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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Past lives

There is a package carefully wrapped in brown paper sitting on my desk. It has been there for almost two weeks but I can not open it; at least not yet. I am hoping that writing this may help me get to the psychological finish line that will allow me to tear the paper and read what I know is inside. Inside is a book and that book is tangible proof of everything I left behind in my last incarnation; my Thai life.

The book, Bangkok Blondes, was a project the Bangkok Women Writers Group published in 2008. For the year or so before its publication I, and several other key members of the writers group, worked furiously researching publishers, writing book proposals and calculating funding requirements for self-publishing. We held semi-regular meetings outside of regular group meetings and frequently overloaded ourselves with research on publishing to further the goal of the group.

We were close to getting the book off the ground when my relationship with my partner became untenable and I decided the best thing for me and my child was to leave the country—there was really no way to leave my partner and stay in the country; I needed distance, I needed half a planet between us to regain my sanity and ensure my safety.

In a period of just over a week I decided to upend my life and return to North America where my family would welcome my daughter and I with open arms. This was not an easy decision. It not only meant putting an exclamation mark at the end of the relationship with my partner it also meant leaving behind a life in which I was very comfortable.

Asia, and Bangkok in particular, had been where I had spent the majority of my adult life. It was in that place that I had learned who I was and what I was capable of doing—artistically, academically, and professionally. Leaving that all behind, particularly when I was on the cusp of fulfilling a major life dream (the book), was a personal catastrophe.

Some might suggest that I needn't have run so far as to cross 12 timezones but those are people who have never been scared of their partner. Never had him follow you down busy streets, on trains and taxicabs to work. Never had him accuse you of having an affair with evidence that he had unearthed by examining the trash of an entire apartment building. Never dealt with jealousy, obsession and anger everyday.

I left the country I loved because I felt I had no choice. I felt there was no other way to get my life back.

I left with one suitcase, a stroller and my baby.

I flew over continents and through time sloughing off my old life like a snake skin you might find in the jungle. My reincarnation to a life more ordinary.

This week I am free. I have sole custody of my children and my former partner no longer has a say over where I go or what I do in my life.

Through this ordeal—the back and forth between the lawyers—my former partner stated that he felt I didn't like him much. My immediate reaction was that—of course I didn't like him; his actions were constantly causing my children mental anguish. But yesterday as I sat looking at the unopened parcel on my desk I realized I also resented him for the life I lost. My friends, my writing, my work—it was a life I loved. Bangkok, I miss you daily.

The package remains a painful reminder of what I lost, what I wish I hadn't had to give up:

Slow mornings eating banana pancakes at the Atlanta Hotel.

Fast rides on motorcycle taxis.

Lazy brown river flowing past my favorite tree at Wat Chai.

River taxis.

Chulalongkorn, the calm campus in the middle of the city.

Easy, affordable child care.

Street food—som tam, Larp moo, Mussaman curry.

Students with names like—Bomb, Bank and Benz.

Rock climbing at Railay Beach.

Sitting in the open door of a train heading up country watching the paddy fields drift by.

In my new life I walk through town with a good friend and come home to a house that is mine. I pick my children up after school and my father drops in for a visit.

I love it here. I have a new list; a list of loves in this place. It is a long list.

Today might be the day I open the package. Am I ready to examine past lives? Perhaps I'll wait until I am through this turn of the wheel.

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