A few weeks ago I talked about how my life had caught up with me here in Thailand. I wasn’t running away from my life in America, but it would be hard to argue that I wasn’t leaving it. One reason I had a desire to volunteer internationally was to gain some perspective on my materialism. I can tell you that this goal has already been pretty successful.
The pursuit of living a life of simplicity this year has removed distracting objects and pushed me toward resources and an education about simplicity - a limited or more intentional relationship with materialism. There are rare moments where I miss something that is in storage back home, but for the most part I could care less about it all. Being surrounded by things that are not mine is liberating. I find that I treat these items better than I would if they were my own, and at the same time I have no sentimentality or attachment to them (hmmm, I may have to delve into this more deeply some time).
As I previously discussed my simpler life came with a lot more time, which I have filled. Much of that time has been spent with a pursuit of knowledge through books or podcasts, but also dedicated to leisure, engaging community, and an alternate form of luxury. Now, my podcast consumption is reaching epic proportions that is bordering on obsession. Each podcast seems to recommend others, which I invariably listen to.
I am at a point where I must limit the number that I regularly listen to. As I result, I was reflecting today and realized that I don’t care for the tone of some podcasts. That tone is often a tone of anger, intolerance, and judgment. Some of these podcasts have excellent content, but they will be exiting my weekly list. My aversion to this negativity likely reflects the weaker and less desirable aspects of my character, but I am trying to be better.
I realized that I can foster positivity, tolerance, kindness, altruism, and compassion: I can actively strengthen these virtues in my character and my life. I have also recently heard that anger is a positive emotion, but I do not feel there is a lot to gain from listening to and internalizing the anger and indignant feelings of others. I would rather hear about what is wrong or upsetting about a situation or position and some constructive ideas on how to move forward. So that was a cool realization.
The other cool realization for me is that simply taking a minute to have appreciation can make all the difference. Even at my busiest, I canhave add appreciation. As a nurse, I always tried to stop and take a breath before entering a patient’s room so that I could be present for them, some sage advice I was given at some point in my schooling. It is exactly the same principle that I am now applying to my life.
Stopping to appreciate a cool morning when I can wrap up in my soft, lightweight hoodie, slowing down and enjoying the smells of the Massuman curry I’m cooking for dinner, or pausing before I start playing guitar instead of allowing it to be another task “I have to do,” are each small actions that make my day feel better. Special thanks to the Podcast The Mind Palace and their episode titled “Luxury and Minimalism” for helping inspire.
My last cool realization for the week is that, I think I was living my life wrongly. I am not going to bemoan the last few years. I had a lot of happiness and joy in my life, but at the same time I was really comparing myself to the people around me too much. These comparisons were made in ways that were sometimes unfair to those people, but often unfair to myself.
I do not know how many people will understand this, but it feels very liberating to actually want less, to choose a life with less, and to no longer envy what everyone else has. Of course, that envy has been my problem, nota problem with the people who have. I am glad for my friends who have wonderful things, value great things, and appreciate fine things, I want them to be happy and live their own lives too. My choosing a simpler life does not exclude others from choosing differently. It is understanding what I care about, what is important to me, what I want and what I will use that is liberating.
The week has been exciting here in NongKhai. The roof is on the building, the walls are being painted, and the tile flooring has arrived. We had a pretty exhausting and busy weekend, but Easter Sunday was amazing. I woke up on short sleep and spoke with both my siblings, and then we headed to the convent for mass.
Fr. O’Shea led Easter mass for 7 of us at Sister Mary’s bedside (she has been recovering from bronchitis for 6 weeks now and has not been out of bed). It feels like such a privilege to have attend an intimate service such as this (and these masses are very short). A funny part of the mass was before the Gospel when Fr. O’Shea told an anecdote of being walloped by his mother at a young age for referring to a woman as a prostitute and his mother stating ‘we always refer to them as ‘a lady of the night’. And so it was that the Gospel was modified to refer to Mary Magdalene as ‘a lady of the night’.
After Mass, Antonia, the Sisters, and I helped Sister Mary to stand up and move to her wheelchair. It was not without a profound fear of falling and she joked that she might have ripped off my shirt. She even commented on not understanding where this astounding fear of falling is coming from.
It took about 2 seconds for Sister Mary to realize she was in her chair and she was glowing. With a smile from ear-to-ear she literally waved goodbye to her bed for the first time in 6 weeks and she delivered her one-liners throughout Easter brunch at the kitchen table. It is hard to believe that 6 weeks ago she was honestly asking if she was at her life’s end.
After Easter brunch, which included 4 pizzas (I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had a piece of all 4) and some more traditional Thai cuisine, Susan and I ran some errands and had a brief conversation with our “vegetable lady” as we affectionately refer to her. We were invited back to the convent for “high tea” and Mangos & Sticky rice - which was amazing! They invited us back for dinner, but we had plans with ‘the youth group’ (we have now coined them). We had a surprisingly fun evening of Uno, with lots of smiles and ‘draw-4’s’. Afterwards Susan and I had a very small dinner and called it a night.