is gracious enough to allow me to use his "comments" section as a chat room. :)

You asked about the desert and how I got from there to here.

I should make it clear that I am only half way "here", really. I am not entirely free of the desert yet. I will not be free until I see Thailand through my front window but it is something I process differently. I have grown to respect the cycles of our lives. Tide in/tide out. The fallow times aren't quite so fallow. I also have a clearer understanding of how and why it happened. When it does happen, it might be for a day or two ~ and then it kind of drifts away and things go back to normal. Whenever it comes though, I stand at attention because it means class is in session.

The desert is... complete invisibility. It means no invitations, no phone calls, no birthday cards in the mail, no holiday memories, no dates, no email, no interaction at all with other human beings with the exception of casual, focused conversations that have a goal or objective, usually at my expense. And it's not for lack of trying. It just means you make lots of effort for no return. It means no social support network. It means the possibility of ending up as one of those people who die in their apartment and no one knows it until the rent is due.

It means standing still and taking it when someone comes up and invites others to a gathering, right in front of you as though you are a potted plant.

It means being consistently abandoned and never knowing why.

It means having the feeling deep inside that there is something so intrinsically unacceptable about your very being that no one could possibly have any interest in knowing you. It is complete and utter self-loathing. It is hating who you are at the very core ~ and having no explanation why.

It means you can not depend on anyone, ever, for anything except more disappointment.

It means you just don't matter ~ to anyone.

And it also means that it is not because you are universally disliked or despised.That would be too easy. Living in the desert is like living an enigma wrapped in a puzzle. There are no answers, just feelings. Just desolation. It doesn't mean that you've done anything wrong or there is a cause-effect relationship that you can identify.

It's just.... invisibility.

I lived that way for more than ten years. And there are consequences.

So, fast forward to now ~ I am a reserved person and my friendships are deeply forged and long-lasting. They are not dependent on social conventions. The world is not a friendly or warm place to me but I have a knack for finding the cream of the crop and befriending those people. These days, I honestly believe I have the best friends the world has to offer, both American and Thai.

My first real friend, whom I nicknamed "Sage", is the one who held my hand while I emerged from the cave, shell-shocked and blinded by the light. She is the first person in my life who offered me unconditional love ~ and I do mean unconditional. She stood by me while I learned how to function in the world again and learned that I didn't have to be scared and defensive all the time. She stood by while I learned some very basic things about the social world. Like a mother, she would tell me when to send people cards and when to return phone calls. She guarded me like a Mama Bear, making sure no one could possibly undermine any progress I'd made. She answered all of my questions, no matter how silly, with patience and understanding. To this day, she is my most trusted friend and I will love her until I take my final breath. Even more importantly, I would trust her with my life. She is my family. And she has earned enough karmic merit for ten lifetimes, just for putting up with me. I wasn't always easy. I was angry, defensive, scared and prickly.

Time went along and change began. People took to me a bit more and I made a few more friends. Still, I am very cautious about who I call "friend" because once someone has won that place of trust in my life, they get my whole heart. Those are the people I would tear the shirt off my back for, give my last dime to or walk on coals for. They are the ones I would die for. (Bad sentence but I'm not changing it! :)

The logical question naturally is why I had to walk through the desert.

In my belief, it was karma. It was left-over stuff from a previous life. It was a life not lived well, during which I abused others, took advantage of them, was uncaring, lacked compassion and humanity. Something tells me that I was probably quite a selfish b*tch. In psychological terms, it would be called "sociopath". I was told by a past-life regression hypnotist some of the specifics but I am not going to blog that part of it. It's too private.

One of the primary laws of the cosmos is that actions have consequences. We might escape during this life, but we will not escape the consequences forever. There are certain lessons each soul must learn to go forward. The desert is a crash course. When I came to realize that, my final years in the desert took on a different turn. It became a time of intense learning and self-reflection. It became the time when I would grow leaps and bounds within a matter of weeks.

Some good things came out of the desert of the soul. I am easily able to love others unconditionally. I am very compassionate and empathetic, probably too much so. Judgement of others is something that totally escapes me. It doesn't even make sense to judge another person. It's not a moral issue, it is an intellectual one. My brain will not process judgement, racism or hatred. My needs are fairly minimal and I don't demand from others. In fact, I request nothing more than compassion, honesty and integrity. I offer nothing more than compassion, honesty and integrity.

I don't feel bound by social convention, aside from the conventions I have voluntarily adopted. If I don't like Christmas, I ignore it and don't feel at all odd about it. I do not issue guilt trips. I do not manipulate. Nor do I accept either of those. I'm a simple person. WYSIWYG.

There are some leftover remnants which I'm sure will heal as my life continues. The time in the desert was very traumatizing and I still feel bruising. I am not socially at ease and I'm hypersensitive to rejection. I will grow out of those eventually. Heck, I've only been in the daylight for twelve years. There is still much growing to be done, a lot of learning to be done. I'm looking forward to the process.

Peace to all~



Removed by author. Clearly another dud. LOL

I don't think I am really all that great at this daily writing business.

See you all soon :)

May peace be with you all...


Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tattoos ...

This morning, we had a rather interesting discussion about tattoos. PJ, V.'s girlfriend, thinks it is time for her to get one. It does seem to be a right of passage of some sort, although I'm not sure why. :)

What to choose? That was her biggest concern. Since it would be with her for a lifetime, it nneds to be relevant and have some meaning in her life, right?

When I chose mine, the most important thing is that it represents something I am committed to for the rest of my life. It had to really matter. That means no names of former boyfriends or ex-husbands. I wanted something that was pretty but meaningful. No cartoon characters. Nothing that seemed outrageously funny at the moment but would wear thin after 300 showers or so. I didn't want anything trendy. I was sober when I got them.

I chose a lotus flower because it represents the unfolding of the process of life itself, the learning, growing, changing and finally maturing and dying. At the same time, it is just plain beautiful.

On my wrist, I have the name "Thailand". The reason for that is probably rather obvious. At the same time, it is unique. The guy who did it was creative and clever. I'm happy with it. It is also placed right near my hand where I can cover it up with a cuff bracelet if that is necessary for some reason.

Both of those things represent lifetime commitments, the things that are at the core of who I am. They are unchanging.

Any thoughts out there? What should PJ consider before choosing a tattoo? What would you consider? Do you already have some? What does it mean to you?



Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marriage... Nerd Style

A friend of mine has a daughter who is getting married. Occasionally I get a phone call from her. She talks and talks and talks about wedding preparations. It exhausts me, just listening to her!

I don't see why people don't get married the way my ex and I did, standing on the beach at Santa Cruz with a minister we'd found in the alternative newspaper.

My brother talked me into placing an ad in that very same alternative newspaper called "The Metro" to meet a boyfriend. He told me that if I didn't hurry up and get married, I'd never find someone because I was "getting too damn old." I got some interesting responses but one stood out in particular. It was typed, extremely well-written and self-descriptive in a way that actually told me something about the writer. He was a free-thinker, very politically involved, worked on computers and had written his own programming language. I remember being impressed with that last part.

Most of them were the equivalent of "yeah.. uh... I'm like uh six feet tall and uh dunno how much I weigh either. I got blue eyes and black hair. I like sex a lot. Call me."

I threw them in the trash right away.

I called the guy who typed his response and used an entire two pages to tell me about himself.

Three months later, I married him.

We made the decision to get married one evening as we sat in his house, watching a memory test on one of his many computers. The dots traveled across the screen, went to the next line, traveled across the screen again, and repeated that pattern some ungodly number of times. He looked over at me and said, "let's get married."

I said, "okay."

I was 34. He was 43.

The next day he bought me a CB radio and installed it in my car so that we could communicate when we'd be driving around the Bay Area, usually going to one temp job or another. He worked in Sunnyvale. I had a contract in Santa Clara. We would make up weird conversations to entertain any possible listeners. (If we did something like that these days, we would end up with the FBI or Homeland Security at the door.)

"Get the dead drop before the eagle lands."

The following weekend, we looked through the Metro and found a guy who had a license and could marry us. He charged forty dollars. C. wore his jeans and t-shirt. I wore a bohemian gauze skirt and a peasant top. He wore boots. I was barefoot.

We stood at the shore, close enough to the water that it touched my feet a few times. The minister went through some sort of ritual and we went along, repeating what we were told to say. A few times we looked at each other and I'd swear we both had the same thought: who is this person? I barely know you!

We were finished and went back home to our cozy little house in downtown Santa Cruz. We sat on the same couch looking at each other. I'm not sure which one of us felt more awkward.

TG: "Well, I think this is the part where we....."

CC: "Yeah. That's what people do, I hear."

TG : "Then I want to do something different."

CC: "Okay. What?"

TG: "Let's do it on the lawn in the back yard."

CC: "It's cold out there."

TG: "We'll warm up."

CC: "True. Okay. Let's go. Bring a blanket."

That was our exciting wedding night. We came back in and read our books.

It doesn't have to be dramatic or stressful! :)

Peace all ~


Friday, November 24, 2006

The nature in us....

The picture above is the crepe myrtle tree I planted a few years ago in the back yard. It is ready to go into a long rest for the winter. Even in California, the trees eventually shed their leaves, reduce themselves to the minimum to store their energy.

And I seem to be going into hibernation as well. Last night, I fell into bed at 9.00 PM to watch CSI. I fell asleep almost immediately and didn't get up for 11 hours. It's this kind of thing that reminds me that we're all still a bunch of mammals, like the rest of the mammals, and the patterns of light do affect our sleeping and waking.

However, this is one I hope to conquer. Ordinarily, I like to get up and have my exercising done before the world comes alive. The ideal time for my walk is about 6.30 AM or so. That hasn't been so for past week or so as this recent pattern has taken hold. I hope this will stop before hibernating is combined with "storing fat". :)

One thing I wanted to talk about a bit today is in response to a commenter I had during the night on an older post. He/She said:

Anonymous said...
Hi,just stumbled across your thai blog searching the web for a blog niche myself.I live in Thailand for almost 16 years now and I wish to inform you that this "thailand" we wish to 'escape' to is only to be found within ourselves!Once I was a great fan of india and i had been given the nickname 'the indian'because everything was indian in my home,i cooked indian food, played indian music, read indian philosophy, learned to play the sitar.I went frequently on trips to this fabulous country.One day a close friend of mine asked me when I be going back to india and I answered: "not too soon, i guess.."Why? He replied... And I said: "guess india is everwhere, once you've arrived!"my peace and wisdom be with us all!

I would like to respectfully disagree. Environment matters. Feelings of belonging and a sense of shared values are important for human development. We are not self-contained units who are unaffected by each other. We are social beings. In the same way all mammals hibernate in winter, we need each other. This is limbic survival stuff. While some of us may be less inclined to socialize in an organized manner (such as this INFJ), we still want to know we are surrounded by "the pack" to keep us safe. We need comraderie. We need to feel a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves as individuals. Individualistic, "me first" thinking truly leads nowhere and is at odds with the very nature of us.

I would further comment to the writer that India and Thailand do share many common values. The social structures are not substantially different. India is becoming westernized (colonized? - I'll refrain from comment there :) more rapidly than Thailand but the root values that hold the society together are still evident.

However, Anonymous, I do agree with your final comment. May peace and wisdom be with us all. :)



Thursday, November 23, 2006

Shameless filler post...

Yes, this is a shameless filler post. I don't believe anyone is going to sit here and listen to all this music. It's just something I created last night during a rather boring episode of "CSI: NY". If you'd like to click on a few and listen, great! If not, that's okay, too. Drop by tomorrow and I will do my best to be a bit more interesting! (laughing)


Just for the sheer heck of it, I thought I'd come up with some interesting music. Music has always been a big part of my life and in some ways, it spoke for me when I couldn't speak. Some people can write poetry. I can not. So I listen to the lyrics of songs instead.

These two videos are Mor Lam music which is Thai country music. To me, it is soulful and there is something that grabs me deep inside, something way at the roots. For those who don't care for Asian music, it will just sound like noise. :) - Mor Lam -Mor Lam - Christie Gibson (a white woman sings Mor Lam. The video quality is terrible but her voice with that music is kind of interesting.)

When I was a kid and very shut down emotionally, I used to listen to the radio for hours, often hearing songs that would say what I wish I could have said.

Songs that tell my story as a young person: - At Seventeen - Janis Ian - Because of You - Kelly Clarkson


Everyone needs a good break-up song. - The Dance - Garth Brooks

Unless you're really pissed off, in which case this is the one: - You Oughta Know - Alanis Morissette


I like these for singing along. (Of course I wait until my housemates aren't home. Otherwise, they'd probably turn the hose on me.) - Be Without You- Mary J Blige - The Line - Lisa Stansfield


I can't exercise without music. These are two of my favorites: - Hips Don't Lie - Shakira - Love Is A Battlefield - Pat Benetar


Finally... the two cheesiest songs ever written. Someone should go to prison for these. - You LIght Up My Life - Bianca Ryan - Do I Make You Proud? - Taylor Hicks

Peace to all ~ and may all who celebrate have a great holiday!


Wednesday, November 22, 2006


For those who may have difficulty reading my chicken-scratching:

My gratitude is primarily for the process of life itself ~ the ability to learn, to grow, to change and to choose again when I've chosen incorrectly. I'm grateful to be sober and sane ~ and for the clarity to make better choices.

And I am grateful to all of you, my cyber community, for being an integral part of that.

May all have a wonder-filled Thanksgiving.

Peace to all ~

Chani (Thailand Gal)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rudeness and Manners....

The Today show has a feature this week called "Rudeness in America". It is rather interesting.

What's most interesting are the various things others consider "rude". Michael Richards with his racist outburst at a comedy club in LA, people giving each other "the finger" with little provocation beyond causing minor inconvenience, yapping on cell phones with abandon regardless of the environment and an assortment of self-centered, arrogant behaviors that litter the public landscape. Obviously those things are rude.

In general, I have delicate manners and don't get angry very easily. When angry, I don't express it aggressively. It's more productive to remove myself from a situation. But for the most part, I enjoy manners. "Please", "thank you", "you're welcome", "I hope you have a pleasant day" and opening doors for others is something that brings me pleasure. Making someone smile makes me smile. There is something very pleasurable in watching how others react to a simple kindness.

Not that I am an angel. I have a temper. There are times in the past when I have used the international gesture of ill-will but it is commonly at disgusting displays of childish behavior or directed to someone who is being disagreeable to an abusive extent. I have also been known to be marginally rude to call center representatives. My patience level isn't what it should be when it comes to people who don't pay attention and don't have the will for simple, logical problem-solving. Being aware of the weakness, I try to avoid doing business on the phone when stressed. I will report some improvement since having chosen to make a conscious effort to be nicer to people on the phone. Mindfulness. It's all about mindfulness.

In watching the "Today" series, it seems that most people get angry about things that make them feel invisible, things that put them on the defensive and things that don't offer a sufficient acknowledgement of their individuality. In other words, it is all about ego. Rudeness is defined by it. How many people get angry or intervene when they see an Other being mistreated?

One of the hallmarks of Thai culture is saving face. To "lose it" in public is considered a gross social gaff. When one gets openly angry, he or she loses all credibility. Anger is something to be handled privately, perhaps discussed with a good friend (in a civil manner) or dispensed through physical activity. These are the coping mechanisms I've chosen for dealing with my anger.

Most anger isn't worth the energy we expend on it. It is a waste of perfectly good passion that could be directed elsewhere. The things that make me really angry? People who use their kids for punching bags. People who throw their kids in dumpsters because they can't afford to raise them. People who scam elders. People who use deception on vulnerable others to gain something for themselves ~ whether it is materially, physically or emotionally. People who are indifferent to everything in the universe other than their own small circles. That's stuff worth getting pissed off about.

Someone talking loudly on their cell phone? Someone cutting in front of a line? Someone not responding in some exact manner that my fragile ego demands? Not worth it. It's transitory and in a week forgotten. Is it really worth the possibility of hurting someone else? Is it worth it to feed into the general pool of ill-will? "Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law."



Monday, November 20, 2006

Weaving and Third World Coutiere (thanks, Mom) :)

Today is a "slow day", one of those that creeps along and I creep along with it. Although there are things I need to get done (and this is the perfect week to do it since half the country is on vacation somewhere), I don't feel any need to do anything but sit here. So far, I've watched two episodes of "Judging Amy" and that's probably going to be the highest intellectual challenge to be met.

Maybe it's the cloudy day. Maybe it's the fact that I only got five hours of sleep last night. Perhaps the CIA needs to reset the implant in my brain. (Just kidding. Just kidding!)

Anyway, I had an email asking me about Thai ankle bracelets. Since I have mentioned them a few times, this would be an easy, non-challenging question to answer.

I'm not sure of the history of them ~ or how the village women came to wear them. One day, perhaps someone will explain that. There was something in a book... something about protecting their ankles from small animals and snakes that might be out in the hills. There was something very appealing about them to me, regardless of the origin. There's something sturdy and strong, something ancient, something filled with history and stories and identity.

So the time came to track them down and buy some. It wasn't easy.

Finally back here, I found them on a website. That was one check I couldn't write fast enough to buy eight of them.

Naturally, I thought they might look absurd.. and I waited.. and waited and finally they appeared in my mailbox.

Immediately, I tried them on. Four on each ankle. They felt rather strange, kind of restrictive. They also felt electric. I knew I was tapping into something I couldn't quite identify. Roots. Very deep roots. They're snug. I can feel them. Even as I sit here typing, I am aware of them. They make the rather annoying habit of sitting on my heels impossible. They also make it impossible for me to tuck one leg under the other when sitting down in a straight back chair which is something I do regularly without thinking. There are a few times I nearly hit the ceiling from the pain.

Surprisingly, I get compliments ~ even though it is certainly not something you'd ordinarily see on women wandering around these parts. Part of what lets me know something is "right" here is that no one looks at me like I'm a nut. No one reacts negatively.

And I like being different. Obviously.

It's time to learn how to weave. It is another old practice, one that makes me think of women gathered around in a circle, weaving, creating and telling the stories of their lives and their ancestors. It is how wisdom was passed along.

Throughout the ages, women have done this in all cultures. Quilts, blankets, clothes and household necessities were created by women in circles, working with their hands.

Eventually, I will find someone to teach me the craft. I will order the supplies from Thailand and begin to create.

I'm not a creative person in any visual art. I can spin words ~ but spinning thread is another issue. It will be interesting to see if it is something I can master, something that will come naturally.

At least it's something new ~ something I will need to know for the future. Once I'm "home", I will be sending beautiful, woven clothes, blankets and household items to friends and relatives here.

Peace to all~



Sunday, November 19, 2006

Body image... Women's Beauty (edited)

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Fred Blow []
>Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2006 1:30 PM
>Subject: RE: for your viewing pleasure....
>Hello C
>Are you about? Its 10.30 am saturday, I have the day to myself. no
>committments Im thinking of going for a ride, want to come for lunch?
>well maybe if you describe yourself first, since you dont have a pic?

This is an actual email I received yesterday. Of course, I've altered the name and email addresses.

This guy got my address from a Craigslist ad I'd posted, looking for other Thaiphiles. I got a note from "Fred", telling me that he was looking for an Asian woman. I wrote back, explaining that I am not Asian but I certainly wish him luck in finding what he wants. (And, yes, I meant it. :) He wrote back anyway and we continued shooting the breeze back and forth, chatting about Thailand and moving. We talked a lot about Asian values.

The reason I copied this email here is to make a point. Here is a man I was having a friendly discussion with ~ no romantic intent ~ just casual conversation. He lives in Sacramento and it seemed we had some interests in common and could possibly be friends. That would be nice and who turns away a friend? I like making new friends.

However, his email was very insulting. While I handled it with humor ~ the truth is that any possibility of friendship has gone out the window. I felt objectified and commoditized. How many times as women have we felt exactly that? The standards we are expected to meet are unrealistic. They are also juvenilizing. Isn't it interesting that we are supposed to look like little girls to be appealing? (Yes, I know that's an incendiary statement - but think about it before entirely dismissing it.) We are supposed to look defenseless, shapeless and weak.

The truth of the matter is that I am not bad-looking especially. Nor am I good-looking. Just ordinary, bohemian, no make-up ~ the proverbial old hippie. I'm on the short side, kind of stocky... artistic looking. I wear ethnic clothes and jewelry and have never met a pair of closed-toed shoes I can stand. There are no sets of panty hose in my dresser. It's been birkies and bare legs since the 70s! One thing is certain though. I don't look weak.. or childlike.. or defenseless. Appearance has just never been a priority to me. There are too many interesting things to do and think about.

I would like to talk about these unrealistic standards women are expected to live up to in this culture and ask why we continue to do it. It is a choice. While I'm the farthest thing you'll ever find from a radical feminist, some of their points are valid. It's hard to imagine the twenty years of consciousness raising that was done, women who spent time on the front lines winning some respect for us and yet we continue to do this to ourselves. We continue to accept it as "just how it is" and carry on. Status quo.

Just recently, a young woman died because she wanted to be "thin". Her aspiration was to be a model. She starved herself to death. She died at 87 pounds. There is something wrong with that. And I'm not going to blame the victim. She was doing exactly what she was taught to do. She was taught to disappear, get smaller and smaller until she simply no longer exists.

Body size is the new socially-sanctioned prejudice. When I started Weight Watchers to lose weight, I felt compelled to defend it. "I'm doing this because I care about my health, not because I give a flying fig about what others think of my body. I just don't want to have health problems in the future."

As the pounds came off, I was treated differently. Suddenly, I wasn't invisible any more. Men flirted with me. Since I at least marginally fit the preferred profile, I was once again allowed admittance into the ranks of acceptable humanity. I've seen both sides.

Women spend thousands of dollars on *junk* to paint their faces. Why? There's nothing wrong with women's faces. We are beautiful, just as we are! I love women's faces, ones that show character and experience, laugh lines around the eyes and mouth. Wrinkles that come on the brow from spending endless hours worrying about the people they love and tending the hearth. Their faces tell a story. It's one we need to hear.

Peace to all ~


Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Tree In Khon Kaen

When I was a kid, I remember my mother telling me the story of how she began to feel connected to the earth, how she began to feel a part of a greater scheme of things. It was the day she found her roots.

Her father died when she was only seven years old. He was blind and my mother was the youngest of eight children. He never saw what she looked like but she was the light in his life. He nicknamed his baby Helene "Sunshine". His death broke her heart. While I can't presume to speak for her, I would guess that is the first time she ever experienced that snap, the one that means the cord is broken and we no longer feel safe and secure in the world.

She told me of one day when she went out to the garden as an eight year old child to play, dug her feet into the ground and felt connected once again. The disconnection she felt after her father's death was healed by the simple act of having her feet buried in the earth's dirt.

One day in Khon Kaen, I went for a walk alone. The trail was a beautiful place with rich green bushes and some of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen in my life. It was cloudy that day, humid and hot. I sat down to drink some water.

Eventually Mom grew up and she was indeed beautiful. She loved horses and green hills and movie stars. Tall and thin with big blue eyes, she looked like Audrey Hepburn. But she was never anyone's "sunshine" again. She married a good, solid practical man who would take care of her and any children they might produce. He wasn't exciting ~ but he was trustworthy.

My mother, her husband and her two children moved from New York in 1957. We left behind all of our extended family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and lifelong friends of my parents. My father decided that living in another part of the country would be better financially and my mother hated the snow. She dreamed of the palm trees and the bright lights of Los Angeles. Every young girl with working class parents in those days dreamed of being discovered in a soda shop, just like Lana Turner.

They packed up a trailer with their few possessions and headed out on the road. Our life was never the same. With only the four of us, most traditions or rituals of the larger family were gone. It was cold and sterile, perfunctory, performed out of habit rather than desire. Neither of my parents were expressive people. It was all about the practical resolution of daily problems. I don't remember the fun.

The clouds began to thicken and I walked to a tree for shelter. I knew one of those famous deluges would be coming. It can be sunny and bright in Thailand one minute. Ten minutes later, it's raining madly. Ten minutes later yet again, it will be sunny and bright.

I wanted to feel connected, too. Like my mother. I tried her idea every so often when I was a kid. At the beach, in the back yard, in parks ~ like a magic potion, I'd try it. Maybe burying my feet in the dirt would finally make me feel like I was part of the world, like I was connected to something ~ the overall scheme of life. Maybe it would make me stop feeling like an alien.

I put my fingers in the dirt and brought it to my palms. I watched while it fell through my fingers and dripped a steady stream back to the ground. I put a toe in the dirt right there beneath the tree, began to scrape and felt it go under my toenails. I continued to dig.

I saw other families all the time as a kid. On holidays the visitors would come. Grandma, Grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. They would gather outside in their driveways and I'd hear the laughing and talking. Finally, I would hear a chorus of "I love yous" and the car doors would slam. The neighborhood would be quiet again. It was then time to close the window and listen once again to my beloved radio and the songs that took me to another world.

I put my other foot into the dirt and continued digging until I'd created a hole large enough to fit both feet in the dirt.

Those families I used to see, I wanted to go with them. I wanted to run away and go home with them. I wanted to feel embraced by others who would guarantee love and joy. We'd be cared for, nurtured and enjoyed. It was my Lana Turner fantasy. We would no longer be a practical problem that had to be endured. It's hard being a burden ~ but children always are. They told us that and they wouldn't lie. Would they? If it wasn't for my brother and me, my father wouldn't have to work so much and my mother would be able to go to college and become someone important. It's what they say and parents don't lie.

I reached into the hole and began to bury my feet. It was a heavy, wet dirt. I brought a palmful of it to my nose and smelled it. By then, the rain had started. I continued burying until my feet were completely covered. A sensation of pulsating warmth flowed up from the earth into my feet, radiating to my calves, to my thighs, to my crotch, to my midsection, to my shoulders, to my neck, to my head, down my arms and into my fingers. It was like a shot of electricity. I was connected. I rubbed my arms and my hands with the dirt.

Time went on and we stayed the same. The fifties became the sixties. My parents weren't big on having friends around. It was just the four of us.. and those practical problems to be solved, work to be done, chores to complete, school to finish. There was no time for frivolity, not even in the magical City of Angels, the Land of Dreams.

And I went out into the world the same way, not knowing where I was going or why. I just had practical problems to solve and I did my best. Was there something more?

Like the end of a lifelong treasure hunt, I discovered the gold coins really were in the buried trunk. And I felt them and touched them and threw them in the air. I danced in circles, laughing like a delighted child. I breathed to the bottom of my lungs for the first time and finally fell to my knees, crying the deep, purging, healing cry of someone who has been in the desert of the soul for a lifetime and finds refuge. My tears mixed with the rain and watered a tree in Khon Kaen.

May you all feel connected and discover the gold coins ~


Secrets and Unspoken Expectations.. (warning.. swearing)

I was going to drop this subject completely and never raise the issue again but I need to talk about it. Since it is on my mind after all this time, it means something is lingering that is making things not feel right. Part of the way I stay healthy and sober is to remain fairly clean about my feelings. I don't go to bed angry.. that sort of thing.

Last night, I nearly shut this blog down. I wasn't really sure why, just knew something didn't feel right, and decided to sit on it for a while. I've learned that being impulsive usually renders bad results. The reason for the impulse didn't hit me until I awakened in the middle of the night with it right on the tip of my consciousness. I got up, went in the back yard for a smoke and it became crystal clear.

I don't want to have to keep secrets for acceptance. I don't want to have to pretend.That's not okay with me. Ever.

The idea of it makes me really angry. The fact that the outcome matters at all pisses me off even more but it seems it does. This tells me that it's really old stuff coming up for healing. When something sticks in my head for a long time like that, gnawing at me, that is usually why. It wants healing. Typically, the only way to heal it is to bring it to the table. So here I am, at the table with my little list.

I lived with secrets all my life.

Don't tell anyone how you *really* feel because if you do, people won't like you anymore and you'll be alone. And they won't tell you why either. The tenor of your interactions will just kind of... shift. The phone calls stop. The email stops. The invitations stop. The visits become further and further apart. Don't let anyone know your imperfections. Hide them!

Well, enough of that! I'm old. I'm tired. And I don't have time for high school bullshit.

So let me say it outright. Those who had a problem with my post last Tuesday and disappeared, I'm sorry I failed you. (That's sarcasm, in case you don't get it.) I failed to be the cute little Buddhist girl in hemp skirts and Thai ankle bracelets. What I discussed was real. Very real. Real life. Messy, shitty, pukey, baby shit green soup spewing out of a spinning head life. It happens. That's how I got to be the cute little Buddhist girl in hemp skirts and Thai ankle bracelets. I worked like f***ing hell for it!

I have taken Patricia's advice and gotten rid of the stats. In the largest sense, she is absolutely correct. This shouldn't be about numbers. But I can't ignore how this appears. I'm a reasonably intelligent and intuitive person. It pisses me off, not just because it was me involved, but because it involves all of us. It means that women still have to be silent and careful and guarded and perfect. We're still disposable because we're not always pristine, shiny and smiling. Yecht! Eee-yecht!

I know it is said that the ideal is to write this for myself. That's what all the blog advice books say. Sorry but that doesn't work for me. I do this for interaction with others. I do it to participate in a form of community, however new it is. I'm hoping this truly can be an "electronic neighborhood", as Alan Berg called it. That is how we learn. That's how we grow. That's how I offer what little wisdom I have gained from 55 years of a rather extraordinarily unusual life to others. That is what makes it all worthwhile. That is what these kinds of discussion panels are for, in my opinion. If it was just for me, I could talk to myself and spare my arthritic hands the pain of typing. I don't need to mas/*tur*bate in public.

So.. I want to make it clear that sometimes I am going to discuss real things here. Sometimes it won't be pretty. Sometimes I might swear. Sometimes I might get angry. Sometimes I might be sad and say something about it. Sometimes I might whine. Sometimes I might talk about past experiences that got me where I am now. And other times, I'll be cute and quirky and talk about how much I love Thailand. All of those things are a part of who I am.

I hope we can all share what's on our minds, share our wisdom, our growth, strengths and weaknesses in this virtual community. I hope we can joke, talk about silly things and have fun. The Internet is an incredible resource. May we use it for more than just another high school level social networking outlet with in-crowds and out-crowds and unreal standards of perfection that no human being can meet.

And to those who haven't bailed ~ you all know who you are ~ thank you very much! You have no idea how much I appreciate you. I am a total stranger, just a bunch of pixels on a screen, but you were still supportive and kind, both with comments and email. This past three or four days have been a little hard on me. I may or may not discuss why in the future. I'm not ready at this point. I allowed myself to become a bit too vulnerable too quickly with that post Tuesday. My fault and I own it... it was a miscalculation on my part... but I'm not going to make the same mistake again by blathering about things before I'm ready. Still, the women who have supported me most here (you know who you are), I am very grateful to you. I only hope the honor will be mine one day to do the same for you. Know that you have a fan out here in cyberspace.

Okay. I feel reasonably clean about this now. It's all out on the table, the good and the bad. Maybe I look like a socially naive idiot. Well, I am. That's how it goes. I'm done with this now and will not bring it up again except in the broader context of social dynamics. Thanks for reading.

Peace... and out!


Friday, November 17, 2006

Trial of the Century? Hardly!

As it happens, I was new to Tucson when the OJ trial started. Each morning, I would get up and watch it on CNN. The evidence appeared to be fairly strong against him. One can always tell when the defense team in any case has nothing to stand on. They begin to level ad hominem attacks against the prosecution team. The attacks against Christopher Darden and Marcia Clark were character assassinations. The most aggregious one I recall is the attack on Marcia Clark's mothering skills. They wanted to know why she wasn't home with her son.


Anyway, I am in the "he's guilty as sin" camp.

During the trial itself, the racial tension was strong. Black people wanted to believe he couldn't have done it. White people mostly believed he'd done it. The relationship between Black people and the LAPD was notoriously strained at that time. The defense was able to convince the jury that the mate to the bloody glove found at the scene discovered behind OJ's house was probably planted by the police.

I believe he did it and got away with it. He got away with it because he had the financial resources to buy a defense team who used every legal tactic in the universe, regardless of the ethics involved, to get him off. If OJ had been an ordinary Black man from South Central Los Angeles, he would have spent the rest of his life in prison if he was lucky. More than likely he would have been sentenced to an arm full of poison.

Now he has written a book called "If I Had Done It" and will participate in a Fox Channel interview in a few weeks. In the book, he writes about how it might have happened... if he had done it, of course. If. Does this strike anyone else as particularly sick? As far as I'm concerned, it is just more evidence of what an absolutely despicable person he is. He has never paid a cent on the civil judgement against him. He continues to appear in the most compromising positions, plays golf all day in Florida and still commands a fairly decent sum for public appearances.

I don't know about anyone else but I will not be reading the book or watching the interview.

The man disgusts me. I believe he is either the maddest person I've ever seen or he has no concept of acceptable human behavior, the latter making him a sociopath.

Beyond that, of course, I have no opinion.

Peace to all ~


For Caro... living here, being there....

Your comment last night caused me to think. (They often do that! :)

Is it possible to live in this culture, having fully adopted another?

Yehm. It's possible. Culture is just a set of behaviors based on customs and values after all.

Obligatory disclaimer: I am not saying that Thai culture is superior to all others. It is just the one that is right for me and the way I choose to live my life.

Thai culture is very sociocentric. Basically, that means that I examine my choices through that lense. Is a given action intended only to feed my own ego and for personal gain? Or am I doing it because it will plant seeds that will bring others more happiness in their lives, too? Is it for the higher good or just my own? As soon as it becomes all about me instead of about others also, it's time to rethink.

One of the things many who know me over the past few years forget is that I was raised here, too. That means lots of things are ingrained and it takes a conscious effort to review my motives. My socialization process didn't teach me to be who I am now. I had to unlearn the old and replace it with the new. If it is counterproductive to harmony, I don't do it. In a way, that is part of a new acculturation.

Thai culture is very polite. That means that I must make a conscious effort to be polite, to make others feel comfortable and content. That doesn't mean I never challenge anyone's opinion but this culture promotes annihilation of the opponent by any means necessary, including deception. Again, we have to win, no matter what. We have to be "right". At least that is my perception and experience. It is not that way for everyone, of course. It takes all the joy about of learning from others. So I disagree very nicely, keeping the other person's feelings in mind without compromising my own beliefs.

Thai culture is very family-centric. Families in Thailand care for their own. If someone is disabled, the family takes care of her. If someone is hungry, the family feeds him. If someone is in trouble, the family is there. Everyone assumes a degree of accountability to each other. It is not individualistic. It is not complete self-annihilation but it does put the group first.

Thai culture is very respectful. To a degree, they go too far in my opinion but I'm not establishing the rules for them. What I do know is that as a culture, they've been pretty solid for thousands of years. They must be doing something right.

Thai culture has a healthy attitude about work. Work is important and everyone does it in one fashion or another. However, it is not all-consuming and it doesn't define the individual. Thai people enjoy their fun, too. Honor, character and courage define the individual.

For me to live here, I needed some sort of foundation, something to frame my own behaviors. This culture has never worked for me because it went against my inherent grain. It felt harsh. My values and behavior were not able to mesh. They were in constant conflict.

In school, I used to get in trouble for questioning this stuff. I don't know where such a distaste for individualism and egoism developed. I was born in New York state, not Bangkok, Thailand. You'd think I would have internalized the values of this culture ~ but it didn't happen.

Some of the stuff I have adopted is purely superficial. The clothes and the jewelry do make me stand out and it is a statement to others, I suppose. To me, it's just pretty. My mother calls it "third world coutiere". :) I just love the stuff from the villages. It makes me happy and it feels good to wear it, so I do. But that really has nothing to do with the most important things.

And here's the amazing thing. Other people truly seem to enjoy my overall changes. They don't envy it. They don't get angry at me for it. Very few have ever gotten disgusted and dug in their heels to defend the western way of life. Some have gently challenged my thinking but there's been no animosity. They seem to believe the same as you mentioned, that seeing someone else do it shows that it is possible to have a different kind of life if they choose.

I chose this not because I hate life here but because my spirit was dying, I hardly knew it was there. My inner light just got dimmer and dimmer. I felt totally and constantly misunderstood. I often totally and constantly misunderstood others. When I was in Thailand, everything made sense and it all came together. Even the soil beneath my feet felt natural. The people took to me.. and I took to them. Even with a language barrier, we communicated. It's hard to explain without going metaphysical, but we "knew" each other.

It will be another eleven weeks before I am old enough to get a retirement visa. That will come at the end of January. It is a short time, compared to the amount I've been waiting ~ and the time I still have to wait after that milestone. The most logical thing was to begin living it right here, right where I am. Of one thing I am certain ~ and that is that I will leave this earth in Khon Kaen, Thailand. Nothing else makes sense. If by some remote chance I die here, I don't believe my spirit will be at rest.

While I am still here though, I can bring some happiness to the lives of others. This isn't ego speaking but I do know people feel good around me. I'm soft and gentle, considerate and thoughtful. I try to sprinkle around a little love wherever I go, just by putting these principles into action. Seeing others happy makes me happy, too. It is a joy being able to spread it around a bit.

This choice is probably the healthiest I've ever made but there are some downsides, too. This ain't Fox News, but I'll try to be at least a little fair and balanced. :)

As a result of these changes, there are very few people I have anything in common with truly and I don't experience mainstream acceptance. By rejecting the core values of a culture, it's easy to fall off the grid. I don't have the kind of support system a "normal" person would have here. Looking back though, I never had mainstream acceptance anyway so a fear of losing it wasn't motive to stop me. My choice was fairly low-risk in that regard.

It is a bit lonely sometimes. There's just a certain *something* between me and the majority of others that can't "click". We're on a different page. For example, I will not be likely to get married again before I leave. I doubt there are many American men who would be interested in someone like me. While I have good friends and we enjoy each other's company, there are certain times when it is not appropriate to include me.

So, yes, it is definitely possible to live here and not give in to all the things the culture promotes. Take the best and leave the rest. One of the values I have retained from this culture is the belief that everyone has a right to make his or her own choices. There are both negative and positive consequences to mine but overall I do feel like I've made the only possible choice. Really, there was no choice. Hope that explains it a bit.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

Progress or Happiness?

This morning I was blog-surfing and came across this post, so well-stated that I am reluctant to add to it in any way.

In case you don't have the chance to go there and read the original, I'll summarize. Basically, she is saying that she became very aware of how there is an over-emphasis on achievement and under-emphasis on character. As a parent, she discusses how she is turning this around with her own child. (No, I have not done the post justice. Please read it if you can.)

This is something I've noticed during my lifetime as well, although for some reason never fell into the trap. I have never defined myself or others by accomplishment. I define myself and others by character, compassion and commitment to something larger than self. I want to know what someone stands for, what would she die for, what does he believe is the meaning of our earth time. All the rest fritters away into ash and dust.

Honestly, I've never given a flying fig about achievement as a determinant of value. And it is not that I am a total slacker, although perhaps by this culture's standards I am. The truth is that I can and do bust my ass for the things I believe in, something that truly matters to me. In fact, I am rather tireless in those circumstances. Making money and struggling for a higher social position won't even get me out of bed.

Interestingly, a recent article in the Bangkok Post polled random Thais on on whether they considered progress or happiness more important. Nearly all said happiness came first. (If anyone wants the reference, I'll dig it up.) This has also been my belief all along. And it seems to be inherent, not learned.

So what do you think is more important? Progress or happiness?

Peace to all ~


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Out of the abyss and back to my computer room.....

First, I truly want to thank everyone who left comments for me yesterday and even those who may have read without leaving a comment. I appreciate it more than any of you know. Now onto other topics:


Actually, I removed the entry. It was a total dud! It was so boring, it bored even me, and apparently wasn't too exciting to others either so it's gone. That's just the way it goes sometimes. None of us can be scintillating every day. This was my day to bomb! LOL

Instead, I'll just put a quick note here to wish everyone a very peaceful evening. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.

Peace everyone :)


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Into the Abyss..... (read with caution)

I debated with myself a long while about the wisdom of writing this. It is very personal and some might find it disturbing. If you are disturbed by discussion of extreme depression or psychosis, click by for today. Things will be back to normal tomorrow.

It seems to be important to do it for a few different reasons. The primary one being that I would have gladly given my left tit if someone would have done it when I was in the depths. More than anything, I wanted to know I wasn't alone.

Secondly, if one person loads this page, sees herself in it and gets medical help, any blowback I get from writing it will be well worth it.

I have to put this in a little bit of context for it to make sense. Throughout my lifetime, I have always been an extremely sensitive person. Everything in my world was amplified. When I am happy, I am very happy. When I am content, I am very content. When I'm sad, I'm really sad and when I hurt, it hurts like ungodly hell. I am not one to recover from things quickly. I forgive very easily but often have trouble forgetting. And that's not in a vengeful way. No evil, angry thoughts. It is just hard to move on. I also perceive color more brightly and can not tolerate loud noise. Elaine Aron calls it "HSP", Highly Sensitive Person. Our brains process stimulation differently than the average person.

Additionally, I have always hated commerce. I do not do well in competitive situations or environments that are built on distrust and deception. That has made working outside the home extremely difficult. At the same time, the culture shifted just around the time when I would have been old enough to get married, stay home and raise children. Women went into the workforce in droves and I was expected to ride along with the tide. I never wanted that and did not adjust well to it. I am the sort of woman who should have stayed home.

The option wasn't available in the late 60s and early 70s. Men no longer wanted stay at home wives, at least not where I was raised. So I went out into the workforce and proceeded to get pummelled. Each day felt like being beaten by an angry husband. This person (job) had entire control of my well-being and I could do nothing to change it. My very survival depended on taking the abuse.

As a result of that, I developed post traumatic stress which became chronic because it was untreated.

I don't know exactly when the depression started but I will guess it began around 1987. That is a significant date because it was my first "get in the car and disappear" episode. Finally having had enough, I walked out my apartment door and never returned. During the next ten years, I would live in four different states and seven different cities.

Fast forward to 1997. I arrived in Northern California from Tucson, somewhat battered and bruised but I did believe things were getting better due to all the metaphysical training I'd had in Tucson. I thought I had a fairly good handle on things and did indeed do quite well until the early 2000s. In those few years, I was quite active. I held a steady job in the Information Technology field until 2003 as a software technician. During that time I took my first trip to Thailand. I had a steady significant other during most of those years. Life actually looked pretty good, if a bit overwhelming for someone like me. But, still, the worst appeared to be behind me.

It wasn't long though before the fog came in the room again, the fog that blurs color and perceptions, makes everything kind of fuzzy. My thinking wasn't very clear. I couldn't concentrate and had the attention span of an infant. Most days, I could blow it off and go on. Those days became further and further apart. Thinking clearly and coping with normal, fairly simple problems became beyond my ability. As the illness escalated, it became harder and harder to leave my house. I felt safe only in my own little part of this house (the mother-in-law unit) and the few places in the neighborhood I normally frequent. I gained weight. This was an insidious change, not something sudden.

There must have been a spark of life in me somewhere because I eventually called someone for help. I went to see a therapist who was rather confused but intrigued by my history. It is an unusual history. It was so interesting to her apparently that she saw me without charge when I was fired from the job that provided the health insurance that paid her.

Ultimately, she told me that I needed to visit a medical professional, specifically a psychiatrist. My issues were a little too complex for her to manage alone and she wanted me to see about medication. I agreed to go. She looked for a recommendation.

The final crash came in June 2003 when I literally could not leave my house without breaking out in a cold sweat. I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't breath, couldn't eat, couldn't think straight. Thoughts intruded and wouldn't go away. I honestly believed it was something outside of me pushing me to kill myself. I decided to do it later in the week. Why? I don't know. That's psychotic thinking. The laundry had to be done or something.

I called Dorothy, my therapist, keening and wailing and told her I could not do it anymore. Period. I was done. I hated my life so much that I couldn't face another day of it. She called Emergency Services and the police. I was committed for three days to a hospital for threatening to kill myself.

During those three days, I was given tests and a good number of people talked with me. I was immediately given Seroquel, an anti-psychotic drug. On some level, I was relieved to let someone else take over. Sort of. That was the small voice of sanity that remained in me, buried in the subconscious where it does its work.

Those who treated me had to fight a big thick wall of abject paranoia. I accused them of trying to poison me. I accused them of being nothing more than toadies for the capitalist oligarchy who didn't give a shit about me as a human being. They just wanted to patch me up to send me back to the gerbil wheel so that I could contribute to their disgusting, evil economy. They just wanted to poison my mind so that I wouldn't go back to Thailand and be happy. They wanted me to murder myself first. The sad thing, I told them, is that they didn't even know it because they were brainwashed automatons whose own minds had been poisoned. I literally fought physically with hospital attendants who tried to get me to take my jewelry off. One guy got a bloody nose when he tried to remove my Thai ankle bracelets. (Yes, it's funny now but somehow I don't think he spent much time laughing.) I wasn't just being difficult for the hell of it either. I believed this stuff. In my mind, it was all perfectly logical. How others didn't see it was an enigma wrapped in a puzzle.

Okay. That is a brief description of what it is like to be insane.

Once the cycle of treatment began, results were fairly rapid, all told. Within six weeks or so, I was able to see a substantial difference in my thinking. The static went away. I started to see light and colors differently. I could articulate my thoughts and feelings without the crazy thinking. That is not to say that I became a good little "productive citizen" (really think about that phrase and what it means) who supported or who supports now the cultural standards I live under. I am permanently disabled and will not be going back to the mainstream at all.

Naturally, there is much more to this story as far as my recovery. That's for another time. I had bad days and good days ~ but I am no longer in the grips of that deep dark hole where there is no light, no love, no peace, no comfort. It is the darkest, loneliest, most desolate place I can imagine. I do not have words to describe it. Simply no words. It is hell. Think of every description you have ever read about "hell" ~ and all of them fit.

So... why would I put such a thing on a public blog? You know, admitting that you went crazy isn't socially acceptable in any culture, let alone this one. I might lose readers here. Some people may decide that I am not worthy of respect or might choose to reject any contact with me, including reading this blog. If so, go with God and be well. Some things matter more than that. I want to provide a glimmer of hope for anyone who might be experiencing it now. It is not shameful. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Our brains don't produce it and we need medication to provide what nature can not. It is a hard road back, lots of damage to fix, lots of self-knowledge to gain and many decisions to make.

I will make this commitment: If you are in my area, I will personally walk you through it. I will hold your hand until you come through the veil. That is not idle talk. I mean it. If you are not in my area, I will offer you email support. Click the link at the top of my blog and email me. You are not alone anymore.

Take the first step though and get help. Please. Get help. If you don't have health insurance, there is Medi-Cal or Medicaid. You don't have to live like that. Take it from one who has been in hell and managed to escape it. It is worth the effort, as hard as it is, to take the first step.

One last thing: I don't think it's necessary to hide behind "Thailand Gal" any longer. While that is the name of the blog, that is all it is. I will use my Thai nickname here, just as I do on all of my Internet mailing lists. It is Chanakarn.. pronounced Cha-na-kahn. Most people shorten it to "Chani" for simplicity and ease. I am okay with it.

Much love and peace to all ~


Monday, November 13, 2006

Van Morrison and Simple Pleasures...

Some mornings just start off the right way. It's never predictable. We never know when it will happen and there's absolutely no way to guarantee it. It just... happens.

This morning, I got up in the usual way ~ feed the dog, let the dog out, make coffee, slink into the chair to catch the news for a minute or two, wander around in a fog and finally get to the computer.

I don't usually turn on music for the first few hours. In fact, I had no idea what might be in the CD player when I turned it on. It couldn't have been better. One of my all-time favorite songs, Queen of the Slipstream by Van Morrison filled the room. (The link is just a clip.) I'm a career Van Morrison fan but that particular song touches my heart like few others. The lyrics are kind of ethereal. In all this time, I've never figured out quite what they mean. Interpreting poetry isn't one of my talents but it speaks deeply to me on an unconscious level.

My Yahoo mailbox contained a special treat as well. A man who found this site through google sent me several links to pictures he took while in Thailand. These pictures capture the essence of the people and the environment so well! Thank you so much, Steve!

It occurs to me that just two years ago, a morning like this wouldn't have been possible. I was living so differently. I dreaded waking up each day because it meant I had to go into a toxic workplace and somehow manage to get through the day without crying or running. I was always one paycheck away from the street. Without realizing it, I was medically ill with severe depression. Each moment was like slogging through thick molasses. Each movement was exhausting. I hated my life, was angry and couldn't understand why I didn't just end it. Nothing much mattered and the only reason I didn't put a gun to my head is because it would have taken too much effort. The worst part is that I thought it was perfectly logical to think that way. Those who couldn't see it were just brainwashed morons. (One day, I will write more about this. So many women experience it and if there's any point to be made, it is to see a physician before it escalates to the degree mine did. I was diagnosed as psychotically depressed and it's nothing to screw around with. The fact that I am still alive is a miracle.)

If you'd told me then that I would be waking up happy, looking forward to what the day might bring and how my life would include so many simple pleasures, I would have told you that you were either psychotic yourself or taking some very good drugs. My worldview at that time included no room for happiness.

And here I am, happy over such small things as a Van Morrison song and some pictures. Life is just plain strange, isn't it?

Peace to all ~

Thailand Gal

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Traveling Light.....

Last night, I stayed up way too late, talking on the phone. As much as I dislike talking on the phone, it does keep me in touch with people and usually the conversations are interesting. This time, it was a check-in with my friend in Minnesota.

She has a long distance move planned, as do I. She is moving to Texas. I am seriously considering a move to northern Arizona. Her reason is a relationship. Mine is financial.

If I move to northern Arizona, I will be saving over $400.00 a month in basic living expenses. That's not to mention the peripheral expenses that will be reduced by fifty percent or so. It's the sensible thing to do since I really need to get the money together to get to Thailand.

Our discussion drifted to "stuff". How much "stuff" we are each planning to take to our new locations. S. doesn't like to leave anything behind. She has a houseful of furniture, appliances and art work. Her stuff makes her feel secure. I am the opposite. When I have too much stuff, I feel burdened. When I leave here for northern AZ, I will take my computer, some boxes of books, my clothes and a few assorted boxes of accessories and tchotchkes, things that don't matter to anyone but me. Of course, the Great Dog Shanti will come along with all of her necessities. All of it will fit quite comfortably into the back of my Geo Metro.

Right before I leave, I will have a garage sale and get rid of every last bit of it. When I take the turnoff to I-5 South, windows open, radio blaring, I will feel a sense of freedom and peace that only comes with the open road. If I'd been born a man, being a long distance truck driver would have been a cool job.

I find our relationship to "stuff" fascinating. The different attachments we have to the things we own is something that probably goes to the core of who we are, what gives us a sense of security and belonging. It's a metaphor of sorts. Those of us who feel burdened easily by other external circumstances probably also feel burdened by owning "stuff". Those who have a fairly strong back and can take quite a bit might not see their possessions as a burden.

It's interesting anyway ~ just something to think about on Sunday morning. I'd be curious to hear how others relate to their household "stuff".

Peace to all ~

Thailand Gal


Saturday, November 11, 2006

Odd habits, Odd facts... Effluvia...

Okay. So I stole this idea from several blogs I've seen over the past few weeks. Lists. It's all I can do today since I seem to have exceeded my capacity for discussing anything deeper than the parking lot puddles at the convenience store across the street, caused by this morning's rain.

So, here's 15 things you probably wish you never knew about another human being:

1) When I left Thailand, I snuck a small bag of soil out in my bra. It's in a box on the bookshelf. I also have a long locket-style necklace that holds a small amount of it. When I go back, I will return the soil to its rightful owner.

2) I drink Diet Coke daily and eat only once a day.

3) My dog sleeps on the bed with me.

4) I can't stand to see people hurt and cry during some of the daytime talk shows.

5) I have a hard time letting go of things people give me so have a cardboard box in the closet which holds all sorts of little treasures.

6) People get annoyed because I speak softly. I'm constantly chided to "speak up".

7) I have a bad habit of startling people because I am very quiet. This irritates my housemates in a way you can't imagine.

8) When I become frightened, I can not utter a word.

9) My cell phone ringtone is "Fur Elise".

10) I take a book with me everywhere.

11) I am terrible at anything related to money. In the overall sense, I don't care much for money and don't like dealing with it.

12) There's an older guy here in the neighborhood who always wears shorts and a Hawaiian shirt, even in the dead of winter. He always wears a fisherman's hat. He carries a large messengers bag. I don't know where he is going but he walks to and from daily. I wish for the courage to speak with him. He's probably an interesting person.

13) I have only experienced one "one night stand" in my life. I was driving from Baltimore to Tucson and met the guy in a coffee shop. It was in Woodbridge, Virginia. Something about the soft rain and the Blue Ridge Mountains...

14) I have a morbid fear of anything rotting. I'm compulsive about cleaning the refrigerator. Perfectly good stuff probably gets tossed because my eyesight is bad and I can't always read the expiration date.

15) I have tried ~ It was a waste of money. And I'm sometimes afraid I will never meet a suitable man again.

Your turn. Tell me something quirky, odd or irritating about yourselves. :)

Peace to all,

Thailand Gal


Friday, November 10, 2006

Hidden Benefits....

There were some posts on a few blogs (specifically Meno's and One Plus Two, both of which were very self-revelatory - in a good way) that got me to thinking about the past a bit more than usual. Self-evaluation has never been my strong point but periodically it's a good idea to take a look at where we've been to help us understand where we are now.

For those of us who are addicts, getting and staying clean and sober is only the first hurdle. Then come the others. Like facing whatever is chasing us from our pasts that made us turn to booze or drugs in the first place. I started using booze to deal with the suppressed pain of living in a world that I saw as brutal, unkind and fiercely competitive. My drinking began at 15 years old. I never perceived the world as a welcoming or pleasant place. It was a barren desert, filled with rocks and snakes and scary things around every corner. I was always waiting for the nasties to bite me on the ankles. The booze made it possible for me to function, however poorly, on a day-to-day basis. I'm reminded of the Anton Chekov quote, "Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day-to-day living that wears you out." Day-to-day living, even as a young person, wore me out.

Booze is a great anesthetic for emotional pain. It blunts the sharp edges and makes us feel better almost immediately. It's a lubricant for those of us who find socializing unbearably painful. We can go to a rosy world of our own creation where we can be who we really think we want to be. We can go to Fantasyland and stay there.

When I first got sober, I remember my first sponsor in AA commenting that hugging me was like hugging a tree. I was so shut down and unable to respond to basic human kindness that I wasn't even at home in my own body or my own mind. I was terrified of facing all of my old ghosts, rattling around in the closet. It meant I had to give up Oblivion. Oblivion had been a comfortable, safe place to be.

I don't come from a wicked family. My family was a very reserved, rather cold, bunch ~ but I can't say I was abused. Perhaps emotionally neglected. But the reality is that I was raised by imperfect people in an imperfect world, just as we all were.

The answer was something distinctly out of my reach, nothing I could put my finger on and say, "I'll fix that and all the pieces will slide into place. Life will be shiny and new." I couldn't blame any person or specific situation. The only thing I could blame was my own perceptions. And that's mighty scary because it means I'm responsible for the outcome.

Meno discusses, rather eloquently I might add, the various things we do to put our "face on", the us we present to the world as opposed to the us we truly are. Many of us go about daily life with our teeth gritted and our knuckles white. She talks about all the assumptions we make and are made about us and how those things shape our lives.

But is it only our perceptions, assumptive or not, that create our reality ~ or is it something more?

I believe ~ and this is only my belief ~ that we come here with a certain life path. I came to this world, not fitting in and unable to establish connections with others. Being as I am not one who is given to insightful revelations, no Oprah-style AHA moments, the rejection often seemed brutal and unwarranted. It was based on assumptions, both the assumptions of others and my own. When one lives a life on the defensive, others will run like hell. That's just a reality of life. No escaping it.

So.. the consequence is this: It has been my job all along to find "home". Not "home" in the Thailand sense. Thailand is full of regular human beings, just like here. It's "home" inside of me. It's knowing somehow, on some level, that no matter where I am, I can take care of my basic needs.

I've been able to find an alternative to Oblivion. That is living my rather quiet life. It is living with my limitations in an accepting and kind way, in compassion rather than a harsh, judgemental way. That also allows me to view others with compassion. It is knowing that I can create safety. It is a self-acceptance and acceptance of others that I never knew was possible in the past as I struggled mightily to meet the expectations of others and exist in a culture that was as foreign to me as another planet.

It is daily enjoyment of other people, my garden, my dog, laughing with my housemates, cooking a nice meal together ... the very small things that create a tapestry of life. No, I will never be very social. I don't even crave it. I will never "fit in" here. That will have to wait for Thailand. I chose to not have children ~ a decision I am grateful for today because a child would not have done well with me as a mother. I will never leave pee marks on any stumps in the world. No major accomplishments. I am a failure in the view of western culture. But hopefully in all of this, I will be able to spread a little kindness and add a bit of gentleness to the lives of the people who surround me. That is the ingredient I contribute to the collective pot. That is my life path.

And that's okay. It's ... okay - now. I'm at peace ~ and I never knew that was possible. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

My best to all of you ~

Thailand Gal

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed. This is an ancient and eternal law. -- Buddha

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stupid Girls...

Okay. On a lighter note ~ a much lighter note ~ has anyone else noticed the nearly incessant coverage of Anna Nicole Smith and her paternity troubles?

There are a few things that disturb me about this.

Anna Nicole Smith (as much as I hate to be unkind) has the brainpower of a box of hair. Has anyone ever heard her make an intelligent remark about anything? The most quotable quote I recall from her is "I don't watch the news. It's depressing." The only thing she has going for her is lots of platinum blonde hair and a bodacious set of tatas. She makes even Britney Spears and Paris Hilton look like Mensa candidates.


While I am very sorry she her son, I don't see why we are exposed to this unfortunate woman at all. With further revelations about the drug use and decadent lifestyle of this woman, I don't see how additonal knowledge about her benefits us or why we are seeing the endless coverage on mainstream news channels. It isn't limited to the tabloids and "Entertainment Tonight". Maybe I'm just a tad old-fashioned but I can't wrap my head around these people as icons. They contribute absolutely nothing to culture.

I am not a rabid feminist but it is blatantly apparent that iconizing these "stupid girls" perpetuates the myth that women are playthings, should be mindless and cute and have no further ambition than to be a rich man's baby-mama. Like "Pink", I want to see the first woman president. I want to see a woman win the Nobel Prize for discovering a cure for AIDS. I want to see more women in positions of influence internationally.

No more stupid girls!

"Stupid Girls" by Pink

Peace to all,

Thailand Gal

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

UPDATE2: From GWB's press conference ~ "The message yesterday was clear: The American people want their leaders in Washington to set aside partisan differences, conduct ourselves in an ethical manner and work together to address the challenges facing our nation." -GWB

Ummm, actually, that's not what the message was. God, this man is thick!


UPDATE: Now I hear Rumsfeld is going bye-bye. Can this day get any better? :)


Looks like it's going to be a wonderful day!

I got up early this morning after falling asleep with election returns going on the radio. Made some decaf coffee and turned the TV on to see what happened during the night. My eye was immediately caught by a familiar sight. Thailand. Out here in the computer room, I had the TV set to PBS last night. This morning, it was "Globetrekker". Yep, you betcha! I got a 30-minute tour of Thailand.

And that was before I even woke up to a point of coherence!

So... Thailand aside.

It would appear that California has done a good job after all. We may still have Aaaahnold but he will be answering to plenty of new Democrats. Jerry Brown, an anti-death penalty candidate, was elected as Attorney General.

Most importantly, I looked at the bond initiatives. They all passed. Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, called the bonds' passage "a milestone in state history."

He went on to say they "will make a real difference to the lives of millions of Californians, who will find it easier to get to work, will send their children to better schools, will live in safer, more affordable housing and will live with less fear of catastrophic floods..."

Additionally, nearly all of the propositions failed. All the police state, anti-worker, anti-freedom ballot propositions failed with a resounding "thud".

The Maloof Brothers will not be getting a taxpayer-funded arena for their sports team in the middle of Sacramento so they can get richer on the backs of already-stretched residents.

Looks like it's going to be a good day in the neighborhood.


Thailand Gal