Yesterday was another easy day in paradise. I slept in late, had breakfast on the beach, per usual, and caught up on some funny British novel reading. Then in the afternoon, my new Canadian friend, Bailey, and I took a tuk tuk to Saladan and did some shopping. After a few hours of picking through sundresses and handmade jewelry (improving intermittently on our negotiation skills), we indulged in the wide variety of Thai street food.
Thai street food is the best I’ve ever had. Imagine a carnival without the rides. A long row of vendors line the main street right in the middle of the flow of traffic. Sure, there’s deep fried goodness and tempting sweets, but there are healthier options, as well. (And lots of refreshing fruit drinks to tame the heat.) I had corn on the cob and chicken kabobs with pineapple and peppers (delicious!). Bailey went for pot stickers and fried potatoes, also conveniently on a stick . Riding back home with the wind our hair, it was hard to want for anything. Ah, and yet…
In the evenings I’ve taken to long walks on the beach. In truth, when I was in California envisioning these walks there was a handsome European man beside me (preferably French or Italian). Alas, the walks have just been me thus far! (Sorry to disappoint.) But it got me to thinking. About love and how much we value it. Here I am in a place where I have everything. Free time, sunshine, a beautiful beach, and nice people to talk to… even if you know no-one you can approach almost anyone at one of many bars for a chat. And still the thought passes, “Wouldn’t it be great to share this with someone?”
Then there is the flipside of that coin. I think of cold winters. Kirksville, Missouri. The stress of college exams and getting into grad school. It was so many years ago and yet I remember the pure joy I felt for the sake of being in love. My first love, Brian. Our day could be difficult but the presence of that unrelenting affection made everything more bearable. Every long grueling night at the library became a team exercise. Every cheap spaghetti dinner, a feast. I imagine we could have been in Alaska in the middle of winter and been quite cheery just the same. It’s a powerful thing, love.
I have had much love in my life. I have given it and I have received it. My parents’ love is constant and unconditional. For that I am ever grateful. Still, I have let bitterness into my heart from the lack of romantic love in my life during the past year or so. I have found myself feeling greedily entitled to fresh love to compensate me for what I feel was taken for me in my more recent romantic relationships. But I think all of you reading this (along with Deepak Chopra, of course,) know it just doesn’t work that way.
So I have one giant project for myself on this trip. One big challenge, if you will. And that is not to seek love. Not to miss love. But to BE love. (Okay, have a laugh, it sounds dramatic even to me.) But here I am, 33 years old, and I know better than ever that nothing is permanent. Every moment has to be seen as special or it is lost. Every person as special, too, because hatred is just a rotting disease… If I cannot receive love, at least I can radiate it.
I didn’t know that everyday I had with Brian in college was a gift. I only know it now. Every day I have with my friend, Bailey, is a gift, too. And everyday I have with myself. Whether it’s beside the sea in Koh Lanta or indoors on a cold Missouri night with the luxury of central heating.
So I walked on the beach (aptly named “Long Beach”). I walked for an hour. I cried for a bit and I kept walking until I wasn’t sad anymore. I repeated three words to myself: Acceptance. Gratitude. Love. I saw the glowing plankton in the water. I watched the crabs scuttle before me. I felt the air in my lungs. The slight cramp in my bad foot. My body temperature rising as I sped up… I remembered I’m alive. And I’m complete.