THE ONGOING PURSUIT OF HEALING
BALI, JANUARY 2020
The first week I spent on this island was the most adventurous week of my life. My best friend was here and we set out to do all of the things. Some of which were the most physically challenging I have endured in all my adult life.
In my late teens I wasn’t very kind to my body. And my health has suffered the consequences since. I don’t so much as need the pills that at one point were taken to keep my heart beating but for one, I have never gotten my blood pressure back to normal. It was only this last summer that I realised having your natural resting state be one on the verge of collapse is not entirely normal.
So my body is still mending. And that is hard to accept sometimes. Knowing that my body is still weaker than the average 23-year-olds as a result of an illness that took hold during what feels like a lifetime ago is hard. And it can be humiliating especially when to be ‘unfit’ has been collectively internalised as ‘bad’ — many thanks to this fatphobic society we live.
A few mornings ago, at around 4 am, we began climbing Mount Batur — an active volcano on the island of Bali, to make it to the top for sunrise. It’s a trek many do with a bit of effort, but do — probably most without fuss. For me, it was the hardest physical thing I have ever done. It was utterly breathtaking yes, but in every sense of the word.
My guide had to basically drag me up for much of the ascent and there were plenty of times I didn’t think I would make it, period, let alone in time for sunrise. But guess what? I did. I climbed it, watched the sunrise, said hello to the monkeys and I have never been prouder. I pushed my physical limits, I survived and I think it was one of the best experiences of my life.
So what did unstoppable me do the next day? I signed up for a surf lesson. I think instinctively I knew this was a bad idea. But momentarily forgetting what my body had already endured 24 hours earlier in a wave of FOMO and a sort of you’re in Bali, for Christ’s sake haze, I threw myself in…literally.
Now even after attempting the sport, I cannot tell you much about surfing. Aside from my teachers being alarmingly nonchalant to the danger of it all for a first-timer, it was utterly petrifying. I am glad I gave it my best shot but I also didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the water. The water being where I spent the majority of my time rather than up on my board…
I realised, three-thirds of the way through that I was all out of energy, all out of brave. I had pushed myself too hard this time and I was about to pay the consequences. And boy, did I pay.
A few days later I woke up sick. Not homesick. But full-blown sick. The sickest I have ever felt. Alone and scared, in a country where they would only prescribe me vitamins, completely physically falling apart.
But what being sick has forced me to remember, whether I like it or not is that I am not the same as everybody else. Neither is everybody else the same as anyone else. Whilst living your best life thrives on the interest of pushing yourself, there are times when you need to remember your limits. How much brave you can endure at once. What you really want.
I am pleased and proud of all the adventuring I have done thus far — my best friend and I had the time of our lives. But I now know it is time for me to slow down. My physical boundaries have spoken loud and clear. It is time for me to accept Bali for me is not what it might be for another. I needn’t be the extroverted traveller that the locals expect of me, shuttling around the island on trips and tours. I needn’t go about this — any of this — in the way I’m supposed to.
I am going to read and write and meditate like I said I would and make it my own. To hell with the FOMO, I'm currently more interested in respecting my own desires, in being accepting of what both my heart and body need of me out here.
Whilst the job of beating my heart once fell down to medication, the job is now my own and I must preserve that privilege by all means necessary.
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