Something Less, Something Swiss
My first weekend in Bali over two years ago, I was overwhelmed trying to understand the bizarre physical reaction I experienced. The girlfriends I was traveling with were probably freaked out when instead of hanging by the pool, I broke out my journal and tried to write it all down before the feeling escaped me. A sense of connectivity I couldn’t explain, and couldn’t let go of for almost two years. Probably the reason why two years later, I came back.
In my first month living here, I experienced the same fervent, fleeting, almost overwhelming feelings of inspiration that I did on my first visit. A sensory overload, to put it lightly, I honestly wondered if was wrong with me. I was in awe of the colors of a bathroom mural, took time to notice the texture of the foliage on my porch, felt an inescapable warmth in my chest from smelling my neighborhood air when multiple incense and offerings burned in sync. Over time, those feelings became less shocking. I settled into a routine with regular eateries, familiar faces, and small aspects of my day that each brought a sense of calm and comfort.
But even after three months, there’s something unique about this island I can’t put my finger on - something that grabs the best parts of you you didn't know existed and brings them to the surface so fast it takes your breath away. And when that part of you is alive (whether you understand it or not), it makes everything out of your control seem a little less daunting. Whatever this energy is, has kept me (relatively) level in an incredibly transient point in my life. It has kept me grateful, and more easily able to let go of things out of my control. To stop planning too far ahead, with the new understanding that there are more parts of “me”, dimensions, perspectives, that can only be brought to surface through new challenges in new environments.
Now that the intense reactions of being back have slowed - a more calm, more settled, feeling of peace has encapsulated my final weeks here. When trying to find a way describe this whirlwind of radiance, vibrancy, and effortless comfort that is living in Ubud - the only words that have actually made sense were written by someone describing people in…..Switzerland. In The Geography of Bliss (plug), a cynical and snarky NPR writer travels around the world to the scientifically proven “happiest countries on earth” - to ask the questions: “Why you? How do you define happiness?”
“We need a new word to describe Swiss happiness. Something more than contentment but less than full on joy. “Conjoyment,” perhaps. Yes, that’s what the Swiss possess: utter conjoyment. We could use this word to describe all kinds of situations where we feel joyful yet calm at the same time. Too often when we say we feel joyful, we’re really feeling manic. There is a frenetic nature to our joy, a whiff of panic; we’re afraid the moment might end abruptly. But then there are other moments when our joy is more solidly grounded. I am not speaking of a transcendental moment, of bliss, but something less, something Swiss.”
After trying so hard to find the way to accurately describe living in Ubud, I didn’t find the answer in a trendy cafe, a yoga studio, or the monkey forest. Switzerland, of all places, could make sense of what I had given up as indescribable. Another reason to not look so far ahead - places like Switzerland may be steer my ideas for the rest of this year off course.