A glimpse of Borneo

It is not so far from Bangkok to Borneo.  Two short flights, each just under 2 hours and then a drive or less than an hour.  Not so far at all.

Yet it took a whole day!  My mid-morning flight from Bangkok was delayed by nearly 2 hours which meant  a mid afternoon arrival in Kuala Lumpur.  This also meant that my incoming plane was barely touching down, as my connection was soaring into the clouds towards Borneo. I had no idea when the next flight to Kuching might be, and what I would do if there was not a connection available.  But somehow, I had already let go of the stresses of the roundabout and did not really see this as either my problem or something which I actually needed to resolve.  I just placed myself in the care of the airline and hoped for the best.

And the best actually happened.  I was drooping by the time I reached the front of the queue at the transfer desk (I was far from alone as a number of us had missed onward connections) and slumped over the counter as the rep took my old boarding pass.  He made several phone calls, and I could hear my surname being spelled out so I knew something was happening, but I also knew it was not straightforward.  However, it did not worry me and eventually he passed me a new boarding pass, telling me to hurry.  He had got me on the flight leaving in a few minutes but I had to run immediately to the gate.  Another few minutes were needed to try and ensure that my luggage knew which flight I was on and withing minutes I was inelegantly rushing through immigration and towards the gate.

And a quick look at my boarding pass, to see which gate I had to go to gave a nice surprise.  There must have been no economy seats, so I had been upgraded and was sitting at the front of the plane!

So I did indeed arrive yesterday evening, landing in Borneo just as the light was fading. I had another immigration stamp for Sarawak and a welcome reunion with my bags which had to my delight and surprise, travelled with me.  By the time I exited the airport terminal it was completely dark and the drive to the village where I was staying told me very little of Borneo.  The island was keeping its secrets for another day. It took around an hour finally before I arrived at an oasis of peace, tranquility and tropical paradise.  The end of a very long but strangely perfect day.

Arrival finally

Now, in the light of day it is time for some gentle exploring…………….

Rains in the rainforest

Rains in the rainforest – view from the haven I am staying in

This is more than a blog. 2013 in review – AND my 400th post!

I love the way WordPress provides a review of my bloggy year!  And with sweet timing, this is providing the material for this, my 400th blog post!

Happy blog-a-something, dear gecko!

There are some quirky little facts in the review – for example,

  • The searches which directed most traffic to the blog included – “Scotland” and “Halloween pictures to colour”.  I reckon there must have been some highly confused and disappointed visitors!
  • The post which attracted most viewers was a rant which I wrote in around fifteen minutes and which terrified me as it became viral, with more viewers than the blog had had in the whole of 2010!
  • When Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer called on bloggers earlier today to share their favourite post of the year, I chose between three.  Those three are in fact the three most viewed posts of the year.
  • The blog was read in 144 countries last year.  That makes me feel dizzy and incredibly humbled.  Although many probably stumbled there by mischievous search guidance from Google 🙂
  • I have enormous support from friends who comment regularly – THANK YOU to Catherine, Karen, Nancy, Beth and Nancy who were highlighted, as well as many friends who engage with my witterings, outpourings and rants.

On a serious note, I need to repeat that this blog is more than a blog to me.  This is the way I have navigated my way through life since hearing those unwelcome “this is highly suspicious of cancer” words.  This has been the way I process and work through what comes in my path.  This has been the way I have found out that I am truly not alone in this.  This year has been particularly hard with more than its fair share of loss.  The blog has been one way of processing grief.

I feel it is woefully inadequate, but I mean it –

Thank you!

In case you are interested in the randomness of the review in detail – here it is:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Dreaming of Borneo

There are some magical places on our planet which conjure up a real sense of mystery and enigma.  Some are real and some are mythical – Zanzibar, Shangri-La, Machu Pichu, Inca Trail, Kathmandu, Timbuktu,  Silk Road, Mandalay and Borneo are a few which spring to mind.

I lived in Kathmandu for many years, and when I left even for a few days,  I used to love sitting in the departure lounge of whatever airport I was in when on my way back to Nepal.  I used to get a quiver of excitement tinged with disbelief seeing “Kathmandu” on the flight departures board, and a greater twinge at the thought that not only I was heading right there, but that I was actually living there!  That shiver of excitement was evoked without fail every time I returned to Kathmandu.  I remember one friend being surprised that Kathmandu was real – they thought it was one of those mysterious, mythical made up places – perhaps like “Atlantis”.

That suggestion of mystery and romance is contained in so many places.

Borneo for me, is one of those places.  Now I have to confess that until very recently I actually believed that Borneo was a country. I only recently learned that it is in fact an island, part Malaysian, part Indonesian and with Brunei nestling on its northern shores.  I have long dreamed of visiting mystical Borneo with images of rainforest, volcanic peaks and possibly even Tarzan having featured in my imagination and dreams. How unfortunate that I knew so little of the island.

???????????????????????????????So, in the spirit of carpe diem, the wish bucket and not squandering time while I am well, I have decided to spend some of my leave in Borneo.  (Thank you AirAsia and Agoda for making dreams affordable 🙂 ).  Tomorrow I will travel to Malaysian Borneo.  I know that there has been major deforestation and that my expectations of the island will be different to the reality.  But the other purpose of the trip is about removing myself even further from the roundabout and putting myself in a space where I can disengage, relax and focus on my emotional and physical wellbeing.  I imagine it will also provide rich material for the creative side.

borneo rainforestIn fact, I am not sure at all what to expect.  That is part of the mystery and enigma. I promise that whatever I do find, I will share here very soon.

Sweet dreams……….

Swings and roundabouts

Do you remember those old-fashioned roundabouts which were in swing parks and playgrounds?  I remember that they were wooden usually, and set on a concrete patch in the middle of the grass.  We used to run round, pushing the roundabout, jumping on at the last minute when we could no longer keep up as it gathered speed.  It would fly around so fast we had no option to stay on it until it slowed down, amidst squeals of fear and exhilaration. I feel dizzy just remembering those playground days.

CHILDREN PLAYING IN PLAYGROUND - 1950SLife these days often feels like that speeding roundabout.  It tears round and round and we hold on, knuckles white, the momentum keeping it spinning. We cling on, knowing that it is going too fast for us to be able to get off. As the roundabout whizzes round, we catch sight of patches of life around us.  Tasks we need to do, people we want to speak to and spend time with, fun things we want to do………… Then they are gone, out of sight and too often out of mind as new matters catch our attention.

These past months, I feel as if I have been living on this speeding roundabout, dizzy and unable to focus on one spot as everything flies round around me.  No sooner do I catch sight of one important element than it disappears replaced by others, many others. Round and round it goes. Too fast to step off. Far too fast to clamber back on if I were to manage to disengage. Frightening and exhausting.

This is why I have been somewhat silent.  My mind is both empty and full.  Or perhaps rather it has just been simply that, I have been mentally, emotionally and physically overwhelmed.  How hard it is to find focus and clarity when I feel as if I am living in a moving abstract canvas.

Abstract - Mark Chadwick

Abstract – Mark Chadwick

But I have somehow stepped off the roundabout, while it continues to whirl around. I do not have either the energy or inclination to go anywhere near it right now.  I have also moved physically away so that it is not in my field of vision for the time being.  That helps enormously. There are still a few things reaching me, but with the merry-go-round at a distance, I feel a lessening of the nauseating dizziness.

Abstract - Andre Eleazer

Abstract – Andre Eleazer

I have spent the past days in Bangkok, in a beautiful, quiet space, even though there is turmoil not so far over the threshold.  Firstly I am just trying to still my mind and rest physically.

I have felt such a resistance to doing anything, even to planning the next days of my break when I will head out of Bangkok. I have been unable to write even a seasonal message to those who I have horribly neglected these past months.  I have not yet managed to get down those thoughts and reflections on the past year, one which has been one of the most difficult for many of us, that has taken people cruelly and relentlessly.  Those who we knew had limited precious time, and those who should have had a great deal longer.  These thoughts are still in my mind but not yet articulated nor shared with those who matter.

And then there is the writing backlog.  The blog space has been unusually quiet.  Not a shortage of ideas, but some inertia and muddle which needs calming time and gradual refocus.  Our Wednesday Writing Group writings have been neglected.  Work on my bigger writing projects has been put to the side. Having moved away from the speeding roundabout, I can pick up these remnants, strewn around and start to make sense of them again.

Soon I will physically remove myself even further, for a week or so. I also trust that the roundabout is actually going to slow a little over the next couple of weeks.  It won’t come to a complete standstill, but the more it slows down while I am on terra firma, the easier it will be when that time comes to try and leap back on.

While it is out of sight, I MUST try and erase it from my mind.  I must distance myself from its terrifying dizziness even though I know it is unavoidable, that I climb back on after my break.

But that is for later.  Right now, all that I need and want is that to provide a space for my body and soul to revitalise, refresh and attain optimum healing rest.

Pausing in an alley in Bangkok's Chinatown

Pausing in an alley in Bangkok’s Chinatown

Roundabouts can fun and exciting, but we cannot live on them all the time. In this fast modern world we live in, sometimes we just need to step aside and take the time to breathe.

Pondering

This is a time of year for reflection.  As yet another year comes to an end we tend to find ourselves looking back over the past months.

Can it be almost a year ago I wrote a long trailing ponder prompted by my morning encounters with my kingfisher friend? And can it be a whole year since I was working through mazes of words as I moved towards my three words for 2013 – (focus, treasure and design)?  How did those words fit my year?  That is also the subject of great pondering.

It is indeed a whole since the three wordly ponderings. And I have again been pondering, reflecting on what has been a tough year, thinking of how I want to guide the coming year and playing with words which might be a fitting mantra for 2014.

A shape is forming.  There is one word at the core of my coming year which draws from some of this year’s challenges and which I want to be at the heart of my mantra.  There are two other words which feel right.  Let’s see if they feature in the final choice.

As always, a great deal of my pondering takes place in what we often call a “pond” during my morning swim.  Recently my kingfisher friend returned after a long rainy season absence and it feels to me as if we have spent companionable pondering time.  He watches patiently as I plough up and down the pool, and I watch him as he calls out and now and then swoops and plucks a wriggling worm from the grass. The perfect fodder for my friend’s breakfast and for my mind!

kingfisher

My Kingfisher friend watching my daily swim

There are many things I love about this time of year.  The cooling weather, the sunshine and blue skies.  And the draw towards reflection.

Soon my “three word” pondering will work through its natural course, and soon I will have three wonderful new words to guide and inspire me, and to share with you.

The twelve days of chemo

A topical re-blog………….
On the lines of humour as one of the tools at our disposal in dealing with cancer.

Feisty Blue Gecko - a tail of the unexpected

On the first day of chemo these delights came to me
The most scary, bright pink pee
 
On the second day of chemo these delights came to me
Total exhaustion and some more scary bright pink pee
 
On the third day of chemo, these delights came to me
A very queasy tum, total exhaustion,
but no more funny pink pee
 
On the fourth day of chemo, these delights came to me
Very fuzzy head, one queasy tum, total exhaustion,
but no more funny pink pee
 
On the fifth day of chemo, these delights came to me
A foul tasting mouth
very fuzzy head, queasy tum, total exhaustion,
but no more funny pink pee
 
On the sixth day of chemo, these delights came to me
Dreadful constipation,
foul tasting mouth
very fuzzy head, queasy tum, total exhaustion,
but no more funny pink pee
 
On the seventh…

View original post 261 more words

Skin deeper

There has been an elephant in the room, and not one which sits quietly in the corner.  It has been rampaging through the house causing destruction and damage in its wake. I wrote Skin Deep over many days and did not actually believe I would put it “out there” online but as I felt myself sinking deeper and flinching from those small incidents which are on the surface slight, with tears in my eyes I finally pressed the “bare my soul” button.

I do not really know what I expected from the post.  Being honest, I had not thought ahead.  The purpose of writing was to vent and pour out the distress in my heart.  So I was astounded by the response to Skin Deep. As well as numerous comments on the post itself, I received personal emails and Facebook messages and a number of people here reached out with love and understanding.  I had not anticipated the many thoughtful messages reassuring me that physical appearance is not the same as beauty. I have been emotionally overwhelmed and it has taken time to put my thoughts in order and prepare this reflection and learning.

As I read through and responded to the comments, replied to emails, spoke with friends who reached out and quietly reflected, the clearer a picture developed of a whole host of people struggling silently.  So many live with constant debilitating side and after effects and swallow the assumptions that everything is behind us and rosy now. Many of us are silently absorbing assumptions of our appearance, while struggling with a variety of conditions which impact on how we look, so many of which are beyond our control.  I had lifted the lid off some Pandora’s box.

I still feel fragile, emotionally and the wellbeing and appearance issues are unlikely to change.  But I learned a great deal from writing the post, reading and reflecting on the responses and bringing together these thoughts into some key messages.

I am not alone

I am incredulous at the number of people struggling with these interconnected issues, in silence and isolation.  We are dealing with a host of issues – side effects from many meds, after effects from current and previous treatments, disfiguring surgery, pain, destruction of functions including thyroid. We may look well but be living with debilitating conditions, or we may look unfit and unhealthy yet are following extremely healthy lifestyles as far as we can. In summary, as “cancer in my thirties” said in her comment

“many people fail to realize how horrible the side effects of our treatments can be — and how much they impact our lives each and every day”.

Even if I struggle with these, knowing I am not alone somehow helps emotionally and validates these feelings.  However, another side is that very few of us expect or are prepared for such debilitating side and after effects. We should be grateful that we are alive – and of course we are, but that doesn’t mean that this is something that can be wrapped up and put easily in the past when we live it every day.

Far too many are silently living with this.

Intent

I did not intend to make people feel uncomfortable.  My post did not point fingers at any individual but aimed to draw out the consistency of reaction.  I particularly want to stress that I do not for a moment believe that there is unkind intent in many of the comments and looks I experience.  My friend Becky wrote very powerfully of her experience and in particular placed it in the context here.

“Being called fat in SE Asia isn’t necessarily a negative thing. It’s quite acceptable here to talk about people’s size. ……………

In some countries, being told you’re big can be a compliment. I sense it’s not necessarily a compliment here, but rather an observation (perhaps without much judgment).“

It is so important to hold on to this, and try and remember it is more an observation.  The challenge is that of course I come from a context where it is broadly offensive to comment on a person’s weight.  And that is why it hurts.  Purely and simply, I struggle terribly to be on the receiving end without it that stab of pain and shame.

It doesn’t matter how much I rationalise and understand – it still hurts.

Reaching out

I have found that not only writing and releasing these highly personal and innermost thoughts and feelings but then listening to the responses and reactions of others is helping me to process this.  Chronic illness, mortality, cancer and the whole psychological and emotional and invisible side to diagnosis continue in my view to be underestimated even within ourselves.  We are often caught up in our own pain and unable to see how enormously difficult for those around us themselves to deal with life-threatening diagnoses in their loved ones.

Open your eyes

Indeed, I really did not have a clear purpose in my mind when I started on this journey of exposing my soul. I did not expect such a powerful reaction. I think that in the back of my mind, I was screaming silently that I wanted to be heard. To be understood. And not to be judged.

This path is and will continue to be painful.  Yet for now, I can say that I do indeed feel heard. I feel far less alone.  And I feel more understood.  I hope that applies to us all.

The elephant is still in the room.  I doubt if it will completely disappear. But it does seem to have quieted a little and become less obtrusive.