The Island of Truth and Lies

Bali, Indonesia – March 2019

I am in the void. Conscious and floating on my back. A copper shimmer traces infinity in the blackness above me. It spins into two eyes. They lean close and stare into mine. Shiny pennies. I catch my breath. Unfurl, exhale. Okay. Look. I’ve got nothing to hide. The gaze is curious, amused. Familiar.

I move my lips in the softest whisper. “Who are you?” The eyes recede into the murk. The spell is broken. A languid ascent from sleep’s abyss. “You are me. Aren’t you.”

I pull the mosquito net aside and rise from the bed. Step outside into the dawn sunshine. Swim through liquid air. A delicious glow has invaded my atoms since my arrival in Bali. Wicked intoxication. It feels just a little too good. I float into the dining area and lower myself onto a cushion, still unable to speak.

Pebby gives me a knowing look. “I always have the weirdest dreams when I sleep in that room.”

I find my voice and tell her mine. She nods. “Uh huh.”

My little sister Penelope – my “Pebby” – teaches science at an international school for expat kids. She has aged so little in the almost nine years since we were last together. Hers is feral beauty. Deep olive skin. Eyes a rich, earthy green. Hair that changes hue depending on the light.

“I feel so strange since I’ve been here. So good, but apprehensive, too.”

“Bali tests you. They even asked me during the interview if I was mentally strong. So many marriages break up here. So many people fall apart.” She tells me of her longtime on and off boyfriend’s recent visit. After so many years, she saw how ugly he was, on all levels. She can’t stand him anymore.

Her dog, Lala, lies in a patch of sunlight. Mottled hyena fur, bloated body, shrunken head, feet like chicken claws. Her stinky feet stench persists no matter how often she gets washed. The sweetest dogs are so often the most hideous.

Pebby takes me on a tour of the school. On the scooter ride home, a downpour ambushes us. I arch my back and let it wash over me. There’s something so luxurious about being drenched by tropical rain. I wouldn’t trade this for the comfort of a car. Sensations are the most memorable part of a voyage. Warm raindrops on bare skin. The aroma of cooking grease, vehicle exhaust, and incense intertwined in the dense air. The vivid rainbow colors of traditional dress. The percussive thud of my heart beating with exhilaration.

When we get to her house, we sink into the cushions. Into the comfort of reminiscing. The family. Dad. Gone so long now. We have both mellowed so much over the years. We have survived, and, despite the dark times, thrived.

March 30, 1981

Ronald Reagan has been shot. My family gathers around the television. The footage is replayed over and over. Pebby is lying on her stomach, legs bent, chin on her hand. “Watch. Now the Pope’s going to get shot.”

The person who used to be my dad stares at her, eyes ablaze. His lips move. My mom frowns at him and switches off the television. He rises from the La-Z-Boy chair and goes to the basement.

The entity who now inhabits my dad’s body calls himself The Mediator Between God and Man. We are no longer his family, but his disciples. He has a small following at St. Anthony’s church. They like to hear his prophecies. They think he’s special, because he uses big words that they can’t understand. They are so stupid. Nothing he says makes any sense at all.

The Pope is shot just weeks later. “You know things, Penelope. Tell me what you know.” He follows her around the house and the yard. Takes her for long drives. When he was a young boy, he made tapes of his prophecies. A priest stole them. The neighbors across the street are in on the conspiracy. “Where are my tapes, Penelope? Tell me where they are.” When she hears his footsteps coming down the hall, she crawls under the bed. He barges into our room without knocking.

This is me: twelve years old, ninety pounds of freckles, braces, and unruly blonde hair. I clench my fists. “She’s not in here.” I glare into those piercing black holes. What did you do with my dad, you bastard? Bring him back. He leaves. I slam the door behind him and slide the desk in front of it.

I peer under the bed. Fierce eyes stare out of the shadows. A wild animal in the underbrush. “It’s okay. He’s gone,” I whisper. But still she doesn’t come out.

My siblings and I held each others’ hands through early adulthood, keeping watch for signs of incoherence, paranoia, delusion. The voices. It’s said that if none manifest by the age of thirty-five, you’re out of the woods. Other than an eccentricity that we embrace, we have made it. A doctor once told my mother that it’s a miracle that we aren’t all drug addicts or dead. Love is what saved us. Before my father’s schizophrenia spiraled out of control, life was stable. We were taught right from wrong. That there is a reason to persevere.

We have a deep connection to spirit, but an innate aversion to fervor. An impeccable bullshit radar. We are unable sit in congregations and nod our heads in unison. We prostrate ourselves before no one. The voices in our heads are our own. Ego chatter and, with increasing frequency, guidance from the Higher Self.

Our conversation switches to the present. Her work at the school. My work as a bartender this past winter at a dive bar in my village in northern Michigan. Most of the patrons live in the dodgy rooms upstairs and have lost the right to drive. The bar is their universe. I’m so grateful for all of the colorful stories I’ve gathered. But I am exhausted.

Tomorrow we leave for a trip to Komodo National Park, after which I will take off for a few days. To Ubud, a place of pilgrimage for the New Age crowd. Pebby snickers. “We all laugh about the Ubudian Yoga Pants People. So annoying. But it is a pretty area. A good base for day trips.”

I wander to my room, stopping to give Lala a goodnight scratch behind the ears. I tuck my mosquito net firmly under the mattress. A poisonous snake crawled up through Pebby’s shower drain a few weeks ago. One of her friends found a six foot cobra in her bedroom. I take no chances.

My head sinks into the pillow. Eyes close. Fade. To white. The brain flickers. Not a dream. A transmission. A sentient radiance streams through the leaves of a giant oak tree. An eminence, benevolent and awesome, prowling on the periphery. The truth has nowhere to hide under this illumination. It sees me. Are you ready?

I lift my face to the immaculate rays. Deep breath. Yes.

It is my second to last day of work.

“Hey Barbie, how much to show us those beauties under that sweater?” I deliver their cans of Budweiser and walk away. In order for me to be offended, I’d have to give a shit. Which I don’t. “You’re a beautiful woman. What do you expect?” An accusation not a compliment.

A soft-spoken hulk of a man sits in his usual spot next to the kitchen. His name is Randy. “I can’t believe what you ladies put up with.” He shakes his head. “Makes me ashamed to be a man.”

I sigh. “The women are no better.” Such delight taken in deceit and manipulation. The stupid games and fabricated drama. Everyone is cheating on everyone and they’re so proud of it. I’ve had quite the education about modern love these past few months.

Every day after work, Randy drinks a few beers here, not enough to get a DUI. Then he goes home and drinks himself to sleep in the basement, which has become his bedroom. When he tells me the things his wife says to him, my stomach turns. He stays for the kids. And, in spite of her abuse, he still loves her.

I go into the kitchen to fetch a food order. When I turn around, Randy is standing there. He shifts his feet, holds out a calloused paw. “Well, have fun in Bali. I’m really glad I met you.”

I look at him. So humble. So broken. My heart swells. I wrap my arms around his neck and squeeze. “You’ll see me again. I’ll come by.”

When I pull away, he bows his head and hurries out the door. “Take care of yourself.”

But the next evening, he’s sitting in his usual place.

I smile. “Hey! Told you we’d see each other again.”

He lifts his glass. “I’m drinking coke.” He grins. “I quit drinking.”

“Wow. Really?”

“That hug you gave me…did something to me. It made me realize that I’m not a piece of shit. If a nice lady like you thinks I deserve a hug, then I can’t be.” He takes a deep breath. Exhales. “No matter what she says.” He pulls himself up tall. Steely glint of determination in his eyes. “And another thing I did. I made an appointment with a counselor. I’m going to get to the bottom of all my stuff.” He pushes back from the bar. “Gotta go. Just wanted to stop by and tell you.”

I can only manage a whisper. “I gave you the hug, Randy, but you let it in.”

He lifts his hand in farewell and strides out the door.

I retreat to the kitchen and slump against a wall. Head in my hands. Oh, this beautiful, broken world.

There’s a finality to everyone’s goodbyes. A resignation. It’s as if they know they’ll never see me again. Underneath it all, they don’t want to see me again. Not because they don’t like me, but because I come from such a different world. When I told them I was going to Bali, they looked it up on the internet. “You are making a difference, JD. I want to do that, too.”

“I’m just going on vacation.” I laugh and shake my head.

“You are an angel.”

But I’m not.

Too many days too close together. A tiny room on a small boat. Clouds converge, much more ominous than our usual tension. Pressure deepens. Thunder rumbles. Lighting flickers. By the time we get back to Bali, the tempest is in full force. A cloudburst of old, old resentments. My retaliation is unrestrained. Did those words just come out of my mouth? Things that can never be unsaid. And yet, it is possible to feel both profound remorse and unapologetic. It needed to be said. We retreat to opposite corners of the house. When she leaves for work, I emerge.

I lie on the wooden floor next to the garden, weighed down by a leaden heart. Luminous petals of sunlight stream through the frangipani tree. I’ve lost my cool, my bliss. It’s been so long since anything, or anyone, has pushed my buttons. I close my eyes. I’m being too hard on myself. No one ever evolves beyond doing things that require forgiveness. Just chill out.

The click of thick toenails on wood. Grunts of exertion. An odorous cloud wafts around the corner. A daft, bony face appears.

I lift my heavy head and smile through a sigh. “Oh, Lala. You are so beautiful.”

Letters are exchanged. Pebby’s is sweet and funny: Lala will miss you! Mine is more serious: I don’t know what’s come over me. Could it be Bali? We’re old enough to know that we can only spend a few days together before conflict arises, before the inevitable communication breakdown. This hurt is deep, but not fatal. We will meet up again before I leave.

To Ubud I go. My guesthouse is a traditional Balinese house tucked down a long passageway off a main road. Paintings and statues of deities everywhere. A little shrine sits off to the side of the courtyard. Rai is the owner. Tiny, regal, eyes of pure gold.

I drop off my things and make the exploratory lap around town. I wander inside a temple of lotuses. In front of each picturesque statue, flawless princesses line up for photo ops. Identical shrink-wrapped, immobile faces. Flat doll gazes. Long, flowing dresses. A blonde lifts her impeccably manicured hands to her forehead in mock prayer. Her lips are so inflated that they are unable to fully close. After a long moment, she turns away from the statue. Two women lurch forward. They glare at each other, vicious cobras about to strike. I flinch. The boyfriends take the photos, obedient and oblivious.

What of their time alone together? Every move choreographed, every moan practiced, every expression of ecstasy contrived. No risk of communion in those eyes. That which lies beneath the pretty masks is too shallow, even, for the most basic existential angst. There is simply nothing to explore. They were born into a reality where identity is meticulously fabricated in pixels on a screen and worth is determined by likes, follows, and fawning comments by strangers. A two-dimensional wasteland.

I turn away and head out to the street. The sky rips open. I cover my backpack with the rain poncho. Heaven’s tears cascade over me. Washing me clean.

The cacophony of desperation recedes. The tugs on my sleeve, the faces thrust into mine. The voices, beseeching. Taxi! Cheap! Look here! Good price for you!

A sign materializes: Magical Rice Field in Ubud. My soggy footsteps echo in the narrow passageway. There is more to be revealed. Are you ready? I roll my eyes. No. Not really. When I emerge on the other side, the deluge has already finished. Rice ponds shimmer like liquid metal. I step forward and peer into the opaque mirror. Into my iridescent shadow.

I am beautiful. I deserve to be seen and valued. Loved for who I truly am. Randy’s voice echoes through my mind: I’m not a piece of shit. I bow my head and wrap my arms around myself. “I’m not a piece of shit.” Sobs erupt. A relentless flow from deep within, viscous and red-hot. Molten magma of the heart.

The most devastating lies are those that we tell ourselves. And is hope not the most achingly lovely of all? This exquisite bouquet of glimmers that I’ve gathered. Under this light, so merciless and merciful, it withers and dies. Time to loosen my grasp and let it fall. If only I could. A hot wave engulfs me. I hurl it away. If it’s not meant to be, then be gone. I never wanted this in the first place. It boomerangs back.

The responsibility for this heartbreak lies with you. The person is merely a mirror. A perfect mirror reflecting your deepest wounds. Focus on the lesson, the pattern. Deep, slow breaths. There you go. Go easy on yourself. The attachment still serves a purpose. It will dissipate when it’s time.

There is one fundamental lie which culture instills in us from birth: I am not good enough. It keeps us from standing in our power. It keeps us in line. It attacks the source of life itself – our ability to truly love. If you dig deep enough, through all of the layers, you eventually find it. In all of its horrific glory.

I trudge back to the guesthouse. I curl up on the bed and tumble off the precipice into a dreamless sleep.

Nothing is more precious than a heart full of dreams in a world that has turned to stone.

Tendrils of incense snake through the little shrine. I sit on the ground and lean against the rough stone wall. Tremors of pain radiate through the bottomless fissure in my heart. Death throes. Rai performs her morning prayers. Ethereal ballerina movements. Chants of unknown origin float overhead. Vintage bird cages sway from the roofs. Songbirds chirp a melancholy melody. Votives flicker. These strange, smoky orange marigolds. The color of funeral pyres. Ultimate purification. Cheek against cold stone, I let my eyes close. Out of the ashes I will rise.

Watch, now, my insolent sashay into the vegan cafe. Cutoff jean shorts, floppy hat, constellations of mosquito bites on my legs. Disheveled, haggard, bleary-eyed. Past the man buns, dreadlocks, Macbooks. Yoga pants. Looks of condescension and bewilderment follow my haphazard trajectory. That’s right, dudes. Diving into the chasm of the soul isn’t photogenic. I could sneer at them for being hypocrites, but I can longer be bothered. I lower myself on a cushion and order an herbal tonic. Now the convalescence begins.

A somnolent drift through temples and palaces and sacred forests. Cloud-shrouded volcanos in the distance. The shrill symphony of bats. Mischievous monkey hijinks. Demons and deities. Not always easy to tell them apart. Without total annihilation there can be no resurrection.

I have managed to reclaim my worth as worker, family member, friend, and writer. The people in my life now reflect that. But as a woman. I shake my head. The transcendent love you deserve exists. You have cracked your heart open to make space. Now you must let the love in. I come to rest next to a murky pond. Gaze into the eternal parade of koi fish across the waters. My spirit dives in. Surrenders to the flow.

Back in Ubud, I wine and dine myself. Spoil myself rotten. Pretty sundresses. Silver rings on my fingers – turquoise for self-forgiveness, rainbow moonstone for new beginnings. Around my wrist, a bracelet of anyolite to harmonize the mind with the heart. In a humble shack, a gargantuan of a woman tears my body apart and molds it back together again.

Come into your wholeness. Come Home.

For my final two days, I head to the coast. To Kuta, beloved haunt of blue collar Australians. It is the lowest part of low season. The streets are nearly deserted. The pubs and shops are empty.

My last evening, I meet Pebby at a multi-floored labyrinth in Seminyak. I ascend a staircase and glide across a terrace. Bland chillout electronica wafts over the crowd. My floor-length sundress swirls around my legs. The multi-colored beads on my sandals glow like gems in the soft light. Salty air curls fall around my shoulders. Male and female heads turn in appreciation. I look down at the floor and blush. An invisible hand takes my right hand. A grip so warm and unwavering. My queen, there is no other choice but you. I’m so proud to walk by your side. I lift my face and smile.

Pebby waves me over. “This place is kinda trendy,” she grimaces. “Sorry.”

“Oh, whatever. At least the food is probably great.”

Our apologies are encoded in the comfortable conversation. No need to bring it all up again.

A wall of clouds creeps towards shore. A legendary Bali beach sunset is not to be. I’m no longer disappointed by such things. Like every voyage, Bali has given me exactly what I need.

By the time we find our way out of the building, it is pouring. Goodbyes in the rain. Of course.

“I love you, Pebby.”

Her eyes are soft, hesitant. “I love you, too.”

One last dawn stroll on the beach and then it’s off to the airport. With the exception of the surf schools, I am the only foreigner. Fishermen. Runners. Couples holding hands. They all make a point to wish me good morning. I lower myself on the sand and watch Balinese surfer girls frolic in the waves. A mutt trots over and flops down next to me. He presses his body into my side. Territorial, protective. I smile out loud and scratch behind his ears. No place has ever witnessed the truth of my soul and made me feel so welcome. But I’m so ready to go home to my wilderness.

Above the hypnotic waves, on a lingering cloud, the ghost of a rainbow appears. A promise.

99 thoughts on “The Island of Truth and Lies

  1. There’s so much to your blogs, Julie, that makes commenting really hard. Where to start? What makes the biggest impact?
    Perhaps it’s the fact that you mix so many things so well: the descriptions, travelogue, stories, thoughts. Every time I read a post from you leaves me feeling lucky, privileged even, for reading them. Thanks a lot and well done for making a difference: to you, to your siblings, to Randy.

    • Fabrizio- thank you so much. I find that we make the biggest difference in people’s lives when we aren’t trying to. When we aren’t seeking admiration for it and are just being a human being that recognizes another’s struggle. Those who read my writing and leave comments filled with such compassion truly make a difference in my life. It has helped me to know my value as a writer, which is my true purpose in this life.

  2. Julie, dearest Julie, I am so overcome with emotion right now my eyes are overfilling with waters. Your gift of writing stories about your life, is spellbinding. But why the tears? Lord help me, I feel your agony for I have matched that very depth of despair as you. And still still as you well know the cathartic cleansing you had hoped would come, only does so in bits and pieces. It’s all in the Journey, I suppose. The depth of what you wrote, there are no words for me to even comment with. You shine and are so courageous to allow us to read something so deep, so powerful, so personal. As life continues, you will keep seeing more “Blessings” appear directly as a result of what you experienced in Bali. I was honored to read your words. Words that struck so deeply within me, mirroring in many but vastly different ways my own pain. You are brilliant in how you express yourself, yet at what a cost you have paid to do so. Why is it that so many of us artists suffer and have such brutal tales? Is it that without the pain we would not be able to arrive at vulnerability and courage and strength? Is that pain used to rip and tear those masks we so love to hide behind so that we are raw and bare and bleeding in order to embrace REAL? Julie. My God. This post has left me so moved! We are kindred spirits in so many ways, and believe me, my Heart cries for you right now. (((HUGS)))!!!! XOXO

    • Beautiful Amy- Thank you so much, always, for your kindness. I’m so delighted to report that the blessings indeed continue. I have since freed myself from this particular prison of “not good enough”. The peace, now. It’s gone beyond bliss into a calmness that I never knew was possible. Yes, doing the shadow work can be horrific, but it’s so worth it. Yes, the price for being an artist is this intensity of heart/mind/body/soul which brings both ecstasy and anguish. But I would have it no other way. The Journey never ends, and it leads us into deeper and deeper territory. And the greatest reward for continuing is that the valleys between the highs and lows diminish, but the inspiration only gets stronger. So grateful to know that I’m not alone. Much love to you. 💛

      • I too have arrived at the peace I didn’t know existed, Julie. You hang on to that, because I know as life continues, we may loose “sight” of this incredible Gift. Enjoy your new-found freedom in every way possible!!! Sending much Love to you! 💜💜💜

  3. Every time I read one of your amazing posts, my thoughts go to Anais Nin: We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Your ability to integrate layers of reality, time, dream states is a gift.

  4. Your post has me swimming in clouds of optimism. Perhaps we can all realize how inspiring we can be to one another without having to be angels. Perhaps we can climb out of this desperate need for perfection from ourselves and others. Perhaps we can embrace our humanity while dismantling the very structures that keep us apart. Anything is possible after I read your words. Thank you.

    • Thank you so much, Atreyee. Such a wonderful compliment. This post is pretty heavy, so hearing that it inspired optimism makes my day.💛 The more we accept our own imperfections the more we attract those who are able to see beyond them and love us as we are.

  5. Sigh … elegant prose.

    “And is hope not the most achingly lovely of all?”
    Yes, yes, yes.

    Wish you had taken a portrait of Lala. 🐕 😊

  6. “Like every voyage, Bali has given me exactly what I need.” How true of both the good and bad, the gentle and the hard, the new and the old. I would love to travel to Bali one day. I’m sure I’ll get exactly what I need. ❤

  7. I can’t say there was an island catalyst, but I feel myself letting go of some of my own need for perfection, order, and control these days. Then again, maybe some of the recent loosening did arise from an acceptance of some things that did not work out the way I had hoped on my last trip … ?

    Your demons are darker than mine, and I admire your fortitude in keeping them at bay. Or confronting them and vanquishing them. Or just embracing them until you’ve squeezed the power out of them. The more you share about your family, the more I see its strength and fierce love. Will your Bali reflections change what you go home to do? It sounds like you’ve moved on from at least the bar!

    • Hi Lexie- I wouldn’t be surprised if your trip to Bhutan had at least some influence. Travel does force us to go with the flow, especially when things don’t go as expected.

      Yes, I’ve had to overcome a lot. And I’m pretty damn proud of myself for doing it. I may be too deep, too strange, and my past may be too dark for most people, but I love who I’ve become, despite being imperfect.

      As for my life in Michigan…I may work one night a week at the bar in the summer because the money is truly astounding, believe it or not. Even in the winter I raked and it was dead. But I’m also working in the local tourism world with the same company I worked with last year. A really quirky job with a bunch of characters. Perfect for me. 🙂 Might go teach English overseas for a school year in the fall, but don’t know where yet. But the writing is first priority now. Working on getting the memoir published.

  8. even second-handedly experiencing
    your Bali’s 10,000 joys & sorrows
    of being in human relations
    i’m left taking a relaxation break,
    grateful, and wishing for your ease
    in body, heart & mind
    for this moment 🙂

  9. What a compulsive read this memoir is going to be, Julie. But I will have to devour it in small doses. Your writing sends me wandering through my own imperfections, and just occasionally, triumphs. You vocalise the scary canyons of the mind as well as anyone I know. Bless you, hon! 🙂 🙂

  10. I read this yesterday and was overwhelmed by its depth and breadth. How to respond? Yet it stayed with me and this morning, I reread it. I cannot do it justice with a reply but will simply speak to the one truth that stayed with me: the lie. You are not good enough. Yes. It is universal and your journey took you to the root of its untruth. Welcome back! 🙏🏻

  11. Speaking as an Australian, most Aussies go to Bali to party and get drunk, which is why I have never been there. However, your trip was much more of a journey, physically, spiritually and metaphorically. I was engrossed following it in real time and again now.

    I hope you get the chance to catch up with Randy some day. What a wonderful effect you had on him.

    PS Thank you for including the photo of the smoking statue/idol. Love it.

    • That smoking statue was hilarious. I’m really glad I went to Bali in the low/rainy season. High season in Kuta, and probably everywhere in Bali, would be intolerable. The Balinese are really adorable and made the trip for me.

      My village is so small that it’s entirely possible that I will run into Randy again. I sure hope he’s still on the path of discovery.

  12. I am so pleased Julie that you found your way over to my blog, so that I could discover your soul..
    I sat with tears streaming in parts and smiles in others as I read your amazing journey in discovering Self..

    You are so right in that we are taught to feel unworthiness, and peeling back the layers to discover our true selves is a journey not for the faint hearted, because we have to dig deep into those wounds that have shaped us.
    And then we see it is because of those wounds we are who we are.. We are who we are because they shaped our being..
    Learning to forgive others is often hard, but learning to LOVE and forgive ourselves is even harder..
    And yes we need to be gentle with ourselves, because as we uncover one layer another often is revealed..

    Your beautiful narrative and expressive descriptive words held me spell bound upon your journey of discovery..
    And I agree with Randy, you are an Earth Angel.. One that shares her essence of truth and beauty in a simple Hug..
    A hug that changed another’s perception of himself.. A Hug that you then knew you also deserved as you held hand with your Higher Self who all along understood your beauty..

    You just needed to go to Bali and reclaim her..

    Many thanks Julie.. ( I named my daughter Julia) She has also been to Bali discovering her deeper self..

    Love and Blessings for your journey to come..
    Much love.. ❤

    • Dear Sue- Thank you so much for wandering over here. So delighted to have discovered you.💛The wounds…so painful but when I work through them I’m left with gratitude rather than regret that they existed. They do indeed shape our being. The journey to unconditional self love is eternal.

      Love is the energy of the Universe, and our alienation from it is what fuels the sickness in our culture. But we need to find it in ourselves, give it to ourselves, allow ourselves to receive it when it’s given purely and without condition, and then we’re able to pass it along. I’ve found it within, I give it to myself, but I’m still struggling with being receptive. Can literally feel the energetic barrier around me. I guess I’m still afraid of being vulnerable. How to discern who is worthy of trust when perception is clouded by wounds? That toxic pattern is all but unraveled, but the work continues…

      The hug…never underestimate the power of the little things. A smile, a kind word or gesture. You never know what can trigger a shift in perception.

      Your daughter sounds like an incredible soul.

      Warmest wishes to you, Sue.💛

      • Thank you for that virtual hug back, and yes my daughter I am very proud..
        breaking the patterns is on going, it takes both courage and trust to stop feeling our vulnerability..
        But Julie, I can already see and feel just how far you have travelled upon your inward journey and I send you a smile from my heart..
        Many thanks and so good to meet you too 💜

        • Yes, I’m light years from where I used to be. Not even the same person I was 2 years ago. So excited about the person I am becoming, and the good people I will continue to attract into my life. We cross paths for a reason.💛

  13. You weave together another masterpiece, Julie. The ground and emotion you cover within your Bali journey is captivating, and while you say “sensations are the most memorable part of a voyage…” is is also the most memorable part of writing. You have a gift, and this does make you an angel 🙂 Sharing your time with Pebby, along with the tragic difficulties you had witnessing such a change in those you love, your father – the anchor and rock a family relies upon and then, the wonder/fear of whether such instability will then haunt you later in life. Powerful emotions, and you’ve a perfect reply to this for you and Pebby, “Other than an eccentricity that we embrace, we have made it…there is a reason to persevere.”

    You have a wonderful sentence, one I relate to more and more as the years go by, and that is “nothing is more precious than a heart full of dreams in a world that has turned to stone.” Dreams light up the part of life worth exploring, while experience darkens the places that are not of interest, so the more dreams ~ the greater the exploring and understanding. And of course to make it run smoothly having a good mantra is important as well, and I like your “In order for me to be offended, I’d have to give a shit. Which I don’t.” I’ll have to begin using this 🙂 Keep the flow going, Julie. Also, love the photos of the bats, awesome. This was the view under your mosquito net, yes? Cheers ~

    • You are always so thoughtful, Dalo. Thank you. It means a lot. 🙂 Keeping a heart full of dreams is an act of defiance in today’s world. But I persist. In fact, I’d be lost without it. As you said, dreams shine the way to what’s truly worthy of exploration and understanding. Carrying them in the heart, rather than only in the mind, gives them a beautiful innocence.

      Of course the bats were hanging from my mosquito net. It’s too hot in Bali to sleep in my coffin, and I brought them along for company. You ought to know about creatures under mosquito nets. Hope you’ve deciphered your spider’s message, which only you can do. It was a powerful one, for sure. A rare gift.

      You are very welcome to use the mantra. It will come in handy for those times when you’re asked to lift your shirt, which I’m sure happens all the time. Unless you’re less idealistic than me and just take the money. Good for you. (You are perfectly entitled to not let me get away with this.😎 So much for being an angel.)

      Cheers to dreams, forever.

  14. There is a contrast between the night bar with its electric dim lights and the almost paradise of Bali, as a 50’s adventure of a heroine traveling in a rocket between the enclosed structures of Mars to the jungles of Venus (in those years it was a mystery what was in the surface under its dense clouds) But deep inside both are the same, with their dark and bright sides trying to draw and change the persons into a surreal reality. So many complex aspects in your words, Julie. Thank you.

    • Your imagination blows my mind, Francis. Truly not an easy thing to do. How I love the idea of being a retro heroine on a space journey to mysterious planets. But, of course, I’m thinking about the cool wardrobe involved more than anything. 🙂

      Do you think you’ll ever come back to blogging? So many miss your gentle presence.

      • I am very sorry to coming just now, I was finishing projects and only now could seen the notifications x_x I really want to write again, sadly these years I have a pressure to recover my life and my forces are toward that goal. I hope everything is well. A smile and a big thanks for your words toward me, Julie. (and yes, the wardrove in those stories are spectacular!)

  15. Bali is on my dream list since so far,i was wicked by your words Julie. Being able, like you, to catch feelings in their deep layers is really a gift, especially nowadays. Cris

  16. Another great post Julie.
    And be gentle with yourself, the curse of the INFJ, is to learn to navigate the two Worlds, the one privy we belong to, limitless, all to ourselves, within our dreams, imagination, and awareness, and the one we all share, and live, limited, suffocating, demanding, and exhausting, a world made of mainly unaware, and the devil may care attitude, from extroverts. 🙂

    • Thank you, kind gentleman. How did you guess I’m INFJ? Did I tell you at some point? But then, if you are one then you recognize another. One of our gifts. 🙂 This beautiful, dreamlike world our minds inhabit. Yes, it’s a challenge to be in the « real » world when our minds operate in the subconscious while conscious. A realm without limits that must shrink itself to be understood. But I’m convinced we are the lucky ones. I’ve never been bored in my life. 😉

      • One good thing about the blog community, its their love for the written word, such an old fashion thing, on our contemporary World, and that is one of the characteristics of introverted people, so it’s easy to recognize it, when reading someone else.
        Someone said, that to write is to bring out who you are, for everyone who care to read you.
        And I should add, it’s also a process to discover who we really are.

        To be bored, belongs to those who lack imagination, you got plenty to keep you busy. 🙂

        • So very true that through writing we discover ourselves, and we also reveal our souls, things that would take a lot more time to reveal if we only knew each other in person. And we find those who are genuinely interested. Most of the people in my life don’t read my work, don’t even know I write, therefore they only know a small fraction of who I am. I keep it hidden because I know they don’t want to know. And I don’t care that they don’t want to know. 🙂 I’m very, very grateful for this blogging community. So easy to feel alone when you are a deep thinker in this shallow world. Yes, we have more than enough to keep us busy. 🙂

  17. “The voices in our heads are our own.” Is this an INFJ thing as well? 🙂 I’m borderline but more INFP. Perceive and not judge. 😉

    How you describe how you have it with your sister. Could have been me and mine.

    “Like every voyage, Bali has given me exactly what I need.” And you give everybody what they need too, don’t you. Dogs included. And yourself.

    You are so wonderful.

    • Hey MMM🙂 Everyone has mind (ego) chatter going on, as annoying as that is. How I struggle with shutting it off. But maybe us INFJ/P types get better access to that other voice that so wants to guide us. I’m working at giving myself what I need, getting better at it with practice. 🙂 Thank You so much for your kindness. Warmest wishes.

  18. Hi Julie – we are experiencing one of those unbelievably sad episodes in life at the moment – not one for sharing via social media. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Your writing lifts the spirit so many thanks for that. All the best, R

  19. You’ve done it again; made me hang on every word. Delicious glow and wicked intoxication sum up Bali perfectly. That knowing look from Pebby who completely understood your experience as you emerged from your dream. And how this weaves into your father’s madness with those piercing black holes from long ago.

    I so relate to your little girl; clenched fists, strength and resolve when facing ‘the monster’ and your protection of Pebbly hiding beneath the bed I know that side of myself. It still emerges from time to time and your words remind me of the need to love every part of myself, always. I share your sentiments re; UBUD and your fear of snakes. I understand those lies you tell yourself.

    I cried when I read your story of Randy. The effect that we can have with our energy.. for good or for ill. You are an angel. You are not a piece of shit. Don’t tell yourself otherwise. I’m glad all was right with Pebby in the end.

    Love and hugs from Brazil.

    • It’s said that there’s a very fine line between the mystic and the madman. 🙂 The dreams I had there. There were others just as intense that I didn’t mention. The kind you never forget.

      We are so attracted to those who reinforce our deepest beliefs. They either value us or reject us. The things I used to tolerate from bosses and friends and the writing world. That type of energy doesn’t come anywhere near me anymore. I’ve still got work to do, the most difficult of all, but I will get there. Much love to you, Lisa❤️

  20. Sheesh.

    There are a lot of folks out here in the blogging world that like to fancy themselves as travel writers; they go to this place or that one and describe it like they’re making a grand tour through a perfect world.


    Reading one of your posts shows the shallowness of that, that a place is just a frame around the real picture. The experience, the impact on your spirit, the transformations; that’s the real journey. Lucky for us, even if your nature amplifies your feelings about that journey, and it’s not always a positive experience, your writing gains from the intensity.

    Thanks for another astounding post.

    • Dave- thank you so much. « The place is just a frame around the real picture » Love that. Travel, for me, has always been about the inner journey. In every place I’ve visited, I’ve gathered missing pieces of myself. I now feel as though I carry the world inside me. This beautiful, broken world.

  21. How beautifully you write, and allow us in – to your world, your travels, your thoughts, feelings, heart. All of it. I could feel your journey – the heat and moisture of Bali (my dear beautiful Bali), the issues with a sibling (I have 3 sisters so know what that’s about!), and your own inner explorations that I find so relatable. And the sobbing that washes one clean again.
    The one fundamental lie that culture instils in us is that we are not good enough – so true, and then we spend a lifetime trying to be good enough, and finally, if we’re lucky, stop believing it.
    Beautiful photos.

    • Thank you so much, Alison. I’m determined to stop believing that lie. Getting pretty close, I think. 🙂 I was actually disappointed in most of my Bali photos. My heart wasn’t really into taking them, I guess.

  22. Traveling does different things to different people. Some of us travel to find new experiences, some travel to understand more about the world, some do that to heal themselves. When I saw your photos from Bali on your Instagram account, I was wondering what kind of story you have in store based on your experience exploring what I believe is one of the most magical islands in the world. Cliché, I know. But my past travels to Bali only proved how real this notion is.

    I am so glad this trip turned out to be a very rewarding one to you, and to your soul.

    • Thank you so much, Bama. There is always some truth to cliches. Bali’s glow is unmistakable. I still carry it inside me and probably always will.

  23. A strong text again Julie. (When are they not?) 🙂
    Collecting my thoughts. Random:
    Te veiled ladies taking “selfies” by the pond, the swimsuit clad tattoed surfers, world, universes apart.
    The clothed statues donning brand new sarongs at the temple.
    Your relationships to your sister, your family, your father…
    I sometimes wonder whether you may too hard on yourself, but then who am I to say?
    I don’t know you well enough. 🙂
    The man at the bar, saved by a hug. Sweet.
    The other guys at the bar. It may be home but as much as they earnestly try (even googling Bali) the will never have any idea of the infinite worlds you have been to. I know. The same happened to me when I went “back” to France for the first time. At College. I stopped telling my stories quickly. I could see in their eyes no-one either believed me or cared. To out-of-the-world.
    That may the ultimate curse of the wanderer. 🙂
    No-one can understand what you’ve been through. Except Lisa Dorenfest and other bloggers.
    Last but not least: Ubud. Virginie, our daughter, went to Asia to go away from the sadness. She spent a good bit of time in Ubud. Meditation. Yoga. It helped her. Coming back she wrote this great text I’m sure you’ll appreciate:
    Selamat malam Julie.

    • Cher Brian – you, and all my readers, certainly know me better than most of the people I see face to face every day. My blog is where I let my heart and soul out, where I’m truly my weird self. Where I reveal the infinite worlds, both internal and external, that I’ve journeyed to. It’s all here for those who wish to know the real me. I’m sure you know what I mean when I consider the curse of the wanderer a beautiful gift. 🙂 Lisa, you, and the other vast souls I’ve encountered here are gifts that I cherish as well. Thank you, always, for your presence here and Chez Equinoxio.

      Yes, I have a tendency to be hard on myself, but I’m much kinder to myself than I used to be. 🙂

      I think I remember reading your dear Virginie’s post, but I will read again with pleasure. Sending her much love. I’ve never met her, but I feel I know her.

      Sois sage, mon ami.

      • Chère Julie, I agree that some of our E-friends may us better than others we see daily. One of the great gifts of the blogosphere. 🙂
        Glad you are kinder on yourself. (I had a feeling you might be. Maybe reaching more inner peace than before. Good)
        Thank you for your sweet thoughts for Gini.
        “Sage?” Wouldn’t that be boring? 😉
        Take care

  24. Wonderful mix of travel writing, family history and personal insight. Fascinating slowly getting to know your family background and its stories, there sounds like a real tragedy about the story of your father and how it affected you and your sister yet there seems to be great strength in your survival. I look forward to reading more about it, if it’s coming. Hope it’s cathartic for you writing and pouring it all out to us.

    Love the observations on the vegan cafe and those trapped in their two-dimensional wasteland. Like the turning of heads in the bar as well – great work!

    • Thanks so much, Alex. My family history is definitely colorful. Some of it traumatic, some of it truly beautiful. My memoir dives deep into it.

      The funny thing about Bali is how much sneering goes on. So many claim it as « their » Bali. The expats sneer at the Yoga Pants People who sneer at everyone else- the Selfie Princesses and « White Trash Australians ». Only the Balinese seem to be accepting of everyone. They are adorable.

  25. J.D your writing is always so powerful and this post is no exception ~ it’s also chockfull of emotion and angst and memories and the very conscious and aware present. It definitely feels and reads like a (condensed) book. Clearly there are many more layers of depth that will and can reveal.

    I could oh so relate to the sister part. I have two of them and no matter what … when or where, there are always misunderstandings and miscommunications that ensue. Sigh. Especially over an extended time period.

    Just left Bali (again)… honestly I completely avoid and ignore and barely see the selfie crew, the posing the tourism. I have my own version of Bali – it’s quiet and tranquil and restorative. The locals are I think perhaps the most beautiful people – positive female energy in touch with Mother Earth and radiating warmth and calm. Just what I needed.

    Such a good read. So complex so eloquent. Ok just: wow! 🙂


    • Thanks so very much, Peta. There are so many versions of a person, and a place. Bali is a perfect example of this. It brought out different versions of me all at once, which caused chaos and very deep healing. I love your version of Bali, which I always enjoy following on IG. Yes, it is possible to tune out the commercialized version. Despite the mass tourism, the magic definitely remains and I will carry some of it inside me forever.

  26. Pingback: A heart full of dreams in a world that has turned to stone | From guestwriters

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