Day 6: Room

January 20th, 2016

Beautiful wheatgrass, how I hate thee

Beautiful wheatgrass, how I hate thee

I‘m taking part in a 30-day writing experiment. The theme for me is “personal, not pretty.” See Kale & Cigarettes for details and the Facebook Group to read stories by other 500-words-ers.

I saw that movie Room the other night.

It was hard to watch, and made me want to go home and wake up my sleeping baby daughters and hold them close. But I can’t claim to have been shocked by the movie, because I read the book.

When I turned 40, two of my closest friends in the world took me to Thailand for a getaway. They are consummate adventures who think nothing of flying to Bangkok for two days, and that’s what they proposed we do. Actually, I was in San Francisco, and they were in other far-flung places (they both travel for a living), so we all met up at a chic, modern hotel in a gritty part of the city. There is no other part of Bangkok, for the record. It was a whirlwind 48 hours of night markets, bona fide Thai food, late-night lady-men strip shows, gay bars, and fancy hotel brunches. It was the kind of thing you do for the story, then get mono.

I’m not much of a jetsetter and hate flying, so the idea of spending just 48 hours in Thailand with two loooooooooong flights as bookends (okay they flew me first class, so, shut up Joslyn, but still) filled me with dread. I decided to extend my trip and spend a week at a resort on the Thai island of Koh Samui.

Kamayala is a wellness retreat center that a well-traveled yoga friend told me about. It cost a fortune, and I honestly can’t remember where I came up with that money. I had just gone through a bad breakup and was living in a tiny little studio cottage in Mill Valley, a forested enclave just north of San Francisco where a lot of wealthy people live. My tiny little cottage in a sweet family’s backyard cost $1200 a month, which I had to scrape up every single month, because I had recently started my own writing business and was still trying to build it. I had no money to spare.

As a 40th birthday gift to myself, though, I somehow came up with several thousand dollars to indulge in this week of wellness, and let me tell you, it was worth it. Ensconced in a gated island enclave, I woke up every morning in my stunning palapa with a perfect view of the sea. I had a breakfast of Thai dumplings with soy sauce and a wheatgrass shot, then had the first of my two daily treatments—Ayurvedic treatments, shiatsu massage, meetings with naturopaths where they hooked me up to electronic devices that gave me feedback on the hydration level of my cells. 

It was all so relaxing and high-tech, and the food was incredible, but I must admit, the most healing part of the experience was the long afternoons spent reading alone on the beach. The retreat had a trading library where travelers could drop off books and grab new ones, so when I finished with the books I had brought, I scanned the bookshelves for something new. And that’s how I found Room.

I had never heard of this book (which is strange, since at any one time, my Evernote book-wish-list is always 100 deep), but it intrigued me. It turned out to be the kind of book you read allatonce. So it was that I spent an entire beautiful, serene Koh Samui afternoon with my nose three inches from the pages of a book about a woman who gets kidnapped and held against her will and raises her child in captivity in a soundproof shed with no windows.

It is a well-written book, and I was riveted. But seeing the movie, now that I have kids of my own, was next-level. I was hyperventilating the entire time. Of course, that night, I had dreams I was trapped in a shed against my will. Of course I did.

Still, if you had told me, back on that beach in Koh Samui, that I would one day have kids of my own to get freaked out about, I would have been incredulous. And very, very grateful.

. . . . . . . . .

My Thailand trip happened pre-instagram and I did not actively blog about it at the time, but I did create a pretty cool series of Tumbrl mini-stories that you can view and read here.

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