I miss being heartbroken
I know it sounds incredulous to even make that exclamation, especially while I'm romantically happier than ever.
However, there was something so strangely alive about life when I was grieving. The last time I had to cope through a breakup was six years ago and time and distance have provided me with the knowledge that period was certainly the most life changing thus far (although it's pretty close competition to the life changes I have to make in this current relationship but that's a different story for a different day).
I was 27 and I returned home to Singapore jobless after quitting a cool job I had for two years in Hong Kong. The uncertainties of my then long-distance relationship made me wanted to come home to make it work. However, we broke up the night of my return.
It wasn't a clean breakup and we fell into a grey area for the next three months and those months were the worst months for my self-esteem. I tried means and ways to mend the relationship and most of the methods, were admittedly, terribly stupid and demeaning.
After a few more months of unemployment, wallowing, crying and sleeping till 3pm (because I just refused to wake up and realised my life was real), I decided enough was enough and spent some of my savings for a trip to Bali where I would spend a month all by myself (yes, cue the concept of Eat, Pray, Love) and just fucking get better because I was running out of patience for myself.
For the first week, I cried myself to sleep each night in my big, pretty villa of two bedrooms in Lodtunduh, just outside of Ubud in Bali. I wrote to my friends back home and asked them if I'd done something impulsively stupid by coming out here for A MONTH. What if I didn't get better? What if it's all a waste of money?
After three days of holing myself up in the villa, I decided it was time to get out a little. I engaged the help of my favourite employee at the villa, Cuk, so the next morning, I got onto his motorbike and headed for my first yoga class in seven years at Yoga Barn. I didn't know what else to do on a daily basis and thought I would give yoga another shot.
Of course, I sucked at it. I couldn't touch my toes. I managed to tickle my ankles if I tried hard enough. I stayed at the back of the class gazing enviously on while the gorgeous yogis at the front got into their head and hand stands. I felt more isolated and rejected than ever.
After the class, I walked to a nearby cafe called Kafe (really) for lunch. That delicious bowl of red rice and grilled chicken, together with the late morning light that hit my table, created some sort of magic. I felt myself lifted for the first time in a long while and prayed that this good feeling would last. Even though I hardly spoke to anyone that day, that was the most 'socialising' I could manage and returned to my little villa shortly after.
The yoga classes became a daily morning activity and soon, I was doing two classes a day. Why not, since I had nothing but time on my hand? After a week, solitary lunches and dinners were soon joined by other travellers from around the world who were all in Bali for different reasons (but it seemed like I was the only one attempting to heal from a broken heart). Suddenly, I found myself having a social life in Bali!
The friends I'd made were one of the best parts of my month in Bali. They truly opened my eyes to the idea of how everyone is truly connected despite our diversities. At the end of the day, all we want is really to love and be loved. To understand and to be understood. They are the reasons I'm able to live an unconventional life with no self-judgment and embracing the people in my life who allow me to live vicariously through their own unconventional lives.
There is a truly huge spiritual community in Ubud and for a yoga newbie like myself then, everything was an eye-opener. I attended Kirtan (devotional Hindu songs) sessions, ecstatic dances (we didn't consume ecstasy pills but ecstatic dances are free forms where you are allowed to move in whichever ways you feel most free in), women-only yoga classes, kundalini, crystal healing, Tibetan bowls healing... You name it.
Though I didn't try tantric yoga, my new friend Wendy, an Australian who was in her 60s then, did with a partner half her age and told me she subsequently had the best sex in her life with him. I was just grinning throughout while she recounted her experiences to me.
I came to know two Canadian girls, who were also in Bali for a month to undergo their yoga teacher training course and were on a tight budget. I had a room to spare and insisted they became my roomies and we had the best time ever. During a full-moon night, they threw together a full-moon ritual where we sang and danced around the fountain in my villa. We wrote the things we wanted to let go of on pieces of papers, burnt them and threw the ashes into, erm, said fountain.
During my last few days in Bali, these amazing women I'd come to know over the last three weeks came together to throw me a farewell dinner of 20. I knew I would probably never see them ever again. Ironically, I found myself worrying about being worse off emotionally and mentally when I returned to Singapore - wasn't I worried about not healing when I left Singapore for Bali?
But I've carried the lessons and love I discovered from Bali since. It's been more than six years since that life-changing experience and I'd returned to Bali a few more times alone but I would never be able to recreate the month I had there.
I attribute a lot of the amazing times I had to being more open than I'd ever been. When my heart was so broken, I imagined there was a big gaping hole anyway but unknown to myself, I'd also allowed so much goodness to enter that said hole so I became full and whole again.
However, the thing about growing up and learning about life is that it never ends. I carry those lessons and love with me today but there's so much more to embrace and to open myself up to with the new experiences I go through now and in future.
Being heartbroken had allowed me to realise how much I love being alive and growing older. Because there is just no way you get to experience everything life has to offer when you don't get older.
Here's to new beginnings in 2017 (because in numerology, 2017 is a Year 1, which will clean the slate and brings us new stories and experiences). I'm truly excited to see what the Universe has to offer for all of us but only if we allow It to show us. :)
Photography: Sharon Leisinger