Treasures.

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I brought some of my treasures out, missing the forests and oceans of my other home(s).

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I've always had a problem with waking up in the middle of the night and thinking too much. The Psalmist says, “I meditate on you in the watches of the night.” I wish for it. Sometimes, when I am in those unforgiving hours when every problem feels like a life sentence, I try to visualize being completely surrounded by God. I am floating, suspended in grace and love. I am weightless, safe, and tiny, a speck in the river. The river is mercy, purpose, and good heartedness toward me.

I drift off to sleep eventually.

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Can anyone overcome a life of bad patterns of thinking?

Sometimes it is lifted, and I feel free and like I’m completely changed. Other times, it plummets back down on me. Anxiety. A pounding in the heart. A quickening of the breath. Danger! Danger!

Gertrude is back.

Gertrude, my anxiety dragon. She’s rather sweet and lovable sometimes, curled up asleep in the closet. But she can be a regular pain in the bum if she wakes up while I’m trying to write a book, or go shopping (she hates shopping) or talk to Chinua about plans (she hates making plans.)

She worries too much about danger.

“Go back to sleep, Gertrude,” I tell her.

She responds with a gust of flame and wraps around my heart, making it hurt.

“Or don’t,” I say. I can’t make her do what I want.

I want to love her, like I want to love everyone. Nothing can be too scary if it’s loved. But sometimes I’m preoccupied by what ifs- what if I didn’t have a pet anxiety dragon? What if she toddled off into the forest one day, never to be seen again? What if instead of an anxiety dragon I had a confidence rabbit?

Can you love something and want to exchange it for a rabbit?

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She’s here at the moment, trying to warn me of imminent danger. I’ve tried to convince her that these woods are safe, that the trees are our friends, but she’s nothing if not vigilent.

Sometimes when Gertrude is here, she locks up my neck.

Sometimes I may have to go to bed for the day.

Today, I have a plan. Fifteen minutes, not thinking too much, tricking the dragon.

Fifteen minutes of work at a time.

Live in my body, hugging my family, not thinking about what I cannot control.

And tricks, lots of tricks, tricky tricks.

Like:

A cup of tea.

A drive on the motorbike for the breeze on my skin.

One small task done.

Pretending work is not work, so Gertrude doesn’t blast me.

And noticing every little thing, to mark it, to make it physical, to not let fear rule me. 

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We’ve had rain lately, and the skies have been gorgeous. Soon Isaac will wake up and come to find me and hug me. Leafy has been making sugar glass. I’m learning a new song on the clarinet, and working on mandolin scales. Today is gardeniing day, and I think I’ll head over to Shekina to work in the garden for a while, then come back with my friend Claudia to work on sorting and packing.

(We’re moving house, which is rather big news. Gertrude is worried about it. I’m excited.)

I made granola the other day, and there’s nothing like granola and milk with mango sliced into it. Or maybe I’ll have a smoothie, with coconut milk and strawberries. I’ll burn a candle. Maybe work on my blanket. Later Kenya and I will watch a show or listen to music together. Chinua will move a few boxes over to the new house and in between working, practice his trumpet. Solomon will dance and hug me. I’m here. These trees are friendly. The animals are safe. The woods are only woods.

It’s been this way for a long time.

God is ever and always beside me, his breath in the wind that swoops through the leaves overhead. His kiss on my face. I have nothing to fear.

How Isaac sees me.

Isaac kept me up half the night last night, sleepless and a little scared. I lay beside him and cuddled him, though my thoughts often strayed to today, and what it would be like to do it tired. I don’t do sleep deprivation anymore. It’s not good for the octopus in my brain. 

But I love him. And he loves me. And it’s the simplest, lovely thing. So I helped him get back to sleep.

It was Mother’s Day recently here in Thailand. Mother’s Day falls on the queen’s birthday here, and everyone wears the queen’s color (light blue) and some kids wash their mother’s feet to give honor, which is a new fact to me and so beautiful. 

We haven’t been great at Mother’s Day in my family, partly because Chinua isn’t such a holiday guy (more of a spontaneous amazing thing guy) and partly because it falls on or near my birthday, so I already feel quite celebrated and don’t really want to ask for more. But Isaac is in a little gentle learning school now, and they had a party for us on Saturday. It was really quite sweet, and the best possible part was the art of myself that I received. 

This is how Isaac sees me:

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I’m magical.

 

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I’m curvy and wonderful. (I'm the yellow one. Isaac is the pink one.)

I see love in every line. I almost wish I looked like that for real. Life would be so interesting. 

 

This and that.

Kai is doing well at school so far. Also school is really different now, right? We're in the future. He’s a brave kid, cycling around the city with a backpack, starting something completely new. It’s inspiring.

I’m hanging out in the city to be here for the first week, but staying in a guesthouse so I can also take a work retreat. I’m editing World Whisperer 4 and working on various projects. Missing my other kids, trying to make the most of my solitude. It’s the story of the mother-artist-person. At home, there is never enough time to get work done. Away, you miss the people who inspire you most. But both states are full of love and many many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for the space and time right now to edit. I am grateful for solitude, which fuels me.

Leafy Skyped me yesterday to ask me what how I would react if he came home one day and had turned into a superhero. I told him I would be stoked, obviously.

I think my superhero skill is tricking myself. Work for me is still a near constant state of trickery. If I set my goals harshly, I rebel against myself, so it has to be all little bits here and there. If I set a schedule I am liable to rebel against it. If I tell others what I am doing so I can be accountable, I am liable to sabotage it. So it’s all trickery folks. Sitting down for a few minutes which turn into hours. Ticking edited chapters off. Another cup of coffee. It’s how I get stuff done. And then I take breaks to read, crochet, or people watch.

People watching is fun. Students in Thailand often head out to study in public, and it makes every public space have a chummy, learn-y type of feeling. I write notes of what people around me are doing. For example, next to me a woman might be looking at lab reports on her iPad. Another girl has an enviable amount of colored pens and is making lists of some kind. She has cool colored tape that she uses to mark certain sheets (but not others!). I’d like to ask her what she is doing, but she is wearing cordless headphones and I don’t wish to disturb. 

And then there are the matching clothes. Matching is a trend on our side of the world, especially when people are traveling together. They buy matching elephant pants and walk around looking amazing. Everyone has the same bottom half, like magic! And then there is when people accidentally match. One day I saw a pregnant lady with a striped navy dress walk by a man who was wearing the exact same stripe pattern on his shirt. It was as though they were part of the same thing for one, brief moment, except that they had probably never met. One day I would like to make a short movie of people wearing matching clothes passing each other in crowds. Maybe their eyes will meet. Maybe not.

Chinua refuses to wear matching clothes with me, though, no matter how many times I point out other couples doing it. Even when they are wearing matching pants, shirts, and caps, it doesn't inspire him to follow suit. He's a good husband otherwise. Not-matching is just a sorrow I have to bear. 

A New Part of the Journey

All beginnings are also endings. And sometimes, to celebrate a beginning, you also need to grieve a bit for an ending, especially if you are a fairly melodramatic, questioning kind of a mother-person. The kind of mother person who still likes to lie on the floor when she is overwhelmed by life and documents.

But the beginnings still need to be celebrated. Change is beautiful, rich, full of life, a thing to be cherished, one of the aims of raising children. 

Kai is starting high school. This is a minor miracle. He came home from camp in April and told us (with a lot of excitement) that he would really, really like to go to high school. And so we began to pray about it and then miracles began rolling in. He has received a scholarship from a loving couple to attend an international school in Chiang Mai. Another beautiful family asked if he can live with them. He will come back on most weekends. And school starts on Monday.

The last months have been a flurry of filling out forms and figuring out details and I wasn’t really sure of anything, so I didn’t write about it. But everything is finalized and our oldest child is half-leaving the house, back on weekends and holidays, living in a city three hours away. 

This will be amazing for him. His brain and brilliance need more challenge, he needs peers and teachers and a good transition point between living in a tiny town in Northern Thailand and moving to Canada or the US when he starts university, three years from now. He will thrive, I’m sure of it. I’m incredibly proud of him and excited that more people get to see the coolness that is Kai.

And also it’s sooner than I thought it would be.

There is this very instinctual, instrinsic part of my mother self that feels like Wait! Watch the kid. Keep the kid close. That’s our job. That’s what we do. 

It doesn’t help that every time I look away from him I reimagine him looking like this:

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How can you send that out into the world? How can you give that away?

But I blink and look back and he looks like this:

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For scale:

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This is a healthy, normal change, but it is the ending of an era. We all lived in a house together for sixteen years. All the family. We had a lot of time together; Kai was always home. We traveled on trains and buses, planes, boats, one tractor, rickshaws, canoes, cars or vans, and even on foot. We did it together. We’ll do more things together, I know it. Kai will still be home a lot over the next three years. But a certain time of life, a quality of how we were as a family is coming to an end, and it brings with it great possibility and the sadness of things that can’t be forever. 

I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said I am terrible at transition. Change often has me charging around dropping things, and stubbing my toes. I grow clumsy and vacant. I am overwhelmed. But I want to do this well. So I am writing, listening. We are in the city now, getting ready for school. Doing a bit of thrift shopping. Getting his bicycle fixed. Figuring out class schedule stuff. It’s all normal. I’m channeling my very best Molly Weasley. I’m pretending to be the mom who knows about school and grown up things, who totally has this. I totally have this. 

I mean really.

I do. 

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Canada Day Sale of A Traveler's Guide to Belonging

Right now, A Traveler's Guide to Belonging is on sale for $1.99 on all major ebook retailers. Hooray! Get it here. 

Also, have I ever been in such mud with a book as I am right now? Yes, yes I have. I am SO CLOSE to writing The End on the fourth World Whisperer book, but this book might kill me. And then I'll need to be resurrected to write Book 5. I think it's worth it though. 

And Chinua is in Sweden playing music. He's been gone for about two weeks and will be back on Friday. Send help. And chocolate. And noodle salad. We miss each other badly. Thankfully I have these great kids to hang out with.

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