January 31, 2012

The Journey (to Thailand) by Mary Oliver.

photo by James Sutton


“One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice —

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried…”

Leaving balmy Thailand, even knowing I would return in a year, I still felt robbed of the carefree gypsy life I was craving.

Standing at the doorway of the studio on the eve of my last day, my eyes looked out into the parking lot toward a sea of motor bikes and bicycles and my back faced all the friends I’d made on this journey. I took a bellowing breath and as I exhaled, felt the tears hot on my cheeks.

“..but you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones…”

I had fallen in love years ago… with Asia, with exotic experiences, with the unexpected encounter with persons who mystically show up just at the exact moment I needed something.

Enamored with the simplicity of life away from my own hectic “real life”, I closed my eyes and imagined what it would be like to whisk my 2 young boys off to this magical foreign land: Eating sticky rice with our fingers. Taking a rickshaw to explore sacred temples and riding bicycles to school with them. Drinking fresh coconut juice from a street vendor who just chopped off the top with a machete.

I wished on the big full moon: Let us go, run and return here as fast as we can.

“…But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world…”

melissa, traveler on the journey

In Thailand, I felt ALIVE. I released my fears and allowed the day to come and go as it pleased without agenda.Since returning home from my summer abroad, I’ve struggled to maintain the high. Just like a suntan fades over time, my glow dimmed a little more each day. My heart felt pale instead of vibrant. Until now.

“…determined to do the only thing you could do –“

A series of personal and professional setbacks: divorce, loss of friendships and love long hoped for, and job cancellations have forced me to reexamine everything I know to be true. As I was assisting in a community yoga class this weekend, the humble teacher stopped mid-asana and asked us to open our palms, and I heard him speak as if it were my own voice pleading me to consider: ‘This is your life. Don’t miss it.’

“…determined to save the only life you could save.” 

My life, clouded with unfulfilled longing for things that are not yet to be or may never come.I am forced to look my life in the eye and tell it I’m ready NOW. Come, save me from what I hope for and instead, clear space for me to be mended. I don’t want to miss my life.

*Poem by Mary Oliver, The Journey

More by Melissa: Waking Up a Different Person on Elephant Journal. And Pledge to Live.

joy revisited
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