More Beautiful for Having Been Broken

I never knew what ORS was until I read the list of mandatory supplies to pack for my upcoming trip to Thailand. Then, a friend told me not to wear the same socks twice to prevent jungle rot. A vague memory of Vietnam soldiers fighting off horrible infections consuming their lower legs and feet came to mind.

I wondered how the hell anyone could have smiling faces in their vacation pictures from Thailand? Between Zika, Dengue Fever, food poisoning, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis and Rabies from wild dogs and monkeys, why would anyone willingly go there?

Why am I going?

Oh, right; life long dream, that’s why.

For years I thought my love of elephants was some deep mystical spiritual past-life connection revealing itself to me in my current life experience. I’d always imagined being up close and personal with elephants. I’d collected small ceramic and stone elephant figurines from various travels over the years. I’ve been mesmerized by them; drawn to them. It must be some deep spiritual bond.

Or not.

I was scanning through JPEGS my brother converted from slides taken in the 1970’s when we were kids. And there it was; the picture of me straddled across a small elephant at Lion Country Safari in Florida. We were visiting my grandparents in West Palm Beach.

My life-long dream was based on a novel elephant ride when I was eight years-old?

So, off I go to live with the elephants for 4 weeks at Elephant’s World in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. And I couldn’t be more excited. And nervous – but that’s typical for me. I’m a reluctant adventurer.

I feel equally divided between the homebody who needs routine and security and the adventurer who desires new experiences. I have enjoyed hitchhiking in France, camping in Greece after disembarking in the wrong town and attempting to use the pay telephones in Italy.

I also love being horizontal on my couch at the same time each day, having my morning tea ritual and stocking up on my usual favorites from Trader Joe's. Predictable, safe and secure.

But life is anything but predictable. And all of my past experiences brought me to this moment. The times of unending tears and feelings of despair, the budding moments of strength emerging from hibernation and experiencing the first true belly laugh after so many moments spent worrying I’d never feel joyful again.

Years ago I felt I had nothing to live for when my marriage seemed to end so abruptly. I felt my soul fracture from the consuming multiple losses; my sense of identity, my husband and marriage, the future I believed in, and his family I belonged to for seventeen years.

And here I am today, feeling excited, like a little girl going off on a big adventure to ride an elephant in Loxahatchee, Florida.

A wise young woman came into my life in the most perfect timing. She had experienced life’s breaking points, too; the deaths of both her parents when she was thirteen, a family’s rejection and great disappointment during grad school applications.

She told me of Kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with gold to bind the pieces together. This method celebrates the fractures rather than masking them. It is believed the pottery is more beautiful for having been broken.

Haven’t we all felt shattered by some experience in life, or several? I continue to find incredible human value in showing others my golden fractures. I know the profound effect of someone comforting me with their vulnerable story, assuring me, I’ve been through that, too. You’re not alone.

I’d read about women venturing off into the world after their unanticipated new beginnings in life. I wasn’t sure if I was capable of being like them; taking risks rather than seeking horizontal comfort on the couch, exploring different cultures rather than blending in to homogenized safety.

My upper arms hurt for days from the vaccinations against deadly, or at least very displeasing diseases. I’ll be sharing a hut with other volunteers, sleeping under a mosquito net in a room cooled by a fan. I’ve packed fifty servings of the Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to replenish my body chemistry from the effects of intense heat or digestive issues I may encounter while there.

I do wonder why my idea of adventure isn’t reviewing 5 star resorts and luxury spa retreats, but I know this trip will feed my soul.

Patty Blue Hayes is the award winning author of  Wine, Sex and Suicide – My Near Death Divorce and the creator of  You Can Heal Your Heartbreak, an audio program based on her book, My Heart is Broken. Now What? Follow her elephant adventure at www.pattybluehayes.com

Help Elephant’s World purchase their sanctuary land.