Kat, Sarah, and I have once again collaborated on Project Reverb — a prompt-a-day writing project throughout the month of December. Check out the Project Reverb page for instructions, and to sign up to receive the #Reverb13 prompts in your in-box daily.
December 1: At The Start: Where did you start 2013? Give us some background on this year.
I knew nothing at the beginning of this year.
I was in Thailand, by myself on Koh Samui, and fresh out of a yoga retreat where I had spent a week breathing, and meditating, and moving through posture after posture and fighting to empty my head. I had stayed a few extra days on the island to see if I could put into effect what I had learned inside the safe walls of Samahita.
In other words, it was all the sort of thing you might see in a shitty rom-com, or a “women’s fiction” book, where the protagonist takes a couple of weeks/months off of life to “find herself,” and comes back…Whole.
I had gone to the retreat hoping to be told the answer, and instead was met with a void. I had desperately struggled through morning meditation, and each day’s hour-long breathing class. I couldn’t focus. I was convinced that I sucked at yoga, and that it really wouldn’t be so hard for a real yogi. Each morning constituted hours of torture — me, alone, with my breath and the sounds of the sea crashing outside the shala, and/or the blissful patter of the occasional rainshowers.
(That last sentence may be one for the Yuppie Asshole Hall of Fame.)
It wasn’t until I began to breathe into the tender space, that I opened up to All That I Had Been Missing.
I had been missing…Me.
In meditation, you learn not to fear the emptiness. You begin to see that sometimes, in the West, we pathologise the stillness. We are largely afraid of silence, and space, and of being alone. And it’s not a pathology, per se, one just has to learn to tell the Ego to STFU every now and again.
What I am trying to say is that I woke up on the first morning of this year on a beach in Thailand. I had met some wild Americans the night prior at a New Year’s Eve dinner, and had, at some point in the night, wound up in the sea — fully clothed. And when they had asked me to go out to a night club with them, I had taken a deep breath and said yes — relinquishing my idea of a quiet midnight alone. We had rung in the new year in a crackling, humid haze of electricity in a Chaweng discotheque.
After waking up on New Year’s Day, I’d gotten myself together and had gone to the airport to fly from Koh Samui to Bangkok, where I spent the rest of the day seeing the city on foot.
It was a strange and magical day.
I didn’t know then that everything was about to change.
I didn’t know that, within weeks, I would become quite ill; that Katka and Matthew would lose their son; that the next few months would erupt into a personal and professional shitshow like nothing I had ever before experienced.
It was a great, vast void stretching out before me. And all I knew, in the absence of information and answers, was that I had finally learned to breathe.