Gains and Losses

My high school water polo coach used to say (as the Varsity team said good-bye to the seniors at the end of the season) that we weren’t losing key players – we were gaining new players.

Of course, we were losing some of our best players AND we were gaining potentially great new ones, yet the philosophy is one that has stuck with me:

Focus on what there is to gain instead of brooding over what has been lost. The past has passed; time to look forward.

Looking back on this past year of gains and losses, of novelty and routine, of highs and lows, I think reflecting on past losses give more meaning to future gains and the experience as a whole, because those losses were key players in my journey and growth.

In this post I will focus on the human connections that have had a large impact on me.

Although I have lost the physical proximity to some of the PCVs from group 129, who have left Thailand ending their service early for one reason or another, I have also gained lifelong friends.

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Danielle was my neighbor, co-teacher and closest friend during PST.
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Cheri was in the province above me and we were great travel and swim partners.
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 Jessica and I shared long philosophical discussions and hours of language training together.
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Liz and Libby were and still are my loves of light. Luke and Ben were the first volunteers I ever met after arriving in San Francisco to begin my Peace Corps service. 

 

I’ve lost one host family, only to gain another, and I will be forever connected and grateful to both.

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Singburi family
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Singburi kids
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Surat Thani family
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Surat Thani brother

 

I’ve been so lucky to have gained and lost so many visitors – their brief glimpses into my life, have served to rejuvenate me again and again.

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Kevin was my first visitor – we lost our worries and gained our SCUBA certifications.
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My adventurous aunts and cousin visited for a great start to the New Year.
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Kalina was a surprise visit; knew her as a friend of a friend, yet she truly is a kindred spirit.

I have gained loads more supportive people at my school, hundreds of sweet students and various members in my surrounding community, not to mention all the Peace Corps staff and volunteers still with me; however, I will not physically lose them for another year, so there will be another blog post to commemorate them when the time comes…

 

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Getting lost in the clouds

“To be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery”

Often when I lay in my bed and read, I rearrange my body so that my head is where my feet usually rest so I may look out my window and gaze at the canvas outside.

Weather is a strong reminder that every day is unpredictable and strangely beautiful. Although being a Peace Corps volunteer may sound more exotic or more full of more hardships than “normal life,” I would challenge that assumption.

Every day is unpredictable no matter where you are in the world. The clouds remind me of this.

Yet, it’s easy to forget or disregard the truth of impermanence. Many a day feels the same, and so my mind wanders elsewhere, wishing to be elsewhere, no longer present to the subtle beauties around me, dreaming of what was and what could be, instead of appreciating what is.

I remind myself that a year ago, I lay dreaming and pining for this opprotunity, to be here, in Thailand. Now, here I am, at my intended destination yet still caught in the endless cycle of dissatisfaction and craving that I thought would be quenched.

It is when we embrace the mystery of the moment, set aside our preconceived notions or ways of being and seek to become lost in our now, it is then that we are fully present to the wonders available in each second of life.

Whenever my mind seeks to predict what the clouds will do next or starts to reminisce in other skies seen in the past, I remind myself just to observe what I see, get lost in the present moment. No day is like the one I am experiencing today.

“That thing, the nature of which is totally unknown to you, is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost.”

Books in queue to read:

A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit (quotes above)

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

A Life of One’s Own by Marion Milner

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

Stormy Reflections

An imagined conversation with Alan Alda:

Lauren: Hi, Alan. Nice to talk to you. I am currently in a foreign city away from my friends, family and comforts and I’m feeling a bit lonely. Any suggestions?

Alan: You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

Lauren: Okay, so I have. Against my comfort, my intuition told me to dive into Thai waters, to explore the wilderness of fruit trees and tropical storms. I can see myself in everything and everything in me. It is wonderful AND frightening to see the sky reflect the storms in my soul. What now Alan?

Alan: Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.

Lauren: My assumptions, hm? Well, I assumed I was lonely based on the fact that I started a fake conversation with your famous quotes I found on Google, but maybe I’m not lonely… Maybe I’m just finding a unique way to entertain myself. Maybe I’m just bored? Ah yes, let the light shine through!

Alan: Be brave enough to live life creatively. The creative place where no one else has ever been.

Lauren: Well, I’m not sure that anyone has ever had a fake conversation with you, while in Thailand, wearing a green flowered paa-sin, at 2:30 in the afternoon and eating an instant noodle soup before. Here, now, in this moment, I am in a place and time where no one else has ever been.

Alan: Be as smart as you can, but remember that it is always better to be wise than to be smart.

Lauren: You’re right for calling me a smart-ass (then again, that’s an assumption). Wisdom is telling me that personal reflection is healing for the stormy soul and that sharing it on social media makes one feel less alone even if no one actually reads what one is writing. Now, I think I should go write a poem or meditate or something…

Alan: When people are laughing, they’re generally not killing one another.

Lauren: True. I’ll keep humor in my heart to stop myself from killing this jumping spider hopping around my desk. I can’t just assume he is a he or that he/she desires to bite me. Maybe the spider is just as bored as I am and wants a companion. Maybe the spider just wants to be happy.

Alan: It isn’t necessary to be rich and famous to be happy. It’s only necessary to be rich.

Lauren: Looks like I’m doomed for unhappiness for the next few years if that is the case…

Although, I’d argue that “rich” in experiences, fueled by boredom and loneliness, that often breed creativeness and a search for humor, can challenge one’s typical ideas and assumptions and ultimately lead to a unique discovery of oneself and a clearer window of wisdom in which to view the world…

Thanks for the chat Alan. I feel like the storms have subsided for now. I’m going to go spend some time in the sunshine.