You ever wonder what it means to be "enlightened"?
I used to believe that enlightenment was something one experienced in their twilight years, purely because of all the theological treatises on the subject, but as I grew into my own mind, I realized the reality is more likely that enlightenment can be experienced while we are still alive, while we are present in each moment, that something as simple as being present, is in its own right, a form of enlightenment if not enlightenment itself.
So much value is attached to this higher consciousness that often we discourage ourselves from seeking after something we convince ourselves is illusive, but in reality, it is as simple as learning to be still and to let what is, be.
When I was 27, right after the painful end of a relationship that went from beautiful to shit-in-a=sandwich almost overnight, I did what anyone in my situation would have done, I went and got a tattoo!
I got the only script tattoo I sport, and likely the only one I will ever sport as I age, coz script doesn't age well as a tattoo, and this tattoo says simply:
I am in this moment being me.
At the time I got the tattoo I had a couchsurfer staying with me, she was a lovely woman from France, and the biggest decision wasn't the tattoo itself but whether there should be a "full stop" at the end of the sentence or not. She helped me make up my mind about the use of punctuation by suggesting the finality of being in the moment, that in every moment we are only who we are, no two moments will ever be the same, physically we will have changed, cells would have died or been reborn, metaphysically too, we will never be the same as we were a moment prior.
The beauty of having time to do nothing more than be present is that you get to actually spend time thinking about things you'd normally consider a waste of time (philosophy) because it doesn't improve your work productivity or make your paycheck come a week earlier, but this is what I am learning to appreciate in this moment where I am in my life, with no real purpose work wise, where my identity and my self-worth isn't attached to any kind of tether and where what I am doing is not who I am because if it were, how would I define it?
I used to find the whole aspect of Hong Kong life, being an expat wife, so perplexing. Often I would note that when someone asked an expat wife what they did, especially if they were not working, they'd respond with something like, "I used to be a....and my husband is a..." fill in appropriately with banker, lawyer, pilot, etc. I used to reply to that kind of question with, "Nothing!" Like...in my world, I was living a life of lunch sets at nice places with a group of "girlfriends" all in the same boat or better, I had a domestic helper who took on the less appealing chores of taking care of my kids and cleaning my house, and I literally wiled away my days shopping for groceries, prepping meals and dining and wining with my cohorts at foodie destinations. I enjoyed holidays often and lived a life that many would have thought came at a great price, but in truth we were always living frugally as we holidayed where we had property or family who did, and we traveled with Cathay staff travel, so our flights were practically free, in fact, we did get two free flights a year on top of the staff travel flights that cost no more than the taxes on a ticket.
I wasn't one for shopping, so you wouldn't see me buying expensive handbags, that was something my mother did, and I never found it so appealing, I mean, a bag should be something to carry your shit in it, if it costs more than the shit you have in it, then you really are valuing the wrong things in life. I ain't saying that to disparage people who enjoy a good handbag, and yet, there is something clearly wrong in a society where consumerism is already the looming specter of what is to come, the destruction of our environment, the overflow of our landfills and the harm it does to humanity in the end.
Regardless of whether I disliked shopping, I am sure that I was not doing much with my life, I wasn't even taking care of my kids full-time, right? So what would it matter what my husband was doing? Its not until I opened the restaurant that I felt like I had some sense of purpose or, as they call it, "you are what you do"...and yet, it still didn't sit well with me. Why am I merely what I do? Why has this become a thing and why shouldn't it be acceptable to do nothing and be more than nothing?
The years have given me the opportunity to see whether I care about this concept of defining myself, which I believe is what they call Ego, and I can best describe these last few months of upheaval as being the most profound period of introspection I have been afforded in my adult life so far. I am so grateful for the circumstances that carried me to where I am in life right now. For more than a year, my husband and I have taken on the full duty of parenting and childcare, after having fired our final helper in Hong Kong at the beginning of 2020, right before Covid-19 hit. My husband has had to bear the greater burden of the childcare as I was still working, but now that we are all together and doing "nothing" together, its been the most fulfilling experience of peace, persistence and serendipity.
Initially, in the first two weeks since we made the move from Hong Kong to the Netherlands, I would wake up with nightmares, flashbacks of childhood traumas, and I was truly blown away with what bubbled to the surface of my consciousness now that my cortisol levels had nowhere to go but down. I began keeping a journal, reading scientific papers in psychology, biology and microbiology, and I began meditating again in earnest.
Fast-forward to where I am now, where we are, as a family, at exactly six weeks since we left Hong Kong, and you will see my children have grown so much more mouthy and confident. My youngest who will be 8 years old in May is behaving like a young man, and sometimes its hard to remind myself that him and his older brother who is 9, are still kids. I made this mistake yesterday when Sasha, my 9 year old, asked me if the tooth fairy was real. I know now that he simply wanted me to reassure him that his belief in the tooth fairy was legit, and instead I did this deductive reasoning thing I do all the time, and completely crushed the kids dreams! I sat there afterwards trying to repair the damage and it was a shoddy salvage, but how the hell was I to know that a kid that doesn't believe God exists, knows that Santa is made up and thinks that parents only say their kids are beautiful because they are biased...how was I to realize he still believed in the frikken tooth fairy?
I had to salvage it by hugging him tight as he sobbed uncontrollably, and I talked him through it like so:
"Son...you know how Anna believes in God and she believes so strongly that to her, God is real?"
He just nodded, couldn't even say anything as he had tears rolling down his face and was kinda hiccuping.
"Well, to her, God is real even if he isn't real to you...so does that make her belief any less important to her?"
He shook his head, no.
"Well, would you like to give up believing in the tooth fairy?"
He shook his head again, no he didn't...
"Then, what do you do? You've got to choose what you believe in, and as long as you hold true to those beliefs, its real in your frame of consciousness, and that, in the end, is all that ought to matter to you, not what anyone else thinks."
He slowly stopped sobbing, his tears dried up, and he bit his lower lip, more resolute to keep his dream alive.
"Now, put your tooth under your pillow and lets get Papa to send the tooth fairy that whatsapp to remind her while she chillaxes in her castle made of milk teeth!"
Then my husband rolls in, I mouth to him that our son is borderline gonna hate me for the rest of his life and gonna remember this moment when he was 9 years old where I crushed his dreams, and my husband, who had no idea I had tried this salvage option, gave my son a huge bear hug and said, "Don't worry, much as Papa is essentially Santa Claus, Papa is also the one who puts the money under your pillow, not the tooth fairy!"
Sasha's face scrunched up again and his tears began to well up anew...
"Right after Papa gets the money that the tooth fairy drops into his pocket once she receives his whatsapp reminder!" I added quickly, giving my husband a glare with eyes big as saucers while shaking my head in a big old "NOOOOOOOO!"
Then my youngest son goes loudly, "Yeah, dude! Don't you know, the tooth fairy isn't real! Just like Santa and God!"
"Shut up!" was all that Sasha could manage. He was not having any of it.
Yeah, sometimes, parenting can be full of failure moments, but for the most part, I am loving having all this time with my kids. I am breathing in every moment with my family, and rejoicing in the quiet certainty that we will continue to grow together, and that now more than ever, I understand what it means to truly be alive.
I am just me, in the moment, I am not someone who used to be something, nor am I someone who is something purely because of what I am capable of doing, I am just me. I am one with a sea of consciousness and much like someone standing still at a busy train station while the hustle and bustle of commuters move all around and trains zip in and out, if those commuters and trains were thoughts, I am the person who is able to stand still amidst all the energy that abounds, constantly in motion but not needing to be followed.
This morning, after the kids had made it to their ipads to play in the living room, its about the only time we get to have our cuddles in private, as we are all huddled together in the same room when we sleep, I asked my husband how he felt about his life right now. He answered as he always does, "Yeah, fine."
So I had to ask once more, "No, really, how are you feeling?"
He knows me well enough, he knows he needs to give me more than just a placating one word.
"I honestly am fine. I am not anxious. I am not worried about the future. I am not worried about money. I know we have more than enough to buy a property if we wanted and still have money to survive after that for years to come if we are living the life we plan on living. I know that we will need to do some renovations on the boat, but nothing that would cost us an arm and a leg. We already own the boat outright, and we aren't in debt anywhere, we will be fine. I am fine."
This means the world to me. I was so anxious for myself. I was anxious for my husband. I was worried we would struggle together, alone in depression. What has surprised me is how much the opposite has been true. We have been able to appreciate being alive, experiencing small moments together as a family, seeing our children grown into their wit and awareness of the world around them.
We stopped worrying about schooling as we waited to know what was expected of us within the Dutch educational system, which, as I mentioned, is mandatory, home schooling is not an option. We know we are only here until June, after which point we will set sail and take on the responsibility of home schooling, so for now our sons have been scheduled to start at a government funded language school immediately, but since I am leaving for Hong Kong in just under two weeks, we have been able to teach the kids required learning in Dutch with the help of workbooks given to us by the teachers at the new school, and we will send them for in-person schooling once I leave on the 3rd of February.
My main concern is that while we are in full lockdown, while the government has new restrictions on curfews for all, the last thing I need is for my kids to then expose me to Covid-19 right before I hop a flight to Hong Kong.
Thankfully the school administration understands, and they have accepted that the kids won't come to school until I leave early February. We already had a bit of concern a week ago when my husband was feeling unwell and I was feeling bleh, we went and got Covid-19 tested only to find out we were both negative. So for now, at least I know what a test feels like, so I am mentally prepared for my test upon arrival into Hong Kong and for the two times thenceforth that I will have to be tested, once at the 10 day mark and then again at the 20 day mark, all while in the confines of the hotel room.
When they tested us here, they stuck this implement down my throat to scratch the mucus membranes back there and then they took the same damn implement and stuck it so far up my nose that I was worried they'd poke right into my brain! Boy that was quite a bizarre feeling!
When I came out the testing facility I mentioned to my husband, "Damn, I thought they'd get my brain there! How gross is it that they put that swab in our throats first and then the same damn thing was sent up our noses!" I began to giggle.
"Well, be grateful they didn't do it the other way around!" he said, and I began to laugh even more.
Then Sasha pipes up from the back seat of the car we were sitting in, post testing, and he's all, "What do you mean, Papa? Would they stick that swab up your butt?"
By this point I was laughing so hard I forgot all about the discomfort of the swab that was still stinging in my nasal cavity!
Kids! They just say the funniest things sometimes.
This morning when he woke, Sasha went over to the living room and mentioned to my husband that not only was his tooth missing from under his pillow after he put it there last night, but the tooth fairy hadn't even put any money under there! "Did you whatsapp the tooth fairy to let her know I had a tooth under my pillow?"
My husband insisted he had done so and said maybe he needs to check his whatsapps and send a reminder, that in these times of Covid-19, maybe even the tooth fairy is having delays.
He then came to the bedroom and asked me in a hushed tone, "Wheres his frikken tooth?" as it clearly wasn't under his pillow...So we moved the bed and found that the tooth had fallen down the back of the mattress. So I suggested my husband put the money in the same spot and take the tooth, which is what he did.
We waited another 10 mins, so as to not make it obvious, before asking my son to look for his tooth and that maybe it fell off his bed in his sleep, and so he came hurriedly to look for it, shifting his bed, and then he found the two coins, a total of four euros, in its stead.
He was over the moon!
Small victories, I'll take it! :)
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.