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ann curtis kiester.

13 march 1965-17 july 1982.

identical twin sister. sister. daughter. girlfriend. best friend to many. inspiration to others. painter. potter. collage artist. cartoonist. budding graphic designer. singer. journal keeper. intellect. sarcastic. tidy. funny. silly. perfect teeth that were all the same length and size. well manicured always. dreamer. realist. non-driver. driven. focused. perfectionist. devoted. real.

dead. but very much alive inside of me.

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katherine “katy” emma macieski.

1 september 1965-17 july 1982.

best friend. daughter. sister to many. aunt to more. owner of a zillion pets. funny. glib. sarcastic. beautiful. preppy in her genetic makeup. talented. witty. intelligent. hysterical. crystal blue irish eyes. tall and skinny. game for anything. messy. owner of vintage VW bug that matched her eyes. dedicated. real.

dead but very much alive inside of me.

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‘there is a land of the living, and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’

“dad’s got parkinson’s,” the email from my brother simply stated. “did you know that?”

no. i did not know that. and no, i can’t muster up the energy or the empathy or the anything to really care. i just don’t really feel anything. nothing. 

i sort of wanted to. it felt weird to be straddled with this information–this terrible, surely-life-changing-for-most-people tidbit of information– and not have some sort of halt to my rhythm, a hiccup in the  moment, a stop. not take a deep breath or not even hold the breath. i just hit “reply” and said, “nope.” and sipped a diet coke and went about the day. i didn’t feel anything.

how can i be this way? how can i? this man, this 83 year old human being is my dad, the person who gave me 50% of my genetic makeup, whose bone structure i inherited, whose love of books and of writers i absorbed, and whose fading black & white photos from the ’50s i have tacked to my wall. i look at this man every day, this man in the narrow black suit, just-so white pocket square, with the heavy black glasses perched on his hookish nose and the apropos skinny tie tacked down to keep from swaying in the wind, striding across the tarmac in barbados, leading my mom in her neat shirtwaist dresss swirling about her narrow calves and her sensible mid heeled pumps. i look at this man in the suit as a stranger, as a character in some film noir movie, an actor playing a role, performing as a husband, as a man, as my dad. i don’t know him. he’s just a 2 dimensional thing. a piece of paper with some mid tone greys and deep blacks and bright whites outlining this life he is supposedly striding into on that tarmac in barbados some time in the late ’50s.

he is a stranger. 

i spent much of my life since 1972 wishing this stranger was someone i knew, someone i could crawl into and learn from and press my ear against his chest and hear the beat-beat-beat and the hollow echo of his voice when he talked or hummed along to his beloved herb alpert: whipped cream and other delights LP. i wanted him to teach me how he did the sunday new york times magazine crossword puzzle in ink. i wanted to spend some more time on his lap while he tapped away at the manual typewriter. i thought about how he could’ve taught me to drive stick shift on his old VW beetle, the one with the cool perforated leather steering wheel wrap. i wanted to borrow that suit in the ’80s when i was listening to “the specials” on cassette tape and feeling really cool in my creepers and red lipstick. and i wanted to know what this man was thinking as he strode across that hot and sunny tarmac in barbados in the late ’50s. where was he going? but really, where did he go?

we lost him somewhere. he went away and never found his way back. or more likely, he kept striding forward, with that purposeful gait i see in that picture on the tarmac in barbados, and let go of my mom’s arm and kept walking towards something. to something. from something. he never turned around. he tried a few times–maybe 3 times over a 30 year period– but they were feeble, sorry, pathetic little teases and he invariably would disappear again for long stretches of time. poof, he was gone. 

over the years, the decades, the lifetimes–my fucking life–i harbored all levels of anger, despair, sadness, loneliness over his absence, his disappearance, his back turning, his forgetting. i stared at his picture, i put it away, i tacked it back up, i let the edges curl up and allowed it to get dusty. i would look at it, then ignore it, look at it again, and walk away. again. again. again.

i was accused often of letting this relationship that didn’t exist get in the way of ones that did. maybe so. but i couldn’t really let go. he let go of me, but i couldn’t do the same. i just could not.

and weirdly, after my own divorce, after all the emotional upheavals and daunting, erratic roller coasters had sort of smoothed out and became less bumpy–a little bit–i realized i had let go of him, too. some sort of switch had turned off inside of me, and the light that i had left on somewhere, in hopes of him seeing it and finding his way back to me from the dark, shadowy mysterious place he had been hiding, had burned out.

i read a song lyric somewhere, i forget who wrote it, but it said something like, “the hand that you hold sometimes is the one that holds you down”. i was tired of holding the non existent hand of my father. so i dropped it. and walked forward. 

and here i sit, knowing the man in the skinny black suit on the tarmac in barbados has an awful, terrible disease, one in which i’ve witnessed in others and found to be heartbreaking. and i can’t feel anything, i can’t squeeze out a tear. i cannot act. i cannot play the part. i dropped the hand that held me down and i can’t pick it up again. 

i feel nothing.

and i don’t really want to look back.

i’ve been doing a lot of thinking about beginnings and endings and all the things, all the matters, all the incidents and changes and philosophies and maneuvers that happen in between the bookends of our lives. 

i have been fortunate enough to have a new staff member at the shop, a girl named heng, a smart and beautiful and shiny individual who has charmed me into her universe. there’s something radiant about heng; she glows in her skin, her lively eyes glimmer and glitter and her smile is like a 500 watt bulb, lighting up the night sky; but i think it’s something on the inside that gives her this light, that illuminates her from the inside out. 

one evening, we lost power in the store, in the whole neighborhood. these things happen with some relative frequency in cambodia, and while it admittedly unnerved me 9 months ago, today i know that it will last no more than an hour, and i can virtually set my watch to it and countdown to the second when the POW POW POW of the lights turn back on and set us in motion again. but that night was heng’s first experience in the shop with an outage, and i heard some fear in her voice. “miss eliz! can you come downstairs?” she cried. so down the rickety, crickety stairs i went, candle in hand, flashlight in back pocket and relieved heng of her fear. she held my hand.

without a chance of making a sale, we decided to sit outside on our little bamboo chairs and watch the street come alive with kids twirling around with flashlights and restauranteurs quickly lighting votives and the neighbors congregating and surely grumbling about the lack of electricity–ba ba ba! again!–and the lack of fans and cash registers and internet and television. but heng and i just hung back and let this parade swirl around us and talked. i asked her about her husband, whom she had casually mentioned before. her wedding was in february. 

“miss eliz, i am afraid to tell you,” she said. dumbfounded and not quite sure why, i pressed on. “heng, you don’t have to tell me, but you have to know you can. i am not going to judge you.” “but miss eliz, it’s not good.” okay, heng, it’s cool, it’s okay, whatever it is, i promise, it’s okay. so she told me she was separated from him, and was living with her mom again, away from his teenaged behavior, his inability to be a supporter, a partner, a, well, husband. 

“he doesn’t dream about the future, like i do, ” she explained. “he do not care about it. my dream is to live abroad and to save money to do this. he only cares about drinking and being with his friends.”

the thought bubble over my head was mathematic equations, simple addition tables. wait! they got married in fucking february, and it’s june. that’s four months. four. and divorce in cambodia is a relatively new concept. women marry young, most likely to guys their parents and his parents have forced the other upon. they live with their parents, almost always the brides parents, and that’s the way it is. the guys work and then go out with the ‘boys’ at night, drinking at the beer gardens and stumble home around midnight, while the girls stay home and cook and clean and look after the kids and the grandparents and everyone else who happens to live there–cousins, aunts, uncles, whomever. this is their fate, their destiny.

without showing any alarm, after recounting the months again–maybe she meant february last year?– i continued the conversation, the comforting, the hand-holding, the understanding. i admitted to heng that i, too, was divorced, and i had a dream and my dream was cambodia, and i could achieve this because i did get freed. liberated and freed in some roundabout back-door, long, torturous, lesson-learning way.  and she was making my dream come true, and i would, in turn, help her make hers come to life, too. somehow. i would open a fucking store in timbuktu, wherever, just so i could place her there.

i tried to imagine what happened between the lavish khmer wedding–a 3 day long affair where the bride changes 7 times into various traditional costumes and every neighbor, shopkeeper, tuk-tuk driver you’ve ever met is invited to drink warm beer, toast “chol moy!” a thousand times to the newlyweds and dance around a table in circles, moving their hands ever so slightly–to this moment, in the candlelit darkness of our little alleyway. what the hell went on?

who knows? does it matter? the bookends were set, she put them there, they were placed, plunked down–klunk!– and being held between them were some clearly tumultuous times– pain, lost hopes, dashed dreams. 

i admired heng that night. i saw in her a drive, a strength, a vision and passion for herself that moved beyond the expectations that society, her family, her culture placed upon her. she had nerve, moxie, balls, for god’s sake. she wanted more and felt she deserved more. she saw herself living a life that most cambodian women can’t even conjure up, because they haven’t been given a chance, an opportunity, a beginning. she worked at the airport and saw planes take off, taking tourists and travelers to places she had never heard of or landing with strange passports from countries she couldn’t pronounce. she heard accents and saw outfits and makeup and magazines and couples holding hands and shrieks of hellos and goodbyes hourly, daily. she visualized herself there. here. there. anywhere. everywhere.

heng was afraid of the dark, but not not not afraid of the light.

it was a very very bright night.

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2:30am, siem reap, cambodia. 

walking down the street that runs along the old market–the market that hours earlier was teeming with people, emitting the scent of fish and lotus flowers and stinky, pungent durian fruits and nailpolish remover and amok stirred up in an electric crockpot and now is empty, ghostly, throwing menacing shadows onto the sidewalk–i caught my silhouette stretched out before me, a longer and leaner me, holding a guava tree.

i am carrying a guava tree down a shadowy lane in siem reap, cambodia, on my birthday.

stumbling on 5″ prada heels and slightly tangled in a long dress, shoulder bag creating a giant marshmallow-ish appendage in this shadow, as it’s stuffed with various trinkets, thoughts, mementos, cards, i am struck immediately by the change, the difference, the newness that i’ve just encountered on this day, my birthday. 

jason and shannon gave me a guava tree. roots, soil, leaves, foreverness planted into a”shannon chose this because they’re your colors” ceramic pot; a token of the future, a significant symbol of the foundation we’ve all laid here, the meaning of “we’re not going anywhere anytime soon.” even if we leave, we are here. we’re keeping a piece of ourselves here in this dusty, hot, ridiculously humid town. this plant, this gesture, the hugeness of the gift..its value. it’s value. the message is its value.

i received a red glossy painted lacquered bike helmet, hand painted and painstakingly obsessed over by serguei. my insane, custom designed typographical letters strategically placed across the back, perfectly symmetrical, evenly spaced, beautifully art directed and lovingly done by hand, by finger, by eye, reads: I AM WANDERLUST. beautiful, magnificent, i am left without words. this is for me. this helmet, this thought, this gift, this gesture. for me.

a journal from romain, a tiny sterling silver charm of a book from elodie. a bottle of red wine that is surely expensive and impressive and well beyond my elementary knowledge from mr magoo/kevin. a handmade black jersey, minimalist, so-chic-it’s-painful-and-i’m-going-to-rock-it-in-new-york-every-single-day dress from don. a silkscreen from loven of a vodka bottle filled with NYC airport luggage tags which underneath says ABSOLUT ELIZ. all bestowed upon me at a rooftop party organized by my beloved sheree, the person who is the soulmate of my world here, the ying to my yang, the sister/friend/confidant whom i can sit with in my hot steamy room and cry with, chain smoke cheap terrible cambodian cigarettes with, roll on the floor screaming with laughter with. and say anything to. anything. unconditional. the person who will come with me anywhere, go the distance with me, who has become a part of my self. this person who’s biggest gift to me is her self. and she organized this event for me. on the rooftop of my beloved soria moria, my summer 08 home away from home, with my dear kristen in cahoots.

i am carrying these things home. i see my shadow carrying these things home. carrying these people. carrying the tree, the books, the wine, the laughter, the sharing. the everything. they’re all in this bag, this exploding, oversized, enormous faux leather tote from a supermarket sweepstakes style swing through topshop with ruth one rainy day in london so many, many years ago. this bag is filled with them, the people who have cemented me here. the people and the experiences and the journeys that have made this place, this strange intoxicating town in the middle of nowhere, feel like a mirror to myself. each of them  reflect the person i want to be, the person i strive to be, the better me, the stronger me, the independent and fun and it-is-what-you-make-it me. the people they are, the people i love. they are mirrors, they remind me. they show me the way. they illuminate the dark shadowy road on the journey home, they light the torches. they are the torches. they are the lights.

they are with me. they are in my bag. my pocket. my wallet. my world, my life, my today, my future, my forever. 

i carry them with me wherever i go.

i. carry. them. with. me. wherever. i. go.

13 march, 2009. birthday gifts. people.

“what does ‘wanderlust’ mean?”

i get this question posed to me like a zillion times a day. it perplexes me, simply because i think, “uhhhh, break it down….wander…lust…the lust to, well, wander?” but then i fight the devilish urge to be snarky, and i gently explain, “well, its meaning is the ‘desire to travel’,” and i then get comprehensive nods of understanding, as the question asker is usually someone who is, in fact, traveling, hence, they realize that they, too, are wanderlusts. (german tourists in particular are awed that i used this word to name my shop, as its origin is from the german and a word i guess that is used frequently in their homeland. i’ve had a variety of explanations of its meaning in their language, from “skiing and hiking” to something about a national poem/song using this word. i even once had a woman insist i was a travel agent and kept asking me to change her bus ticket, and she kept looking at my computer to see the progress i was making in the changing of her ticket…fortunately, i had a german-speaking friend here who was able to explain to her that i was indeed NOT a travel agent, that would i NOT be working on the rearrangements of her holiday, that in fact i sell dresses–”see? look around this store!”, said in german–and directed her to a real agent right down the street).

so while ‘wanderlust’ may not have been the simplest and most obvious of words to select in the naming of my business, ‘wanderlust’ is who i am, who i aspire to be. and while i am loving living in siem reap, i am feeling the itch, the desire, the need, the urge, to move and journey and go and see see see. like a junkie in a frantic search for their next fix, i am feeling this overwhelming panic that there’s so much out there that has been untouched by my own feet, unseen by these eyes.

i want to sit on the banks of the ganges river in india for an entire day. i want to arrive at sunrise, and sit folded on the ground, with a pack of smokes at the ready and maybe a ziploc stuffed with plain naan tucked into my bag for an afternoon snack, and look out all day at the life, the motions and the movements, that enters into this frame, my frame. i want to see for myself how this river, this huge and instrumental conduit to living and surviving in india, is essential, powerful, meaningful in every day existence. how it provides a highway, a means of getting things to and fro, how it’s the home to rituals and rites and passages. i want to see the pyres and the bathing and the washing and the swimming and the living and the dying and the working that occurs in and around this river. i do not want to leave my perch until sunset. i want to be still for hours and have the movements and motion and chaos swirl around me. i want to be in this. in it. i want to do this.

to travel the silk road from start to finish. to see and understand and acknowledge how east met west so so long ago. how noodles became pasta and how fashion moved from just protecting one from the elements to something more ornamental and emotional and betrayed our innermost feelings. how multicultural the world became because of this road, i want to be on this road and walk down it, walk right down the center of it, through the villages and mountains and rivers and lakes and puddles and forests. i need to see for myself how art and color and languages and materials and knowledge traveled and moved and became shared , how things melded into each other, transformed themselves into something different, a conglomeration of ideas and thoughts and inspirations. this road, this critical journey into the world we live in now. i want to do this.

to take an unairconditioned bus through the parched landscape of southern africa. to witness animals in their habitat, to see them living and working and fighting and in constant motion whether mankind is there to witness it or not. to see for myself that things happen without the infusion and involvement of the human race, to know that the world spins and revolves in spite of itself. i want to see this. i want to do this.

i dream of nepal, the colors of the sky, the blueness that defies description. of the hills and mountains of laos. the middle east and all its strange sounds of language and music. jordan. jordan. i want to come and see you, jordan, can i please? the souks of tunisia, i want to come hide in your shadows, explore your mysterious darkness and light. i want to light oil lamps to illuminate the desert while i am camping in gobi, before i lay back and watch the sky light itself up with it’s very own lamps. i want to come across handmade batiks in kenya and learn how to do it, stick my arms elbow deep into natural dyes and squish fruits and roots under my bare feet to create new colors. i want to hear traditional folk hymns sung in the native dialects of indonesia. i need to do a cannonball into the dead sea.

“what does ‘wanderlust’ mean?”

i am the definition.

i am wanderlust.

9AM, and it’s already reaching close to 90 degrees, 1000% humidity. air so heavy that perhaps only a chainsaw could get through it–maybe. shadows creating some relief, not to mention the can of diet coke within arm’s length on the table. i can feel the drips of sweat cascading down my front, hidden by my black halter dress, custom made by wanderlust, of course. a fringed oversized tassle around my neck swings lightly in the much needed breeze. 

i am staring into the lens of a camera. trying hard not to look boiling hot, sucking in my ever-sagging chin, thinking about –and attempting to emulate–some of the tricks i saw the countless models i dressed on countless shoots in countless locations do. but i am on the alley street. in siem reap, cambodia. flanked by 2 of the most creative, inspired, inspiring men, loven ramos and don protasio, and we’re being shot for a feature for a thai magazine. the story is about creative forces “taking over” siem reap. i am here. and i totally can’t believe it.

loven and don humble me. i feel unworthy of being shot with them, like i am sitting on their designer coattails (don’s would be comme des garcons; loven’s would probably be adidas or some underground, yet-to-be-totally-discovered hipster brand from the lower east side that hordes of people will clamor for within a year once he’s over it and moved on) and trailing along for the ride. they are a force. a real force. like a hurricane, but one that blows into town and you are awed by it’s magnitude and yet this enormous storm only makes the sky look beautiful and romantic and like a andrew wyeth painting and the leaves turnover and unveil their covert colorful undersides and makes the air clear and fresh and the insects sing loud, rhythmic, pretty songs. and this storm causes no damage. it only makes things more gorgeous, calmer, more alive. much more alive.

beautiful strength. that’s what they are.

i always say loven has more talent in his pinkie fingernail than most people have in their entire family tree. he’s an artist, a painter, a graphic designer, an art director, a man of a million ideas. he is the definition of “energy”, of “spirit”, of “goodness”–actually, make that “greatness“. his sense of humor floors me; his enormous internal rolodex of inspirations and thoughts and references is astonishing and god, i just want to steal a few of those ‘cards’; and  his sincerity and generosity are felt within seconds of being near him. i saw him on sunday ‘eskimo kissing’ his son and i felt this overwhelming sensation that i was amidst an ideal human being, someone whom i was extraordinarily fortunate to call “friend”. i look at his gorgeous and loving wife, faith, while we’re chatting and laughing and sharing stories, and i think, “wow. this stuff happens in real life. people have this. they have it.and i am not envious; rather, i am excited to have such people to look up to, to absorb, to emulate, to be near.

don is a person whom i see with cartoonish hearts in my pupils. i remember meeting him and he was wearing polka dotted shorts and gladiator sandals, and i knew that i was in a town that embraced uniqueness and character, and i felt safe. i felt at home in his presence. i told him about an early birthday present that my dear daniel sent me the other day–a much coveted designer item–and don squealed, “i am so happy for you!” and he meant it. he was honestly happy for me. and he came over to look at it and we played with it and we talked fashion talk and design talk and our mutual enthusiasm buoyed both of us to near hysteria. he is a fashion designer who makes clothes i understand in a very very deep way–clothes that tell stories, express emotions, conjure up feelings. sort of like modern history–new ideas done with familiarity, a sense of homey-ness and realness that is futuristic at the same time.  he also curates the swanky art gallery at the ridiculously chic de la paix hotel in town, and he selects the artists with such a vision, from such an honest, supportive place. he is magic.

so, here we were, the 3 of us, being photographed in the overwhelming heat of february in cambodia. and i look at don, wearing his white tee, jeans, a marc jacobs cherry pendant necklace and red patent sneakers, and loven, in his black tee with strong white graphic on the front–most likely screened by him last night; he once told me that when he & faith have dinner parties, he silkscreens personalized, themed table linens to use for the evening–white pants, coveted limited-edition adidas shellcaps and i can’t believe i am with these two. i am sandwiched between them, trying desperately to live up to the standard that they’ve already created here. and i feel so challenged, so inspired, i want to work so hard and prove my value here here here, here in this town, here in this magical place, here in this random thai magazine, here with these extraordinary, phenomenal people.

forces.

i looked up the word “hope” tonight in my gigantic, ever present webster’s new world dictionary of the american language. (admittedly, i have no clue why it’s the “american” language dictionary, since “whatevs” and “like, you know” are NOT included.) i’ve been thinking all day about hope and what it means to me, it’s significance in the world, in my world, in my heart, in my brain. in my past. in my now. in my tomorrows.

i have always been hopeful. always. i’ve said “i hope, i hope” so many many times silently to dozens and dozens of first stars i spied in a night sky, blew out countless amounts of birthday candles repeating the words “i hope, i hope” in the breath i had left over, repeated it at every altar, shrine, temple, mosque, church, pagoda, roadside crucifix i have ever been to and seen. i’ve hung hope on every hook on every door in every apartment i’ve ever lived in. i’ve glued hope in scrapbooks, photo albums, notebooks; penned it into margins of crusty paperbacks with words inside that gave me back some hope in return. i’ve pinned it on bulletin boards, saw it in art galleries stroked into 20th century oil paintings, on movie screens, heard it in song lyrics. i’ve seen it in shadows, in silhouettes, in that 4PM orange glow of pre-dusk sunlight. i see it often in eyes. hope.  

hope for what? what the hell are you hoping for?

what AM i hoping for? if i hope for something to happen, is that unfair? naive? unrealistic? if i hope for a significant relationship with someone is that just  another dreamy fantasy that will elicit countless eyerolls and deep sighs?

really, i just hope for simple things. uncomplicated things. things and experiences and words and people and relationships that don’t require untangling or fiddling with or a master’s degree in psychology to understand. i just want something easy. not a blow-off, not a it-doesn’t-matter-to-me-i-can-take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing, just a comfortable place to sit. 

an easy chair. that’s what i hope for. an easy chair.

an easy chair is a place where i can just be. just be. where i don’t feel crushed or twisted or in need of a stretch. where ouches are non existent, where nail biting is not allowed. a place that is non judgmental or  free of analysis or where no one is looked at through suspicious eyes. a place to be that requires no explanation, no thesaurus, no i-didn’t-mean-it-that-way-really-i-swear-oh-shit-now-i-am-scared-because-i-can’t-take-it-back, a place where regrets don’t have a home, a place where walls don’t exist. an open space, a comfortable space. a place to sit where i can just be. where i can breathe, and suck in air that feels fresh and clean and clear

i want to sit in my easy chair across from someone who’s in theirs and feel okay in the silence. i want to feel okay in the tumble of words. i want to feel safe in the sharing and the talking talking talking and the unloading and the uploading and the downloading. in the hearing and the listening.  i want to look into this person’s eyes and know that he sees me as an easy chair. i am in my own, but he’s in mine, too. and i’m in his. like musical easy chairs.

(i can understand from a psychological standpoint why people like recliners. i personally think they’re hideous from a design perspective, but i get it subjectively. however, i think ray & charles eames designed one that would suit me just fine. i can visualize myself in it, its supple leather and gorgeous, smooth wood grain enveloping me, as i am sitting in a field/beach somewhere in the sunshine, with an ashtray and a can of diet coke at hand, having a conversation with my hope recipient in a matching one.)

is that a lot? is that the equivalent of hoping for, well, the fucking hope diamond? is this something everyone hopes for? i haven’t a clue. if everyone does hope for this, then why am i still hoping for it? can’t we trade hopes and fulfill the hopes for each other?

all i know is that this easy chair has been on my christmas list for years and years. and i really, really want it.

let me have my hope. i hope i hope i hope for my hope.

i’ve said it a zillion times, but there are very few things i am afraid of. i don’t know why, but maybe it’s because those things that we all fear deep down, like death and divorce and abandonment, have been hoisted onto me throughout my life, and i’ve had to look them directly in the eye and kind of try to stare them down. so other things that instill fear, like the eating of bugs or climbing mountains or flying on airplanes seem so miniscule, such a waste of energy when compared to bigger, more substantial things. (i’ve adorned myself with a tattoo–in vietnamese–that says, “not afraid to live, not afraid to die” for a reason. and if you don’t really fear dying, you certainly can’t be completely frozen by the idea of really living. right? i believe this. i believe it.) so while these huge enormous things still make me shake a little in my flip flops or my ragged chuck taylors, and i find myself in moments of darkness, chewing off the fingernails i don’t really have, worrying about being left again, i also have some weird ability to go directly into things without letting the fear take me over. i don’t let the fear stop me from at least trying.

when i decided to move to siem reap, cambodia, i forgot to think about why it might be a scary decision. it never occurred to me to consider lurking menaces hiding behind palm trees or the ever present danger of contracting malaria or dengue. i never went to get vaccinated for anything, never bothered to ponder of what mysterious traumas and dramas could be facing me with this huge step, this massive leap i was taking. i forgot to think about the fact that my heart could be broken here in siem reap, too. i let go of the notions of being abandoned. i just came. i just decided to do it, and did it. it was simple, maybe naive, but simple. i just did it.

and while masked men behind trees haven’t appeared and tropical diseases haven’t struck me down yet, there are other things i have been doing that normally i would be reluctant or hesitant to do, but again, i forgot i was afraid. so i just did it. 

i have found myself ready and open to romance. this is enormous. this is probably the biggest fear i’ve had to confront, the letting go of the devastating disappointment in the dissolution of my marriage, shucking off the ramifications of being struck down and maimed by someone who claimed to love me, someone who made promises and commitments he had no intention of keeping. without really knowing it, or being full aware of it, i’ve been trying to, at least, trying to cut the anchor around my waist, around my heart, the one that holds me down and keeps me afraid, keeps me leery. and i feel ready to put myself out there again, i feel like maybe i’ve grown my legs back. sea legs, yes, still shaky and quaky, knees knocking slightly, but legs nonetheless. 

so yes, indeed, there is someone who has caught my eye and made me feel alive in ways i forgot i could and made me feel ready and willing and able. but i’ve confronted that fear from a different angle by understanding–and doing what i can to accept–that this readiness, this willingness, is not being reciprocated. i’m on a one way street, and there’s pylons in the road and some major pot holes. i bumped into some of those neon cones, fell into a shallow little hole, and i am climbing my way out, band-aiding my cuts and attending to my bruises. i attempted fearlessness, and while i failed at it in some ways, i’m also still walking. i’m getting up. facing fear.

i went camping this weekend. enormous step #2. i am an urban girl living in a rural place. cities are my bloodline, cities fuel me, cities pump me with energy and enthusiasm and excitement. and yet here i am residing in a tiny town where sidewalks don’t really exist and movie theaters are what you create from pirated dvds and a second hand dvd player in your un-air conditioned apartment. so here i go again, forgetting what scared me about the countryside–the darkness, the silence, the “inactivity”. and i went camping with my small little posse here. in fact, i arranged this trip–planned it, greased the right people, organized the food and the beer and made sure everyone knew to bring a mosquito net. it was me. facing fear.

i was forfeiting hot showers and hairbrushes and the general urban standards of living– the living i used to feel comfortable in, the living that i’ve been, well, living for decades. i purposely chose discomfort, i released all the reasons and the excuses and the rationalizations of why i couldn’t do this, why i shouldn’t do this. i was sleeping on a hardwood floor, freezing my ass off, huddled against the chill under various layers of dirty tee shirts and woven straw mats, dreaming of socks but realizing i didn’t want to be anywhere else but on this floor, in this place, in here, with cold feet. i was listening to the sound of water cascading off a cliff, endless streams of the worlds most important resource, it’s asset, it’s claim. hearing some unidentified bird cawing in the distance, the sing-song chorus of some wet amphibians making homes in the gigantic leaves and fauna that is their decor, their nest. looking at a moon fuzzy and hazy in the increasing humid sky, squinting to see if there was a remote possibility that the sky would offer me a shooting star. taking delight in watching monks throw sticks at a huge, slithery snake. throwing myself into icy river water and crawling on slippery rocks to immerse myself under a daunting 3 story high shower. wondering what the hell i was ever afraid of. forgetting about the fear. facing the fear.

and today, under the blazing morning february sun in cambodia, i mounted a golden horse named geronimo, and took enormous leap #3. i took an english riding lesson. after brushing and washing and cleaning hooves filled with the dust and dirt and the god knows what else of cambodia and saddling up this animal, an animal i don’t necessarily fear, per se, but one i don’t particularly care for, i became friends with geronimo. i liked this being. i opened myself up to something, to him, to this strangeness, to this i-would-never-ever-do-this-in-a-trillion-years, unlocked this chest, this footlocker, inside. and suddenly, geronimo seemed like a proper vehicle in which to ride head first into all the scary things i’ve felt and harbored and made huge with my imagination. i trotted, i galloped. i let the horse lead me while i led it, too. i felt free. i felt unencumbered by all the histories, all the lead balloons that have been tied to my wrists. i let go.

facing fear.

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