So while it took me 24 hours to physically get home from Bali – to fly from Denpasar International Airport to Hong Kong, and then on to San Francisco – it only took me about 10 minutes in the car the next day to become some wild eyed impatient bitch who was half an inch from leaning on her horn because some dude in front of her wouldn’t turn right at the red even though he COULD HAVE.
“Oh my god,” I thought, slowly pulling my hand back from the wheel, “so this is how it starts.”
Because I really did think I had changed during my month in Bali. At least I hoped I had. In fact I’d never been more calm, more stable and more happy than I had been for the last 30 days. Maybe it was the 90-degree heat that forced me to slow down. Maybe it was my easy schedule: working with writing students everyday from 2-5, and then filling the rest of my time with yoga classes, cheap massages and slow visits with friends.
“Hungry?” I’d say if I ran into my Bali mates. “Anyone up for a walk?”
We never made plans. We were almost always in the moment, never seeing far enough ahead into the future to know what we’d want for dinner or what we’d feel like doing later. Not like here, where a date for dinner sometimes needs to be made three weeks in advance – something that always embarrasses me about my schedule and my priorities, and which often feels like work over friends.
And here I was, back home in the sleepy town of Alameda, about to ream this guy with my car because I needed to go to Trader Joes and I needed flowers and I needed to get to the gym and I had a workshop to produce the next day and I, I, I…
“So this is how it starts,” I thought, as I took a deep breath and slowed my car down.
The stress had snuck up on me. I’d forgotten about the pace of this place, and the hustle and the traffic and time, and how only an hour earlier I’d been at Kinkos printing some stuff and this customer was shouting at the lady behind the counter, screaming, “This is not what I asked for!” And how I too was standing there in line making up stories about how Kinkos doesn’t hire enough people, and what were they thinking? And this is no way to run a business and it was all terribly familiar, this heavy, dreadful feeling like things weren’t going my way.
And I saw, as I drove through the streets of Alameda last week, that I had been different in Bali, and it hadn’t been an illusion, and at my core I believe I am a steady, grounded, calm person. And how, if I wanted to keep a little Bali alive in me – this part of me that isn’t always trying to shove a gallon into a cup – that I would have to make some changes and actually make a practice of being calm – which sounds funny – but which I think means not over scheduling myself, and maybe trying to walk away from my terribly important work and my ambition – which is beautiful and which also barely lets me rest.
I’m thinking about how when frogs are placed in boiling water they will try to jump out. But when they’re placed in cold water that is gradually coming to a boil, they’re often unaware of the danger and will be cooked to death. That’s what I realized coming home from Bali, that my world – our world – is freaky stressful – I mean – just the traffic alone – and I’d known that, but I’d acclimated and forgotten, and for a long time I’d been walking around believing that everything was terribly, terribly important, and I better get to it – whatever that means.
I don’t want to be cooked to death. I don’t want to be someone who thinks evil thoughts about the lady who works at Kinkos, or who spits darts when someone cuts her off in traffic, but I am, sometimes I just am. The best I can do is try to remember Bali, and how it took traveling 8000 miles away from home to remember where I live and how I want to live and what that might take.