I am in Bali. I am in paradise. And not four days in, it has brought up a shitstorm of painful emotions up, right away.
People I’ve met here have told me Bali will kick your ass like this. It’s not just the whirlwind feeling of being a fish-out-of-water in a new country. There is something churning here under the surface.
I went to bed very early my first night in a gorgeous villa, draped in a mosquito net, thinking about whether I should leave. A massive storm raged around me, the sliding doors wide open (and yet no rain coming in at all… these villas are built for windows to always be open). Just the sounds alone of the pouring rain in the rice patties…this island may be the most special place I’ve ever been to. And part of my mind knows this, and the other half rages rages: Why can’t I slip into peaceful stream of this island.
When I began writing this note at 6 AM on my second day, while the sun was rising, I felt wrong — I should be meditating, should be quiet. But these thoughts intruded no matter how many times I tried to breathe them away.
The day after I arrived, I went river rafting in Jurassic Park-esque luscious nature — paddling down an untouched gorge with ancient ruins carved along the banks. Unspoiled majesty. I stood under a waterfall as the water gushed down on me, sunlight shattering the view overhead into rainbow prisms. An unimaginable, once-in-a-lifetime experience, and my mind was pouring over unfinished drama, leftover from leaving New York!
I am not kind to myself when I am alone. I am gregarious in company with people I love — that’s when I feel like a whole person. I was invited via the Bali improv-scene (yes, I got hooked up to teach improv to people out here…yes improv is consuming the world) by my friend, Amey Goerlich in NY (who somehow Skype coaches these fuckers) to a secret dance party, hosted by the most sexually-charged twenty-somethings I’ve ever seen, held in a famous songwriter’s mansion hidden in the far Northern rice fields. Well, I assume they were twenty-somethings because everyone looks very young here and constantly asks how old each other are only to comment on how young everyone looks (I surprised my Balinese tour guide the other day when I revealed I’m 30 years old, to which he practically shouted, “Most Americans look very old, very tired! Your skin is good!” Though I later disappointed him when I told him that, “No, I did not have a wife yet.”).
The Burningman-esque party was wicked fun! It got me out of my funk for awhile and felt like a true taste of uninhibited Bali, away from the tourist insanity of central Ubud (Advice: do not homestay in city-centre Ubud, unless you enjoy being hawked at constantly for a taxi ride and crushed by tourists queuing around the block to get gelato).
To compensate for my anxiety:
-I’ve scheduled out my day-day with adventure plans —from sunrise hiking to a planed sojourn by scooter around the island.
-I spent almost an hour Googling “Balian Healer” yesterday…looking for someone to heal me.
-I fuss over money when we are talking like a couple bucks difference here or there, everything is so cheap.
-I’ve checked my email again and again, looking for…something.
And truth be told, I am constantly worried of what I will do when I get back home to NYC, without a job and with only a declaration to be an artist, not just a comedian, but someone who brings to the stage my honesty and truth and a mainline to my joy, while still being funny. I have met so many people here in a similar in-between state. So many people I meet have just quit their jobs, or dumped corporate America (or declared they will do so immediately on return!), or decided they also too will find their true calling as an artist. The most common phrase seems to be, “Can you extend your trip?” Whether it’s just a reputation generated from Eat, Pray, Love or some spiritual calling embedded in this island…people come here when they are bereft of solid ground and unsure of where they stand.
I have felt so sad, bitter, confused, furious at how I can’t relax and restore myself yet. I feel exhausted even writing this. When I was river-rafting, the only way I started partially enjoying myself was to admit that I am full of rage from my life in New York, and I will be full of rage for some time and it is ok, and why don’t I paddle even harder because I feel angry inside and get it out and then dive in the damn water and be angry about things but enjoy the shock of cold water.
Last night, I stared at the full moon in the middle of the dance floor in the millionaire home of the songwriter, self-conscious that I was stock-still admist a writhing mass of bodies. But I wanted to look at the moon and feel how I was feeling. There was this bubble of emotion in my chest, a feeling I initally attributed to some sort of withdrawl from weaning myself off antidepressants — but that wasn’t it. I’ve learned how to breathe from my gut, but I couldn’t get my breath past my chest. It was stuck there. I felt desperate to be unlocked, for someone to fuck it out of me, or hold me longer than I’ve ever been held, or just touch me (it’s been very long since I’ve been intimate with someone). For someone to alleviate this pain.
I think this is a place where you have to help yourself, as lonely as that is.
After awhile, a voice spoke back to me in my head, as ridiculous as it sounds, and the words that came in loud and clear were, “We want you to believe in yourself again.” I feel the well of emotion in my chest right now, typing this. I replied, “I want to believe in myself again,” and my voice felt small, diminished by the last three years of New York bludgeoning me.
But when I phrased it in my mind, “We want you to believe in yourself again,” instead of I, the words felt strong. Whoever that “We” was, it felt like the support I needed. It made me think of my mother, who I had so many unresolved issues with before she unexpectedly died, who I’ve been unraveling in therapy over how she coddled of me as a kid and left me like I couldn’t feel good unless things were perfect and then blaming the world when they weren’t), and I realized she did the best she could. That we all don’t know better. And the most helpful thing we can do is to breathe in how we feel — to not bury it or dampen it because we fear it — but to feel it.
I woke up feeling much lighter this morning. Though I did have a dream where I was accused of something I didn’t do and thrown into prison for life last night…but I don’t need to go into that right now.
It both appalls me and makes me laugh that my first “Note From Bali” is so dark, but I think these feelings have lain buried in the go-go pace of NYC life, especially with the amount of booze I consumed to dampen how I felt every day (which I’m also weening myself off of in Bali).
We want you to believe in yourself, again.