Decade to Decade Part Two: Movement

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Me as Sri, photographed by Dalih Sembiring

Since I was a little, I had this little curse of moving around. I was born overseas in the first place, on my second birthday I moved back to Indonesia, to my grandmother’s house at my mother’s hometown. By the time I was four we moved to another house which still belong to my grandmother because our own house was being rented to others at those time. In my fuzzy memories, I was probably around 5 to 6 years old when we move to our own house next door. I slept in my parent’s room until probably around 10 years old and got a room shared with my little brother (who sleep with my mother more in the end, so either I will be alone or my father will accompany me) but the roof is always flood with rain, so the trickle of rain in the wall has coloured the memories of my tween years. At twelve years old I finally owned my own room in our new house, which last me until I was fifteen. Then I went back moving overseas for high school.

By the time I was 16, I traveled to Sydney alone, dragging my suitcase and went to the small town that I was born by 7 hours train ride. I moved into this town for a semester and dragged myself back to Western Australia and finish high school. I was working for a girl’s magazine for a year in the capital and went to Jogjakarta later on to enter the universities. I got accepted to the public universities, both majoring in history and art photography. Stayed in different semi communal houses with friends and keep on moving all over Jogjakarta until I stayed in the house I rented until today. Its the longest house I rent, a decade (with skipping living in it for some months and years but kept the house still for my things). I might as well break those moving every decade curse by now.

I thought to myself that this was pretty normal for me, until last year I met a child psychiatrist. Instead of talking about my son’s mental health and my own concern, in the end I found out where my inner child of these constant moving situation has affect me in some certain aspect of life. Compare to my son who knows well about where he belong to and where he is comfortable in staying, I had never learn to settle in one place. In my adult life, my constant need of moving around has become my comfort zone. Moving around is what I know very well and it made me feel safe.

Living with my boy had teaches me and also teaches him the meaning of compromising the way we live. Early on in his life, he moves around too like me. But unlike me, he likes stability, he loves to have a secure home where he belong. He is connecting emotionally with his surrounding while I grow detached throughout my years of upbringing.

This decade I went to the places that I never knew I could reach. Places that I thought I can only dream about in the decade before. Going to India in 2012 broke my assumption of my limited self. It also give me the confidence to take work travel projects and involving more travel to my works. Being in Tibet in 2013 made me rethink about the life that I wanted to do and that in the end I had to let go of things in order to renew my own dreams. Nowadays, I just commit to go to at least one places outside the country I never go before. My favourite are still the South Asian regions, which are for me is another continent where I grow the feeling of home in order to understand my sense of home while being in my own country. I learn to settle also with small exciting trips which are just nearby to keep me sane every two months in a while. I started commuting to the capital more often since last year while seeing dear friends and renew my bonds there. I make peace with my need of space and exploration.

Motherhood has not kept me away from travelling, in the beginning it was the only choice to work and survival. In the end it become a habit. I had to ignored the very best intentions of people advising to settle down. I had that problem of every time I tried to settle down, things would always go wrong. Nowadays, I don’t try to settle and let go that expectation. Nowadays, I just try to keep the balance and found myself in my own version of stability. My son also learn and grow in the many travels we did together throughout his first decade. He is one of my favourite travel buddy too. It has made both of us grow our adaptability muscle and nerves while we are on the go.

I know very well with my need for movement. Although nowadays I tried to apply this more into my inner movement of being. This is when in the end of another life crisis and transition I found conscious dancing by Gabrielle Roth. It has helped me manage and resolve the way my energies work. This journey led me to start teaching movement practices for others, although for me it is still yet another huge homework ahead.

For myself, movement is an important element in my life. It has somehow teaches me to be still in any kind of situations. It has teaches me to laugh at my own reactions and trigger. It has brought me different kind of people from all over the world and immerse myself in various cultural experiences. It has open my eyes and found the interconnectedness of all beings. It has brought me many teachers in many forms. It has brought me troubles and broken hearts. It has healed me from so many things. It has been a way to meet happiness and find love. It has been a way to cry it out loud. It has been my spiritual path of the wandering heart. To find home inside my beings. To find stillness inside my own storms.

As the weather, movement teaches me, that everything too shall pass.

Decade to Decade Part One: A Recap

Photo taken by @travelgeela at Kotagede, Yogyakarta

This is how 2019 end, with no post in this blog. While the second day of this decade, I decided to go back writing and now posting it. I had spent the whole year writing with myself on my own journal. From writing and noting experimental recipes for Banyuripan, my own emotions and feeling, the daily mundane, the upside and inside, the turning around of things. But reality already hit me in day two of 2020, I need to go back to my basic which is for me: WRITING. And this blog was supposed to be the space of sharing my own writing.

With all the fastness and speed of social media in the recent years, it has been an overwhelming process. I had found toxic experiences with social circles who prefer to see my life in social media and be judge with what I had posted. It made me realised how superficial life is in the social media and how people only think what they only wanted to see and hear what they wanted to hear.

I found myself with no more emotional connection with people who only prefer the platform to connect with. I prefer a face-to-face and one-on-one connection. I went totally private with my privacy and my private life, when I felt the online space was not the SAFEST place to SHARE things. I realised nowadays also it has been happening to me because I was lack of strong personal boundaries.

But here I am, when parts of my past life has been quiet public and my current life in total privacy. I spent the last couple of years being in a private cocoon. Suddenly after many toxic social circles, I decided to close myself up. Learning to take meaningful moments only with meaningful people who take the same effort to maintain any kind of relationship. With people who I considered my best friends, we don’t even take a bloody wefie just to show that we are friends and we are great in social media. I had spent so much quality time together with more real friends nowadays that we forget the bloody phone. I know in the new decade, I need more people like this, more quality times like this. More REALNESS which had went through time, trials and tribunals.

I had to admit toxicity in any kind of relationship has been the hardest to let go in this decade. For me it started with family. Dealing the whole ten years with the lost of my parents in the decade before. Dealing with my grandmother death in 2014, which mark that my lifetime enemy has just passed away and end the decade with the knowledge that I was a part of her. I decided to make peace with my blood family with many trips to the Himalayan plantain and mountains. I decided to take as much space as I can in the mountains just to make peace with the current reality of family situation that I had. In the end I make peace that in my life I fit in more with strangers who become like my own family instead of the emotionally and physically faraway so called blood ones. Though I tried my best to reverse this pattern but with no expectation with whoever is supposed to be my blood ones.

I realised in the end, FAMILY means something that you make your own. Your own heaven or hell. I tried to recognise more pattern about people I can trust as family even if they are not blood related, but has been having the history of reliability and support like my dear neighbour family in Jogjakarta who has become my true grandmother and true sister confidante. I like to say that my village of support system that I had gather the last 10 years is my tribe.

Then it was the toxic partnership pattern that I always had. Both in personal relationship and also business partnership. I had to examine myself thoroughly about what I went through this decade.

In PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP, I asked why back in 2010 and the last 2017, I ended up with the same violent nature of relationship? What was I looking for? Why did I connect with emotionally unavailable people throughout these years? Why people with the same tendency of violence, both physically and also mentally? Why the necessary of intensities of violent, passion and drama?

I had to go back to my past relationship that went well 13 years ago, the one that was quiet an anchor when I lost my mother but then I decided to self sabotage the whole relationship. Feeling that he was too good for me and that he should move on with life without me. Meeting and reunited with the person last year, has helped me tremendously to understand myself and help me move on in order to break my own negative pattern. I need to recap my mother wound and also my father wound to also understand all my basic wound and how I can heal them one at a time. I need to also understand how the toxicity has been quiet rooted in my family, to understand how the attraction actually works both ways. I know I can only relate all these feelings of loss and abandonment with people that has experience the same things. And I know I can’t make other people who don’t understand it to get the way I feel. I grew up when depression and mental illness was never talked about and always ended up with a hush.

I recognise nowadays that the danger of my personal relationship is within myself. When the answer is about getting what I deserved and stop people pleasing. And it is all about communicating my needs and wants clearly. I decided to take major breaks the last 3 years on my own to understand the whole pattern, the whole pain and those black hole I had inside to stop those repeating intensities to come like waves all over again.

In BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP I had to learn the hard way. With all the losses – both financial and emotional-, with the intensities, with the courage to gamble and taking a risk, with the lack of boundaries, lack of support, lack of communication and the one that hurt the most is the abandonment, scapegoating and the backstabbing, when I felt I had given all the effort that I can to maintain things and to prioritised others needs instead my own. Even owning my mistakes was not enough for others to understand the whole situation that we had to go through. Here, I learn that the only thing in this world that you can control is only yourself and never others. I learn to accept that conflict resolution face-to-face was not other people way to resolve thing and I learn to let those go. That closure is often a lone journey that you had to take by yourself.

I learn the hard way that for me, it is wise to do things solo. To have non-attachment collaboration, project after project. In the end it teaches me TO OWN MY OWN BUSINESS ENTIRELY and not going so fast in joining with others just because I am lack of confidence, support or even money. I learn to slow down with my business and fully doing things from the root up myself. Even if I have to do and redo everything myself to understand the whole mechanism. In the end I learn to be and give support to my closest confidante, my loyal customers, recognising who are the people who are willing to go hand in hand, sweat by sweat to build up something. And I felt entirely okay, when collaboration offers is coming and to feel not ready for it or even refuse it for the time being. Even in the business world in the end I learned, there is traumatised experiences and it is cannot be replace or calculated with just a cold business attitude. All wound take time, like all healing take time.

In any kind of relationship, I learned that being EMPATHIC has been the problem for me to get all my boundaries to be crossed and step over by people. By allowing others to treat me as their doormat has teaches me how precious it is to OWN MY OWN PRIVATE SPACE and value my PERSONAL TIME.

In my life, friends come and go. I know this all too well and nowadays I let them be. And at this point of life, I become very selected. I found myself going back to my solid old small circle of friends who has been quiet a core support of mine no matter where they are and how they have been, no matter how many years we have not seen each other. And they give in like I give in. In their arms of supports I learn to soothe myself. They were the ones who has withstand many trials in life and out from their major comfort zones in life. People who I consider to bear witnessing my life and stay on board no matter what. The length of friendship nowadays matter for me and I make time for them too. Time and friendship is tested indeed. And I also needed people who are at the same wave length, vibrations and experiences, I learn to use my gut feelings more thoroughly in this process and trust the first thing it say about a person (I should listen way back, even my son do this better than me). I learn to make personal boundaries and stand up directly for myself when one is crossed over.

I dropped Facebook as a platform and only use Instagram for business purposes and glimpse of what people are allowed to see about my life. I learn not to follow others who I feel unnecessary and regularly clean my feeds when I felt its a bit too much (nothing personal, its just how I learn to manage my consumption). I learn to be productive instead of being social.

My interactions in my business years has teach me how time is valued and how valuable my time is. I learn to monetised my time by the hour nowadays in order to care for myself and my financial needs. This decade has introduce me on the many ways and skills that I developed to understand the correlations of all the things that I had done in life to a point of understanding in all its connectedness.

Nothing has not been meaningful. Many things is still an ongoing process of learning and healing. But whatever has happened in this decade is that it made me SOLID. It made me have the ability to say NO, but also the ability to say YES. It made me found the right balance and recognise regularly which one is needed. I also gave time to everything that is happening unto my life and be consciously aware always with what is going on.

What I am not taking to the this decade is the pain of the past. The growing pains of transformation I know is require, but I learn to do things with ease. Choosing more simple route and not doing the hard things no more when there are other options. It is not the time for being in survival mode anymore. Am entering the decade for equal partnership in my reality, working to balance my own masculine and feminine power, and to say yes to the family am rebuilding in my own reality. Am looking forward to the structural things we are building and being connected with the land in the most realistic sense but with no rush either.

Despite all the dark periods of life that I went through in my 20s and 30s, in entering the half end of being 30s, am allowing myself to own my shine even if its only for myself to see. In the end I make peace with my own existence and allow myself to grow in my own way that I know: being honest with my words.

I believe the way of healing is to name things. And in this decade, more writings is to come.

continue to part two.

I take time

Me at 33, Padmashambhava Cave, Tso Pema, India. 2016.

I take time to write and process things. I make space and I take time. I am into depth and to reach depth, I believe in taking the slower path of everything. 2018 suddenly already reach its ending. I remember I was plunging myself in the depth of the Ganges last year around this time. That experience felt like plunging into a journey that reach my soul, deepen my understanding about myself and how I bleed after that plunge.

This year, I commit to myself, plunging unto my own ocean and setting out my boundaries. Its a year long of self talk, it throw me back on my days back in Bodhgaya. It takes that every morning walk and that every afternoon walk I took circumambulating the Bodhi tree where Siddharta became Buddha. It takes me to every time, I open the window to let the morning sunshine reflected to the moment where I pour the basmati rice to our small pot in the kitchen where I cook for my Japanese nun friend, who run the temple. For that memorable 2,5 month of sleeping near the temple altar because I can’t afford any lodging and waiting for my teacher to come to town. For all the faith I believe on myself. For all the Tibetan mantra that went all through my mala, bead by bead. For all the prostration I took to let go my own ego self in the wooden board with all the Tibetan pilgrimages. For the breath of my Gyenla in that cold morning in Bodhgaya. For his smile and the laugh of his students, for all this kindred soul of mine. For all those butter tea cups shared while listening and saw the Dalai Lama teaching. For all those warmth hearted moments that stays with me forever. I am home.

In my journeys I found myself. In my journey I am with my home and my heart. In my journey I healed myself. I don’t write a travel blog, even if I try to document everything I felt in words. I just don’t work that way. I had lost words lately in this overloaded world of information and disinformation. I am not into this negativity vibes and limitations. When words does not reach how I felt anymore. I move my body. I dance my life through.

People ask me why I don’t smile when I dance. People ask me why I move the way I move. People ask me whether I had lost my mind or going mad.

The thing is I move to live. To be alive. I don’t do this for entertainment. For the mass entertainment.

I dance to connect inside. I dance to connect with mother earth. With the wind that caress my being and teach me to be a breeze of fresh air. I dance to flow like water and find my ocean womb. I dance to purifies my fire and transform my fire power. I dance to channel the ether, the spirit realms, my ancestors, my guardians and for my own spirit to takes form. To shape shift. To release. To heal. I dance my medicine. I dance with everything to go back to myself. I dance to be with my centre of being. I dance with myself to process my own things.

And it has been an amazing journey of alchemy. I fell in love with myself and decide to give all the love I had to my own self, first and foremost. Because I deserve me. Because in my darkness, the whole universe and realm shift its gear towards light. In my dark womb, I rebirth my whole being. Inside, I started to understand my own power.

Now, when I shift. I promise to myself, that I will give time. The way I take time and space unashamedly.

Gently. Slowly.

Lotus Flowers at Dhambulla Temple Cave, Sri Lanka. 2017.

Stepping to the Notorious Bihar State

The road view to Rajghir, Bihar, India

It took me nearly five years to complete this full circle. When I started my Himalayan journey back in 2013, I was thinking to end them in Bodhgaya, Bihar. I did not know that I would accomplish them last December 2017. In the middle of my sabbatical, mobile working attempt and literally recharging my life.

By then, I already lost the sense of even managing a travel blog or at least care about the random things I have been posting at all. Tonight somehow, things sober up a little. I decided to organise my blog and my old writing. Writings is mean to be something you record and to go back to. Then I found that I just started typing again here. I even try the mobile posting mode through my phone to upload the photos. Life is indeed just another post away.

I feel this is where we lost it. In our travels nowadays, we just post photos in our Instagram account. Visual diaries are great but somehow I feel its too much visual junk. I even felt the need to declutter my phone memories. But it lacks stories. It lack depths. It does not tell you anything. The reconstruction of image has taken the social media by storm where we only see things in the surface. I felt that it become something that is very shallow. It even change the way we communicate with each other. We don’t say hi anymore and see people face to face. Instead of expanding your world, it somehow narrow your view about people and easily make assumptions. On the positive side, this facts help me to learn to set my boundaries and knowing how to recognised people real qualities.

I found freedom when this year I decided to delete Facebook on my phone. I still need to keep my personal network but put a notice that I am not active and people should just contact me personally when they need me. I felt I do not want to participate in this things anymore. I don’t believe in the constructed reality of social media.

My travels in the end always teach me the essentials. I took a forty hours train crossing my favourite continent, of course the Indian way. I was entering the end of my first month of travel. Hopping from Sri Lanka after finally getting my Indian three months visa approved for the first time.

Vasco Da Gama Train, view from my upper bunkbed

I smelled the Arabian Seas and swam in their waves. Spending days chasing sunsets in the Goan hills among its crosses, sleeping in beaches for the sunrises. Cooking and feeding people who I lived with. Doing translations and script editing deadlines in between. And finally took that train ride alone. Overcome a train accident in Allahabad. Walking in Mughalsarai station as a solo woman traveler and ignoring the danger by taking a random auto with the fact that I just skipped death again at 4.30 that morning. Dipped myself in this life again at 6 AM the next morning in the Mother Ganges. Letting myself being fed by a boat owner and share my food with the dogs of India’s most famous ghat. A Japanese guy decided to gave me a piece of lapis lazuli from Nepal as a token of friendship late at night.

While sipping my nth chai in the chill of Indian winter, seeing bodies being burn and listening to stories of people I met. I do not even know whether I will have enough money to survive another three months in India. Being motherless for the last 12 years, I found myself in my home, somehow being taken care off by the universe. Nothing is a coincidence.

My teacher had one of the best advice that he gave me last year. People do have expired dates. Alive or death. I threw my earthen chai cup to the ground in that last Varanasi morning and began my trip to Bihar.

The monks above the hill at Sunset, Rajghir, Bihar

I found myself staying in one of the small Japanese temple in Bodhgaya. I offer myself to help with the cooking. Food is literally my offering. I end up studying a bit about shojin ryori (Japanese temple food) in my exploration of adjusting the Indian vegetables and spices into an adaptable Japanese palate. This plate journey went as far as getting me an offer to join the Japanese monks delegates in the International Mahayana chanting event. I cried at the peak of Eagle’s Peak when they chant the Heart Sutra (Prajna Paramitha) in Sanskrit after hundreds of years for the very first time, again. I even felt the stones were crying in longing.

I end up staying for another two months in Bihar. I ended up cooking from temple to temple. For all pilgrims, monks, nuns, and layperson from all over.

With my Japanese nun friend, Katayama, I found myself slowly studying the Hiragana and chanting the Lotus Sutra in Japanese. While doing my own Tibetan practice during the day, joining the many Tibetans in the Mahabodhi Temple.

I end up joining the monks in exploring the ancient Buddhist sites that just got uncovered. I often can’t believe my luck in keep on stumbling this things in my dharma path. Sometimes I felt like I don’t deserve this so much goodness. Though, I learn to accept my faith, diving in so much gratitude and blessing.

Buddhawana – the cave where Buddha sleep for a night, Bihar

This is my only photo of the Mahabodhi Temple since you are not allowed to bring a phone inside due to the bombing incident back in 2013 when I was going to travel here originally then. I felt I complete a circle in just stepping myself inside. Its the only thing that I can share right now.

The rest of precious memories of even sighting the magnificent Bodhi Tree and doing my daily prostration. Doing kora with my Gyenla early morning and being reunited with many of my Tibetan friends all over again are just pure blessings. I finally had my first Dalai Lama teaching which are priceless.

I remembered all my steps, dreams and vision about being among it since I was in my teens. When everything felt very far away with the unspeakable craving from the bottom of my heart. In these moments nowadays, I know my spirit was home and I am awaken.

ABOUT BEING BRAVE

 

translated from Indonesian

A couple days ago, I read my dear friend Inna Hudaya posting with #metoo hashtag, I automatically put myself to wrote my story out. But the effect of what I share to public, goes back to me in waves.

The magnitude of this problem is so huge, I felt like feeling a tsunami or big earthquakes all over again in my life. And the most craziest part of it is that this earthquake come from inside of me.

I decided today to talk clearly and in my mother tongue: Indonesian. I know very well that what I will tell would make the reader feeling very uncomfortable. This writing is made not to make the reader to feel comfortable. But I feel this world have no more time to feel comfortable for the things that has ruins our life completely.

I feel, in talking this, I am talking what has been a taboo in our society. I am talking for my mother, for my grandmother and all the women before me. Also for the future women, my daughter and my granddaughters. For them I am speaking. And for them I wanted to say that: being brave is contagious.

When I was a six years old girl, my male cousin did sexual harassment for two years long. I was always quiet about it and keep it in secret, never talked about it to anyone in my family. He is my first older brother figure in my life that I ever knew in that early stage of life. And instead of protecting me, he crushed everything that I believe about a man in such a young age.

At twenty-six years old, my ex-husband raped me. Because he thinks by raping me, which can make me pregnant again with a second child, our marriage will last. The reason that our marriage was over because I found out that he has been sexually harassing my close female friends, when I was pregnant and breastfeeding my son. I do not need a father for my son that could not respect women. My decision to have a divorce completely done base on this fact.

I can say now that, throughout my pregnancy and my marriage with him for nearly two years, I let myself being raped over and over and over. Because I never wanted it and I even grow sick with sex. And the man that was supposed to protect me, respect me, never respect my words when I said NO. I have to kick him, screaming no continously, but he never listened. I do not know at that time how to say or to tell to other people when I experience violence inside my own house and in my own room. When my son was born, slowly I build up my courage, because my son is the future.

And my ex-husband did this because he thinks by being his wife, am his object. A toy that can be treated as he want and it is my responsibility to serve him. If marriage is something based on this belief, I choose not to marry again. For me, once is enough to be treated as a sexual object only, a thing or a property belong to somebody else.

These two incidents has ingrained and ruined me from the inside. And what is worse, all of this supported by the system that we are living in. When the health system such as the doctor that was supposed to take care of me when I had post-raped trauma, he said and blame me, even laugh at me, harassing me mentally. I go back to him and asked, who in this whole world wanted to be raped, even by their own husband? Sorry, but this perception in Indonesia is madness. They do not believe that there is marital rape, there is rape when you are having a relationship, and there are so many harassment all over the place. And last night I had to read Dhyta Caturani post, that even the Head of the National Police of this country blame the rape victim.

This is CRAZY. I have to speak out. When even I lost my trust to the head of the national police of this country, to protect and hold the rights of its citizen to feel safe. What kind of leader that lead us, all women, being ruined like this? This country has just done violence against us, did not respect and insult us as women. There is no protection or so ever that we can ever hope from them.

This afternoon I asked myself, what else that I can believe in?

This pain in my chest comes like the waves. Friends who also shared their brave stories the last few days on my post and the ones who sent me personal messages. We are like hugging each other and cried ourselves out while holding hands together. We can only take care of each other with our own power. If we can wash away our wound with our tears, we are doing it. We will wash away ourselves while standing upright. Letting our tiredness to be sucked by earth, our true mother and we have the power to continue our lives. To take care and mend our womb, to heal them, so then we would not born again another generation that are full of pain and wound of violence.

Just last week I gave a testimony recording the domestic violence in Indonesia and all kind of violence that happen to my body. Either personal, by the state and also by the system. Also this year, I experience battering from my ex-boyfriend while I was overseas. I am very grateful for my friends all over the world, my guru and also my good friends in Nepal, that has been guarding me to go through this process. I know, all these events will make me grow to be way stronger as a woman and also as a being.

I even said that if I become the path where all my experiences can be useful for everybody to reflect, feeling what every women who experience violence feel. I offer myself. Whatever has happened now could be transform to be the strength to speak out.

My studies on history teaches me how this country, this civilization treat women.

We have lost all our respect towards woman. Towards our mother. All kind of violence can happen to any women, no matter who they are. I wanted to ask to every man who did violence against woman, did you not see in their eyes: your mother, your grandmother, your wife, your partner, your sister or your daughters? Are you too numb to feel if something you do happen to them also?

Had we lost our humanity and kindness inside ourself, hey human? This is the big question. And by not wanting to acknowledge this problem, not caring about this issue, by ignoring all this by saying that this problem does not exist, you are contributing in letting the world trap in the cycle of violence, again and again.

I see and I feel, why is it so easy for us to ruin our natural world, ruining our own mother, our own home. Mining the mountain and polluting our sea. Ruining the whole ecosystem. Throwing plastic everywhere. Burning out forest and so easy to cut all the trees that is shading our lives. For greed, we ruin the deepest essence of our being.

For me, mother earth, is the deepest love existed. Unconditional love. She let everything happen even when us, human, her children, raped her over and over, ruining her without thinking about the future or even ourselves.

But I know, in her love, she is not silence. We as human has to carefully see all these things. Nature gave her signs. And this is all because of love and not because of fear.

Human lived with fear. Fear of being hungry, fear of never having enough, fear of not being enough, fear of offending others, fear to speak out, fear to live, fear to die, and etc. This cycle of fear is never ending because you, yourself keep on feeding them.

I feel it is time for us to speak out without fear. It is time for us to shed the light from what has been holding us to talk about painful things and find its solution. To heal the wound inside ourselves, woman and man. To find out our own world balance. Together and not alone anymore.

I am grateful that I am always surrounded with kindness. I still have the ability to trust human after all that I been through. I believe in raising my son to become a good man, I believe that there is still many good people in this world when we still wanted to believe and do what we believe in. I believe with kindness like I also believe in the ways that we can talk about our darkness.

Kandy, Sri Lanka, 20 October 2017

 

A LETTER TO MY MOTHER ON HER 70TH BELATED BIRTHDAY

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Dear Mami,

This is my son’s other mother, Ibu Heri, my son called her Ibuk and called me Mamah daily. She is as much as a mother for my son as me.

She is my neighbour, Simbah Ngadinem second daughter, my landlord. She is my older sister, my most reliable and trustworthy person, my partner in the process of raising my son the last seven years. She never let me down. We both owe her as much credit as a real family is.

This is her, doing my son laundry in her beautiful morning rituals. Both Simbah and Ibu are batik tulis traditional woman artisans, they would make a beautiful one piece of batik cloth with malam for two months full. Sometimes with gamelan music in the background from an old radio that Simbah had while she blow her canting and draw softly the pattern in the cloth. Every single day they do this when they are not busy taking care everything in their life, including my son.

When woman do their domestic chores, I found them in their graceful light. This is how I know her: simple, patient, affectionate, reliable, dedicated and loving. I know my son is safe in her hand.

Lately I have been practicing morning rituals and this is one of my first morning sight. My neighbours doing the laundry, the whole family together. The traditional well is the source of the morning energy. And yes, I am not a laundry person (I prefer ironing), I am not the perfect mother at all. I am perfect when other co-exist. I am existing as a mother to my son because of my neighbour.

I remember the day when we come to this house. With Ibu Hatch-Barnwell and Steven Bino Basira when we went house hunting. I had a messy separation with Bhumy’s father, had nothing and only carry the 15 months old baby in a baby sling. A completely lost, disoriented young mother and in the verge of tears anytime people look me in the eye. They didn’t ask or say anything. They take me in gently.

Oh how they take me in.

Four months later, I had to go for my last presentation for my final paper in the university and my son had a fever. I felt I can’t go that crucial morning, since he just had his first febrile seizure attack first time in Jakarta two months before. Both of them said to me:

“Trust your son with us, do your sidang skripsi and everything will be fine. Trust us.”

I did. And because of them I got my university degree and graduated that day.

Or when I was anxious of going the first time to India for a festival, because its going to be my first trip again after 5 years of not even travelling anywhere before because I am too scared to leave my son. Simbah only said:

“When the mother is calm, the children will be. Leave with a peace of mind, it would be easier for us to take care of your child, focus and finish on what you are doing. Then come home.”

I keep this words in mind after so many years. And because of these words, I found myself again. I had so many interesting job/work/travel offers that I learn not to refuse just because I had a son. I learn not to limit myself. Our life gets better. I got better as a person and a being.

I crossed so many miles and walk my nomad path even as a mother. They both are my pillars throughout my travel. As strong as any influential woman in my family. As inspiring as any of my favourite author or public woman figures. Woman are resilience and strong. This is what I learn from them.

Both of them are widows. They understand well the meaning of loss. They understand that nobody can be a single parent. Its impossible to do. Even nuclear family concept is absurd already. Woman need support. We need to support each other. To raise children you need a village, I prefer to make that village, than being a heroic single mom of the century. Am not in the superwoman band. I am imperfect as I am a human.

I lost you when I was 23. Two days ago you meant to be 70 years old. A beautiful graceful grandmother of my son. He is also a Cancerian. A home and family loving boy growing up to be a little man. He has your skin. Your fragile gentleness that I learn to understand slowly.

Then I found a grandmother, mother and sister again when I am 27. Simbah Ngadinem and Ibu Heri, they are the woman of my life and my son’s family. And I want to share these stories with you. I want to share these women who raise your grandson and help me grow as a mother. Through them I learn the value of trust, that strangers can also means family, and I accept this facts. That we are all one.

I forgive you for not being here physically. But I believe you are here, through them. And I am grateful for them, for you who has deliver me into the world so I can experience all this human experience, thankful for all the motherly blessing that the universe is giving me.

I understand you much better when I am also a mother myself.

Thank you for all the woman in my life with their grace, beauty, gentleness, vulnerability, warm, home, strength, resilience, anger, madness, grief, sorrow, pain, sadness, inspirations, lessons, wisdom, love and compassion. For your all beautiful souls, my soul and heart is honoured to meet you in my life.

You are loved. You are love. All ways. Always. #adaptingalexelle

Big hug, big love,

Astrid

Written last year, on her birthday, 22nd June 2016

The Melancholia of Transition

 

img_1179Jomson, Mustang, Nepal 2014

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.” ~ Pema Chodron

The hardest thing in having the habit of living like a nomad is that you are constantly feeling in transition. Often feeling not exactly there.

2015 feels transitory for me, it is a year where it takes me to go beyond my comfort zone and trying new things. Completely new things. Testing my own limit. Going through the different sense of things beyond my reach. It has been giving me all the biggest lessons. It has shown me my capability and also my weakness. My constant travel also teach me something that we all should be careful not to burn out along our journey. That stopping is necessary. That a rest is always good. Even crying your eyes out sometimes. Asking for help. All is necessary.

I wish I could start to write something more uplifting in this beginning of the year, but this writing become more like a reflection.

It become something that I ask myself the fundamental questions about home, when you are constantly moving around. When your comfort feeling often when you just see yourself carrying only one bag in a journey. Then you suddenly feel home. Alone with just one bag. Walking to some unknown destination.

***

Death has been a constant blow in my life. Death, I realised can come in many forms. Death has often mark of a cycle for me in life. Last month, my most respected teacher, Benedict Anderson passed away in Batu Malang. I am supposed to submit an obituary writing for him and I haven’t started yet. The thing is, Ben teach me how to live.

My last email correspondence with Ben was about going to India. And I managed to be back in India again last year.

Pause.

The draft of this piece was done in January 2016. Fast forward, I’m continuing this writing in November 2016.

And its start to turn out what November feels. What 2016 for me feels.

I was back to Northern India again in March 2016, to pause a bit, to breath a little bit to things that brought back my sanity. I couldn’t continue my writing before hand. Now, I am on my last night in Saigon and found myself back to this blog.

This year, I ended back in Jogjakarta. I realised after trying to figure out what is the relationship I have with this ancient spot for the last fourteen years, is to also realised its old adapted name, Ayodhya. I missed this fact somehow along this journey to understand better the meaning of having home. To grow rooted.

While 2015 feel transitory, it is exactly in these melancholia that I felt in the shift within myself. The soft breaking of my own walls while staying in India. To stake my own heart once again. To go deeper again than ever before.

IMG_0086.JPG

Dharamsala Tibetan Archive, Dharamsala, North India, 2015

I had to go back to Dharamsala in October 2015, to be reminded again where all these journey of the open heart started four years ago. I openly grief and let go of the loss of my parents, letting things go for new spaces to come. I ended up feeling disoriented for a while. And the tinge of melancholia hanging in the air. But I manage not to get overwhelmed by it, since I know already all the things that I need to do to handle it.

I did not plan to take more journey this year. But seems the fact of always having a nomadic streak is just something I need to accept in my life. I end up in different places: Lombok. Gili. North India. Singapore. Toraja. Cambodia. Vietnam. Though seriously you would find me most at home nowadays, even revamping the space after going through so many years of trying to organised a proper home. I end up chucking 70 percent of my things, start a new restaurant venture with my best friend, organised a bi-weekly secondhand market which ended up being a community hang out. While our restaurant, at its best, starting become one of Jogjakarta communal living room. I am finding myself more in the kitchen, from cooking, managing and hosting things. I notice I wrote more while I am travelling solo. And I do these in and out nowadays. Seeing the fluctuation of my energies, those moments when I need to recharge myself and moments when I need to show up for others.

I lost two important person this year too. One is our first restaurant customer, Budi, he was only 28. Another one is one of my really good friend, Chindy Tanjung, she died before turning 40. If Ben Anderson teach me to live, Chindy teach me how to hope. Her best reminder is left at my son’s name, Asabhumy. She add Asa years back when I was still pregnant with Bhumy. Asa literally means hope.

I learn to go through my grief. Keep opening my heart to also celebrate death and all the values behind it. And I see death has the ability to transform so many things. I change my relations with death. It has been a decade since my mother passed away. In all my transitory state, I accept that giving time and space heals everything.

I took the heart to face and not turn away my face in seeing the darkness anymore. Lessons while travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam, flow like water. Being in Vietnam the last few days, the attack of nostalgia is strong. As strong as remembering all my love ones in a bite of food.

In the cold air of the mountain.

And in every breath I take in feeling alive. Here and now.