I could feel my heart beating quickly but steadily. I breathed deeply: in, out. My feet landed firmly on the pavement. I felt sweat dripping down my forehead and swiped it away. Then, my time was up. I slowed my run to a walk, stopped and took out my earbuds, the pumping music fading away to the sound of ocean waves crashing against concrete steps. I had just finished a run along the coast of Pranburi, Thailand, a sleepy beach town next to Hua Hin, four hours south of Bangkok.
I’d been traveling on my own for more than two months now and had a few more weeks to go before a friend would join me in Myanmar. This trip was something I’d looked forward to for months, the culmination of a difficult year struggling with depression, anxiety, burn-out, loss, medical issues, and questioning where my home was and whether it was time to move back to the US after spending three years in Copenhagen (it was).
Somehow the trip had also become a coming-to-terms with the heartache of saying goodbye to the people I loved in Denmark, including one person in particular who wouldn’t be joining me when I left (something it took me months to finally accept). During the past few months, I’d spent a lot of time on my own. I’d also met wonderful people and even spent a few days with friends from home, but in the end it was always just me. Alone. Sometimes I hated it, hated being forced to confront myself: my fears and my heartache.
But here in Pranburi I finally felt genuinely ok with being alone. I basked in the luxury of it, the ability to stare at the ocean and sleep in late and ride a bicycle to the beach without having to explain to anyone. No one gave me a second glance or cared what I did. It was wonderful.
Now, after my run, I looked out on the water already turning dark and purple as the sun started to set. I felt a sense of peace and stillness, the same feeling I’d had since I arrived here the day before. I felt strong and capable after my run. Something about this small town set me at ease in a way that I hadn’t been for a long time. I’d slept better the first night than I had in weeks.
As my small attempts at meditation have taught me, I knew this feeling of peace would pass too. At some point I would feel lonely again. At some point anxieties would resurface as they always do. So I just enjoyed this moment of feeling healthy and whole, ready to face whatever it was that 2018 has in store for me.
Happy new year, my friends. I hope this year brings you courage, resilience, optimism, and self-compassion.