I Will Never Be the Same
“Living with my heart wide open is the worst!” I half-sobbed, half-laughed into my hands. My friend simply raised an eyebrow and nodded knowingly. We were nearing the completion of our visit to Southeast Asia, and I had been undone. I was broken open from allowing myself to so fully receive the immensity of all of our experiences, simultaneously excruciating and exquisite, holy and drop-to-your-knees humbling.
Massive, ancient temples, sanctimonious in their history and presence, at the same time swarming with tourists vying for the most desirable selfie spot.
Quiet, tiny temples, hidden under the canopy of trees and surrounded by moss-covered earth.
Flavors of fire and green peppercorns and kaffir lime and coconut, tangoing with slippery noodles and rich, steaming broth.
The elixir of fresh coconut juice, sipped from vibrant green coconuts with threads of stringy husk still clinging to their shells.
A sweet, scruffy dog lying in the street, unable to rise to his feet from the pain and sickness leeching from his body.
A Thai woman, eyes down, quietly sweeping the streets inside the walls of the palatial resort, with the American woman complaining loudly in the background that a spa appointment was not available immediately upon her demand.
Statistics like this, from the Huffington Post: 1 out of every 290 Cambodians are amputees as a result of landmines, and one-third of the population, or 3 million Cambodians, lost their lives in genocide as recently as the 1970s.
Encountering only gentleness and kindness beyond measure from the people of Cambodia, exposing a deep reservoir of inexplicable resiliency.
The most beautiful sunset I’ve ever witnessed, every second offering new possibilities of shapeshifting color and delight.
Tiny little snail shells resting all over, nestled on patches of dirt inside dilapidated temple ruins, outside of riverside caves, and on limestone paths overlooking the beach, their smooth spirals symbols of infinite expansion and nature’s inherent perfection.
Sitting across from another human being, eye to eye, having a deeply connected conversation, without ever needing to speak the same language.
Feeling at once awestruck, heartbroken, deeply grateful, and undeserving of all of it.
I could go on.
Over a month after returning from Southeast Asia, I’m still processing my experience. It’s still working its way into my cells, and settling into my bones.
I am accustomed to insulating myself from my feelings, allowing just the margins of emotion to seep in, so as to protect from plumbing the depths of it all. It’s a form of numbing, and I don’t recommend it. And yet, there I was, confessing my un-doneness on a beach in Thailand, tears streaming down my face, heart cracked wide open just like the coconuts I had been enjoying all week, my bristly outer layer of protection broken open to reveal the luscious sweetness hidden inside.
I will never be the same.