Something Happened in Bali

Offerings

Anyone who knows me knows that I looked forward to visiting Bali with such excitement that I could hardly contain it. If someone mentioned the word Bali or holiday to me, I broke into this Cheshire cat grin and couldn’t string a complete sentence together. I am not well traveled and my income lies somewhere between minimum wage and living wage so the fact that I had the opportunity to visit somewhere so exotic was the stuff that dreams are made of.

Did Bali live up to my expectations? In short, no it didn’t. Generally speaking if people have asked me if I had a good holiday, I have given a polite society response of “Yes, it was brilliant thanks” for most people, this is satisfying enough. The same applies if someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “Fine thanks”. The conversation then ends and everyone goes on with their business.

If my trip to New York in 2014 made me feel bold & brave then Bali has unsettled me to such a point that at times I feel like I have taken at least five steps back in the progress that I have made over the last eighteen months. The thoughts in my head ricochet like a game of pinball stopping me from concentrating on any one task for longer than a few fleeting moments. Although I know that writing down & organising my thoughts would help; I have done everything I can do avoid doing so, including ironing & washing my car!

The last thing that I should have encountered on this holiday was conflict and yet we did; not between our unit of three I hasten to add. It serves no purpose to share details with you here in much the same way that I haven’t shared details about my ex-husband. Some of you know the story and some of you do not, it’s best that way.

Out of the drama that unfolded I have learned that my daughter has picked up my ability to go into ‘emergency mode’ and by that I mean put emotions aside, find and execute practical solutions very quickly. Can someone please remind me of this when she wants to go travelling next year! Tell me that she is a strong & capable young woman who can handle herself well, with integrity and confidence no matter how scared and hurt she is feeling inside.

For while I saw my son retreat into his own autistic world again, non-communicative and withdrawn, having worked so hard on his social skills and his belief in himself, to see this destroyed by one person’s lack of awareness was heartbreaking. The single mother’s guilt and loneliness I felt for taking them almost to the other side of the world, just to face distress on what should have been an idyllic holiday, reappeared and made me vulnerable. I didn’t like feeling that way at all.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger; the relative of a friend who stepped in to help us. I felt gratitude for my family & friends for the offer of money to assist us, it came immediately and without question and in total trust (although I was too proud to accept). I also felt less alone in a foreign country with the daily messages from those in the know back home who wanted nothing else but to just keep me grounded.

I will have to come to terms with what happened and this is going to take far longer than the week that has passed since we returned. It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, not by far, but it has left wounds and they need to heal. The process has started by being back home, feeling love from family and friends, being reassured, being hugged, and being told ‘not to be a dick’ when appropriate! Sleeping (or in my case, not sleeping) in your own bed also helps.

So what else happened in Bali?

I should probably start (BD – Before Drama) with Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul (to quote Wikipedia) is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, famous for its holy spring water with curative powers.

Of all the temples that we saw or visited, the experience here will say with me forever. We traveled to Tirta Empul as part of a private tour with an English speaking Balinese driver called Ketut (Balinese names explained), we didn’t expect to stay very long but events overtook us. I don’t really know how but Putu, one of the Temple custodians sought us out. Was he skilled at ‘working’ the tourists or was there something else far more spiritual and unexplainable at work? I think the latter.

Water TempleBlimey could Putu talk! He guided Emma through the ablution & blessing process. He then sat and talked to me, he shared part of his life story at first I was extremely skeptical but he quickly (intuitively?) up on my past, mentioning specific things that he could never have known, it disturbed me and I was very guarded but emotion took hold and tears flowed; how can a stranger have such an effect on me?

He escorted us through the Temple explaining this & that (it’s a bit of a blur to me) but every so often he would turn his attention back to me. He was not going to give up on his mission! I am not a religious person, but I do have respect for faith, Putu explained the Hindu belief of Karma & Dharma to me. We think of Karma as someone getting what’s coming to them, but it’s nothing like that! Karma is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds; and dharma, which has no single word western translation but simply put is the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things – that we are all connected. At times during our visit Putu took my hand; towards the end of our visit he insisted that he could help me and he took my head in his hands, he spoke softly to me (a deeply personal message), and he applied very specific pressure to the back of my neck. I wish I could tell you what I felt; but I can’t even begin to understand it.

Anything else?

I completed two of the items on my bucket list! Whitewater rafting & having a cream tea! I have decided that a cream tea in Bali (lovely though it was) doesn’t count and I haven’t crossed it off yet- I’m looking for the fully English experience with that one, either in a pretty tea room or a house with a history.

Emma & Matt went Canyoning (with Adventure & Spirit)! I did not. They have balls of steel. I do not. I have seen the Go-Pro footage & that was enough adrenaline for me. This was the highlight of the trip for them and the company deserve their Trip Advisor rating.

Is there more? Hell yes!

I have had a massage on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean! I have worn a bikini in the first time in…well about forever! I have seen Volcanoes, bathed in hot springs, cooled down in waterfalls. Stared in awe at rice field upon rice field, pondered the human endeavour in building the terraces, contemplated the success of the irrigation and water management vs the UK’s hopeless flood/drought methods and wondered why we cannot learn from a system that has worked for over a thousand years.

Rice Terraces

I have been disturbed by the gluttony, extravagance and overindulgence of some of the resorts vs the poverty experienced by many of the island inhabitants. I have felt guilty for enjoying some beautiful meals when others have nothing.

I have always been fascinated by creative people and Bali has more than its fair share of talented painters, woodcarvers, silversmiths, stone carvers, every imaginable style of textile work there could possibly be. Every single village that you pass through bears testament to this.

FlowersBali has many sides and many, many colours. It has a unique landscape and feel to it; grey volcanic ash, lush tropical forests, green paddy fields, golden beaches, blue skies, turquoise sea, vibrant ceremonial clothing, a black undertone of corruption, flowers, flags & kites everywhere. Oh and scooters…nothing can prepare you for the scooters and the ‘no rules’ traffic management! Bali also has a serious waste crisis. The Balinese traditionally used only organic materials, leaving no waste behind. With the introduction of plastics the island is covered in non-degradable waste from head to toe. The blame doesn’t lie entirely with the tourists either.

Catpooccino!
Catpooccino!

What about the coffee?

I don’t like coffee, thankfully! Just Google Kopi Luwak & you will see what I mean!

Final thought?

I am still in awe of the lovely Balinese people that we met on our visits, tours, outings, meals & excursions, many who guided us through our adventures, or who served us beautiful meals or spent time bartering with us when we bought our souvenirs. They are the happiest and kindest people that I have ever met.

Will I go back? I doubt it very much.

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Never the Same Love Twice…

…or Jane & the Mr Men

It has been over two months now since I re-embarked on my internet dating adventure and I thought that some of you might appreciate an update.

At first it was hell.

Then it got better.

Then it got worse.

Then it improved and so on…

I have definitely come to realise that I am in a good place to start a new relationship, unlike some of the people who I have either communicated with or met. I’m not really surprised though, I spent a great deal of time preparing myself and working out my motives and being sure. I loved, that is true. I can love again, that is also true.Never the same love twice

I have been very honest about my past. It’s not something that I can change, nor do I want to. I am very aware of the fact that it is pretty unusual. In every case, if meeting up with a prospective date was a probability, I have shared my blog with them. In the first instance, it wasn’t intended that I would do that, but the questions posed to me naturally led me to take that step. As it turns out, I think it has served me well.

Some have said “will you write about me” and I thought (out loud sometimes), “don’t flatter yourself” and yet here I am. To be fair in the interest of your boredom some identities have been merged…

Mr Axe Murderer– had a great profile, lovely photographs, wrote charming emails at first, and apparently had strong family values. BE WARNED, not everything is as it seems. As communication progressed there were tiny little alarm bells going off in my head and all to do with the unusual grammar being used. Anyway, I shared my blog- after all it’s out there anyway- but I used a unique bitly link. I’m glad I did. He had already told me that he was in the forces and posted abroad, fair enough I thought. But when the link I sent was accessed it wasn’t from the same country where he had said he was. Not even close. The moral of this story is ALWAYS trust your intuition!

Mr Pervert– enough said. I’m not a prude, but I have had my education expanded.

Mr Rude– If I am not ready to answer a question then I will say just that. Patience as well as honesty is key as far as I am concerned. Don’t tell me I am stupid though.

Mr Unfaithful– Yep, not all people looking for a date are single.

On the plus side I have been out more in the last couple of months than I probably have in the last three years. I have been treated nicely, I have enjoyed male company, and I have felt feminine again. But not with any of the Mr Men mentioned above!

In the wise words of Lisa Arends (Lessons from the End of a Marriage); A first date is an interview for a second date, not an interview for a marriage and don’t take rejection personally!

Onwards!

Is it Like Riding a Bicycle?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am having another attempt at internet dating. It worked for me once before so I assume in my more optimistic moods that it can work again.

Initially a new profile on a dating site (particularly the one that I first tried) is bombarded with what I can only liken to a ‘new meat’ type feeding frenzy. To start with, before I changed sites, I was weeding out the daily onslaught of suitable matches using the following criteria:

  • too young- I mean REALLY young, I was certainly old enough to be their mother, apparently that’s a thing!
  • too old- I have challenge with my upper age limit because my stepfather is not that much older than me, so I don’t really fancy a date or a partner older than him.
  • Cross dresser- nope, not for me.
  • Kinky- as in ‘can you send me a photo of your *insert word here*?’
  • Potential axe murderers.
  • and yes, even “married but available”- these ones I would like to string up by their you know whats!
  • No communication skills whatsoever- I mean zero. How am I supposed to respond to a message that just says ‘Hiya’?
  • Blatant lies on profile.
  • Too many dog photos- dogs are fine by the way; I just don’t want to date one!
  • Too many action man photos.
  • Too many photos in speedos.

I could go on. Do you think I am being too fussy?

My two basic criteria still stand; I want a man who is nice to me and who smells good!

Looking Into the Eyes of Strangers

CharacterSo despite telling myself emphatically that I would not return to the world of internet dating, I have done so.

It has taken a build-up of weeks and a gentle push from a friend for me to do this. The first step was writing my profile. I find expressing myself on paper relatively easy WHEN I have the right inspiration but in this case I was certainly lacking. I kept my blurb short & sweet with a view to expanding it if or when I become more comfortable with the idea.

In the meantime, if they want to know more, they will have to ask!

In the interest of keeping a sense of humour about all of this I shall share with you a few snippets of a conversation that ultimately led to me hitting the send button on this ‘adventure’.

On taking the plunge: They are your rules to make.

On casual shagging: It’s a bit like eating crisps; you really fancy them, they’re good while they last, then ultimately they are unsatisfying and best forgotten. (I haven’t got the time or the inclination for that.)

On grammar and poor choice of words in some profiles: Dominant? Or dominate? I’ve just choked on my tea (either way it means ‘deploy barge pole’).

On appropriate response to inappropriate suggestions: Send a message to him immediately- You disgust me you repellent arsehole, no wonder you are single.

So we all know that I like a man who smells nice and since the internet hasn’t yet identified a way to determine this, these are some of my first thoughts:

  • It feels like catalogue shopping.
  • I can’t get past a profile that doesn’t use at least some basic punctuation.
  • Why post a photograph in which you are not smiling or at least hinting at a smile, Mona Lisa style?
  • Why post a photograph in front of a fast car? ‘That don’t impress me much’ – Shania Twain
  • Why post a photograph in SPEEDOS?

And finally for the moment, I totally dismiss anyone who hasn’t taken the time to hit ‘rotate’ on their photograph.

I don’t understand the need to have identical hobbies, likes & dislikes. People are interesting, I like interesting people. They don’t have to like the same food as me, or have the same taste in music. I don’t want a clone of me. I want someone to complement me (compliments are nice too). In my experience the best guarantee of any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, is a basic moral similarity and values that are harmonious. <This may have to go in my profile.

No. Wait. Before you go. One more thing… I have been categorised by my income, job and ambition and other personal statistics and that is fine except for the fact I am so much more than that. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

Wish me luck!

Friends – I Bet You Think This Blog Post is About You!

Writing this blog and joining Twitter was my way of trying to expand my network of friends or at the very least learn how to reach out to others. As a single mother over the past nine, nearly 10 years I have been responsible for my children 24/7, 365 days a year and opportunities to meet new people are few and far between, I don’t get alternate weekends off like some divorced parents do!

At times of stress and emotional turmoil I withdraw from contact with others and the last 10 years or so have been full of stressful, emotional events. Without a doubt this started with my father’s death. It was sudden, shocking and very unexpected. I withdrew from my then husband and this behaviour was undoubtedly a contributory factor in his affair that followed. This is the part that I take full responsibility for.

From then on my withdrawal was like a snowball effect. The other woman was known to us and one day I even spoke to her and commented that her ‘new man’ must be good for her as she was looking glowing and well. Why is the wife the last to know? My self imposed alienation from my circle of so called friends (so many of them had known of the affair and not told me or even hinted) just grew & grew as I tried to escape the gossip and keep my pain private. I value the people in my life highly, but I value trust and loyalty too.

This isn’t a poor me post though.

There are always friends that you haven’t met just waiting to be found. When this gossip and speculation by the Playground Mafia was rife, one person who I had never spoken to before made the effort to talk to me every single school day and if she didn’t collect her four year old daughter, then her older seventeen year old daughter took her place. They were both friendly faces in a sea of people who I no longer trusted. Ten years later I am still in contact with them both and I remain incredibly grateful that they reached out.

My personal circumstances also resonated with someone who I met at the same time through my work. We spent many evenings chatting online about partners, life, sadness and eventually dating. Without his support and encouragement I would never have had the courage to set up my online dating profile, met my partner and experienced the love we shared. He’s also held firm as a friend despite moving thousands of miles away and has remotely ‘been there’ for me over the last couple of years since my partner went to work in a war zone and has not been seen since.

Then there was a fellow ‘dance mum’, who I had previously passed the time of day with, she was also experiencing divorce. We have shared so many similar life events since (apart from the one where she gets married) and have, I am sure, many yet to share!

What about when I became ill and ended up in hospital, there was the friend and her husband who stepped in, visited me, taxied my Mum to hospital to see me all during the extreme winter of 2010/11? Not only that, they offered me work afterwards enabling me to escape the corporate job that was making me more and more unhappy every single day. Their entire family, although we see less of them now, has been rock solid for me and my children.

So my friendship circle got pruned. But like the overgrown shrubs in my garden that I mercilessly and viciously attacked earlier this year there are new shoots sprouting again in places where you wouldn’t think possible.

It’s very true that strangers are friends that you haven’t met yet.

WP_000061 (2)(taken on ‎21 ‎August ‎2012, ‏the last full day that I spent with my partner)

A stranger reached out to me recently and gave me hope that there are still new friends to be made. I can already feel the difference that this one gesture has bought me, some of the unhappiness has lifted and life looks more positive. It gives me more confidence to make bolder moves towards others that seem to be offering friendship where perhaps I haven’t been very open.

These people change your life and sometimes they don’t have a clue how much.