Jigsaw puzzling

Slowly, slowly. Piece by piece, I am putting together a puzzle. Gathering, building, shaping fragments of ideas and thoughts into something tangible. Gingerly balancing between the tasks of planning and the delight of anticipation.

This past year or so has been hard, and pushed me to the limits of resilience emotionally and physically. This has been exacerbated by events such as the embolism conspiring to sabotage any opportunity to have a restful, healing break.

So I am cautious as I carefully share some ingredients of the puzzle I am working on, and the picture which is taking shape.

jigsaw plain

I am taking some holiday in the next few weeks. I am hatching a plan, a gentle adventure and escapade. I feel fragile so this will not be any bungee-jumping, jungle-trekking, kayaking or abseiling adventure, but a healing retreat. I yearn for the natural sounds and colours of the jungle, and the music of the breeze and the rains. I long to be surrounded by the elements and for my mind and body to be bathed gently.

It was not intended to be such a process, but this is taking shape in a fascinating way. I have been looking at specific parts of the break in a rather random and incoherent way. Little fragments at a time, with a broad landscape in mind, but only focusing on a piece at a time.

The framework has been fairly simple. I want to have a break over my birthday. I want to visit a country I have not visited before. In Asia. And just to further constrain choices, I want an easy, relatively short journey. Thank goodness Asia has so many options!

Happily there are a few more direct and even low airline options from Yangon to help to lay the background for this puzzle. A direct flight to Kuala Lumpur provided a very helpful foundation piece for the puzzle. I have not been to Malaysia before. Rather sad, given I have been in this region for thirteen years, but there you go! Quite convenient, for my planning. KL is not really somewhere I have been particularly drawn to visit, the images of the iconic Petronas Towers and sophisticated shopping malls not my first thought of a peaceful getaway. Until I saw the photographs and accounts of a visit to KL by my friend, and that presented a somewhat different impression. A fascinating old town, colonial architecture, museums and galleries. And besides, KL is not so far from jungle retreat and peaceful places. Definitely a viable basis.

The next part of the puzzle which provided the necessary foundation, was a recommendation from a friend for a little known place, a couple of hours north of KL on a tiny island. Not a beach location (it’s not really so far away from that seismic fault line which we have already witnessed rumbling) but a retreat in the hills, nestled in the jungle. I know it is monsoon season, and I know there will be a good amount of grey cloud. But the thought of the rains hammering down, drenching me and washing away those tensions and releasing emotions is incredibly welcoming and comforting.

Before long, these two pieces of the puzzle were in place, a single flight to KL and a five night reservation at the retreat. Many gaps were in the puzzle, but the start of a picture was taking definite shape.

And so the process has continued, making the planning as much a part of the break as the time away itself. I have picked pieces up and played with them, examining them to see if they would fit. Would a train journey back to Bangkok be a pleasant return? Or perhaps a transfer to Penang and flight back from there? Or what about returning to KL and the cheap flight back, direct? I played with these options over and over each having its disadvantages and advantages. The low cost flight’s departure at 6 am presented a clear contradiction – 4 am check-in a most unappealing close to a restful break.

As in any puzzle, the pieces are interdependent. Travel choices determine the range of accommodation options and preferences clearly determine those travel and accommodation choices. Another key factor, is the very real limit that there is in my mobility and the need to make sensible and comfortable choices.

Slowly the pieces are being placed. I will return from Penang, via Bangkok. One night in a pleasant guest house in Georgetown will gently prepare me for return. Prior to the island retreat, I will spend a few nights in KL, gently resting and perhaps exploring. And certainly downloading some long needed musical megabytes! Then the train to Ipoh, for a night. Stopover and possibly exploring of this city, before heading to the island early the next morning for the five nights of retreat.

Slowly, slowly I am arranging the various elements. A guest house here. A hotel there. Train tickets. Guide Book. Transfers. The pieces of the puzzle enough now for me to see the picture.

starfish puzzle

And the picture is one of rest, healing, recovery, discovery and revitalisation.



22 thoughts on “Jigsaw puzzling

  1. I hope you enjoy every minute of it. I love the sound of rest, healing, recovery, discovery and revitalization with a hint of sheer joy as the puzzle allows you to breathe in the joy of each moment in time.

  2. I do hope all the pieces “fit perfectly” into a wonderful break. You deserve nothing less. I’ll be thinking of you.

    • Thank you so much, N – I will keep shuffling those last pieces until they fall into place 🙂 Next thing we need to sort is a break from those side effects – I wish for that one!

  3. dear philippa,

    what a lovely thing to bask and relax in the anticipation of it all. I love the puzzle image,, pieces fitted near together then shifted for this or that to accommodate all the details and choices you have at your fingertips. I think this post is such an inspiration to those of us who need and deserve to have exactly this sort of quietly joyful healing; so good you are treating yourself!

    love, XOXO


    • Thank you so much, Karen – isn’t it funny how things just come together sometimes? The image of the jigsaw and how it applies to a situation? And that oh so appealing image of healing and relaxation. Sometimes, in our sophisticated world, we crave that simplicity. I hope you also have healing treats in store xxx

  4. hi Philippa,
    Your last few posts have resonated so much with me. We are at about the same stage in the journey (3 years on). It is so easy to laugh at the Captain Paranoia visits when he is absent, but so hard to ignore when there is something causing concern – who ever heard of an infected hair follicle on the breast, but that is one event that inspired a Captain Paranoia attack for me. Your rant against the side effects – now on my 3rd type of medication (out of the 4 possible) to try to find a way to live with the side effects. And the peace of mind in a health retreat – hope that it refreshes you in the way that you seem to need just now.

    • I do so appreciate your comment – especially as graduates from the same year batch! I can well imagine the fear that an infected hair follicle must have caused – how terrifying. I am very glad it was an innocent cause.

      I do hope that this latest med works and is gentler. It is so hard to convey just how debilitating these side effects are.

      I send you virtual retreaty thoughts 🙂

      Thank you 🙂

    • Thank you so much Catherine, I think it is indeed just what I crave and need. What a year it has been so far, I just something which will turn the year round. I can almost feel the benefit already, with the anticipation being part of the treat itself. Thinking of you xxx

    • Thank you Marie – what a lovely thought 🙂 I will travel in 2 weeks time, and I just cannot wait. It still feels quite far away….. But then that is longer to wallow in that anticipation 🙂

      Love and hugs to you

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  7. Philippa, what a beautiful post on what I hope will be a beautiful, tranquil trip. It sounds like it is very much needed. I understand what you mean by the rain washing things away. Rain can be very cleansing — literally and figuratively. Enjoy your trip!

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