Apparently we can both get pretty bent out of shape when we don’t get what we want, especially when it’s been promised. Well we already knew this. And it applies to me more than Don. He gets more bent out of shape about primitive living conditions than I do, though I’m not as good at taking that in my stride as I was when I was young. I don’t want to give entirely the wrong impression: generally we’re both good at taking things in our stride. We shrug and say, “This is what is” and come back to presence, where all is well. But back to getting bent out of shape, because it does happen, for both of us, and we were both tested over the days we spent travelling from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.
We took a three-day “boat” tour from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. I put boat in inverted commas because there wasn’t that much of it. Boating I mean. We were supposed to go by boat from a little out of Phnom Penh all the way to the Cambodia-Vietnam border. Instead we went by bumpy van. Finally we got on a boat at the border and travelled down some tributaries, and onto to the Mekong to Chau Doc. We mentioned on the van ride that we felt things had been misrepresented to us. In Chau Doc our itinerary said we’d be transferred to a home stay at Sam Mountain. Instead we were put into a scuzzy downtown hotel. And so it continued. Day two we were also promised activities, and visits to places, that never materialized. Finally in the morning of day three I got mad. Fierce Alison emerged. I’d had enough. As a result some changes were made and we got to have a far longer, quieter, and more intimate experience of the Cai Rang floating market than we otherwise would have. But that’s not the point of this post. I’ll eventually do a post about the three days from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City. There was much about it that was really wonderful.
This is about how we dealt with it. The afternoon of day two we were taken to a rural homestay. Our room was a thatch cabin. Praise the lord for mosquito nets and bug dope, but I’m already feeling sulky and unhappy and ready to complain about anything. Doesn’t matter how much I try to let it go, the mind continues to complain, and be miserable. Nothing’s any fun any more. Poor me. Don’s not feeling good about the primitive living conditions. Neither am I. And no one has told us about the itinerary for the next day. Actually three different guides have told us three different things about the next day. We’re feeling abandoned, confused, pissed off, tired and generally not happy. We get on Skype to the tour company in Phnom Penh who booked the tour for us. She can’t really help. We skype to the Vietnamese company who’s brought us this far. They’re not much help either. All of this is fraught with tension and frustration and anger and discontent. That night I don’t sleep well, and have a little weep at five in the morning. Poor me. Don sleeps like a log.
So after breakfast fierce Alison emerges and we begin to get what we want, what we’ve been promised, what we’ve paid for. And all along there’s this inner voice saying “relax, let it go, there’s nothing wrong, trust the Mystery, let it unfold, come back to presence, all is well here” and I’m completely unable to do that.
As I write this I begin to understand two things – the human me is OK. It’s OK for me to have all those feelings of discontent. Oh the humanity! The worst side effect was a lack of sleep. The best was that it led to fierce Alison speaking out, and that led to a much better experience than we would otherwise have had.
And so once again I’m completely blown away by the mysterious unfolding of life. If I hadn’t been so discontented I’d never have gotten mad. And we’d have missed out on a wonderful experience. Here’s me trying to be some kind of enlightened superhuman who just witnesses life and never gets upset about anything. Ha. As if. And as if that’s the best thing! Sometimes, just sometimes, being discontented and getting fierce about it rules!
Photo of the day: Cai Rang floating market, Mekong Delta, Vietnam
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.
Really enjoyed the saga of Fierce Alison! 😉
In your blog, you frequently mention letting go and trusting The Mystery and all it brings, all you’re given on your journey. Seems to me that what The Mystery brings must *include* presenting challenges, opportunities wherein you don’t just “witness life and never get upset”. I believe The Mystery equally nurtures our Fierce, Angry, Discontented, and other such human aspects, gives us “opportunities for learning” (what the world calls “problems” or whatever) in which we can experience those equally-wholesome aspects of ourselves. Perhaps being enlightened involves integrating within ourselves the whole human experience and all the feelings that accompany it, not just the lighter aspects and/or the spiritual aspects and/or the accepting-and-at-peace-with-it-all apsects.
Ya, I say bring Fierce Alison along with you and let her out to play sometimes; she seems pretty awesome… as you said, she rules! She is as much a part of your Spiritual you as of your Human you — if indeed those two are different or separate ;).
I totally agree that “being enlightened involves integrating within ourselves the whole human experience, and all the feelings that accompany it”. I agree with all you’ve written. I call it complete acceptance of yourself exactly the way you are. I think when there is absolute, complete acceptance then you are free. Fierce Alison arises without hindrance. (Ask Don lol!). But sometimes I forget that it’s OK to be angry, because I know others are intimidated by it and don’t like you for it, and because we are conditioned to believe it’s unacceptable behaviour. Also I’ve become very good at catching the mind making up stories to cause discontent. Usually it has no traction as soon as I catch it. This time it caught me off guard. There was plenty of traction, and the wonder of it all for me was to discover that that was exactly what was needed.
oh i agree! the way i plan trips, i write crazy itineraries that MUST be followed.lol i complain a lot..cos if i don’t it just gonna keep bothering me even after the trip is over.. but my bf’s the nice one.lol so i try to be silent and let him handle some things coz he’s always more calm ^^
Good thing you have your bf to keep things calm 🙂
I must admit we’re both amazed at how smoothly all our travel has been. In 16 months of pretty much continuous travel this is only the second thing that hasn’t panned out the way we thought, and the first turned out to be a blessing.
A part of me can see how bad it must have been for you, expecting something to be like this but instead it is like that. But another part of me loves the whole adventure, the whole idea that it is possible you don’t do what you set out to do and what you turn out doing isn’t exactly better — just drudgery, just misery. I mean c’est la vie. I don’t think that there is any human being who has not had his fair share of unmet expectations. I read a controversial biography on the Duchess of Windsor and it was a shock to me that she was on a crummy boat to China, far from the luxury and the charmed life I thought she had been privileged to live. Rumors also had it that she also slept with some of the crew, nowhere close to the man who would’ve been King if England had he not fallen for a “commoner” and a divorcee like the former Mrs. Wallis Simpson.
Oh and yes it’s true. Sometimes this life pushes us to see how much we can take. And no matter how we try to be a good sport about it, we blow up like a fuse and then we feel guilty but only until we realize that our moment of anger led us to a better place. We’ll never know where keeping our silence would have take us, for better or for worse, but no need to lose sleep over what might have been, as long as “what is” presents itself as a good outcome of our choices.
Yes, you don’t always get what you want. C’est la vie. And yes we’ve had our share of unmet expectations. We’re both pretty good at accepting what comes, and making the most of it, which we certainly did for almost all of that journey. I don’t lose it very often, and I wasn’t really angry, just very outspoken and determined,which it led to a good result so I have no regrets. It was really more about how I got swallowed up in the mind’s story of discontent when I don’t usually, and then seeing that in the end it was a useful thing. It so mysterious the way it all works. It’s all grace. Even the anger.