A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

When Life in Bali Is Less Paradise, More Life as Usual

When my husband, Victor, was offered a teaching job at a new school in Bali, I held off sharing the news with my mother for as long as humanly possible. I knew that when I told her we were moving her Jew-ish granddaughter to a predominantly Muslim country, the arrow on her paranoia meter would swiftly catapult beyond the red zone. I expected her to fret and cry and do all she could to change my mind.


What I didn’t expect, though, was that she would be so wise.

 

 

I called her on a Tuesday morning. She listened silently as I recapped the events of the last few weeks: from reading about the school in a magazine, to convincing Victor to send a resume, to his Skype interview, to him flying to Bali to check it out, to him coming back to California with a signed contract.

When I finished speaking, I tensed, waiting for the emotional storm to blow through the phone line. “When will you move?” She asked so calmly I thought perhaps I’d called someone else by mistake.

“In six weeks. We have to find renters and pack up the house and deal with the cat and get a million shots and…” I got so anxious thinking about the list that I cut myself off. “Anyway, we’re really excited. It’s going to be amazing.”

“Loy is only six years old.”

Here it comes, I thought. She’s going to let loose her worries bit by bit, like an IV drip. “So what, she’s six? She’s going to love it. I mean, come on, Mom. It’s Bali!”

“And you’re not troubled by the fact that Muslims hate Jews?” she asked with barely a hint of distress in her voice.

“Mom. That’s ridiculous. Not all Muslims hate all Jews,” I said, swatting away her closed-minded assumption as if it were a gnat. “And besides, most Balinese are Hindu.” I pictured her sitting on her white couch with her hand flung dramatically across her chest like a movie star overcome by shocking news.

All she said next was, “That’s good to know.”

I was beginning to lose patience with her patience. “Okay, well, I’ve got to…”

“Why do you want to move to Bali, Lisa?”

“What?”

“What are you hoping to get out of it?”

I could tell she was getting ready to pounce, to lay bare all the reasons we were making a huge mistake. “I don’t know, Mom. I mean, it’s beautiful and the people are lovely and the school is supposed to be really great so Loy and Victor…”

“Lisa, of course it’s beautiful. Why else would so many people go there for their honeymoon if it wasn’t a beautiful place?”

My suspicions gave way to bewilderment. She didn’t seem upset. She wasn’t trying to talk me out of going. Who the hell had appropriated my mother and replaced her with this unflustered woman? “Then, you’re okay with us moving to Bali?” I said, flinching a little out of habit.

“You haven’t answered me, sweetheart. Why do you want to move to Bali?”

I had more important things to do than justify, to my uncharacteristically unconcerned mother, why I wanted to leave California and create a new life in Southeast Asia with my husband and child. There was sunscreen to buy and dresses to choose and languages to learn. There was money to transfer and people to interview and books to sort.

“Lisa? Are you still there?”

I stared out the window. Twisted my hair around my finger. What was the proper answer? For Victor, I knew moving to Bali would offer up innovative fodder for his middle-school classroom. He’d get to enlighten foreign children, not just Californians.

Loy would make friends from around the world. She’d be immersed in a new culture. Introduced to unfamiliar art, music, food, sights, and sounds – a veritable treasure trove for her ever-expanding brain.

But, what about me?

Me, the hippie mother who took too many drugs in the 80s, who worked for Microsoft before getting a well-endowed two-book publishing deal, and then, for the life of her, couldn’t write her next book.

Me, the brooding bitch who, too often, wallowed in her office looking for a distraction.

I wanted to find peace of mind. I wanted to rest assured that I’d seen what there was to see, explored the beyond, and lived to tell about it. I wanted to stop looking over my shoulder, and the shoulders of strangers, so that once and for all I could cease asking “What else is there?”

“If we move to Bali,” I finally said to my mother’s doppelgänger, “I will be more mindful. I will find my higher self. I’ll learn to be a better mother and a more loving wife.”

“You can’t do all that where you are?”

“I suppose I can, but I think it will be easier in paradise.”

“If you say so.”

Really? I almost shouted into the phone, “MOM! YOU’RE FREAKING ME OUT THAT YOU’RE NOT FREAKING OUT!” but instead I said, “We can talk more tomorrow,” and was about to hang up when she uttered, “Let me tell you a story I heard once.”

“What? Victor and Loy will be home from school in five minutes. I really gotta go.”

“So this man learns that he’s going to die in a year and he wins this prize or a lottery – I don’t remember exactly – but God and Satan let him come visit heaven and hell to see which one he’ll want to go to when he’s dead.”

“Mom.”

“He goes to heaven and oh, it’s so lovely. Lots of harps and violins. Tuna fish sandwiches being passed around on silver platters. You know, nice.” she said brightly.

“Mmm-hmm.”

“Then he goes to hell. The gates open and he walks in and sees there’s a big party. Hundreds of gorgeous women are dancing around in skimpy clothes and there’s a band playing his favorite  Frankie Valli songs and there’s really expensive champagne flowing from a fountain. The man is laughing and dancing and drinking and he has a great time.”

I saw Victor’s car round the bend toward our house. “Okay, so he picks hell to go to when he dies. I get it.”

“Of course he does, and when he finally dies, he shows up and what does he see but fire shooting down from the sky and flames everywhere and people are moaning in pain and the devil is whipping and torturing everyone and it’s just awful. Horrible.”

I had no idea where she was going with this.

“‘Satan, I don’t understand,’ the man says. ‘I was here a year ago and it was all so different, so fun. There was music and dancing and – what happened?’ Before unraveling his whip, Satan smiled at the man. ‘Ah, that’s because last time you came as a tourist.’”

I remembered that little tale of hers again while writing the last chapter of “RASH”, my memoir about moving to – and, ultimately, running away from – Bali. I was reflecting on the how excited and hopeful I felt while flying back to the States. Not because we were finally leaving our Bali nightmare behind, but because I was going to be a tourist – once again experiencing that unfettered wonder one gets when you go on vacation.

Visiting someplace else is way different than living someplace else. Typically, when you go away on a short holiday, you unpack a few belongings, spend some moment-to-moment time tasting the new, peeking at the strange, marveling at the different. If, instead, when you get to your destination, you unpack your books, stock the fridge, hang family photos, and decide to stay awhile, the exoticness eventually evaporates and you’re left with the same issues you had back home. Life in Bali was just life somewhere else.

My mother’s nimble parable was dead on. Much to my surprise, the person I had been in California followed me to Bali, and once we moved into our hut, I no longer danced with scantily-clad women or drank ever-flowing champagne. Instead, I borrowed Satan’s whip and gave myself a good lashing.

I constantly worried about Loy getting sick or hurt. I complained about the insects of all nationalities who flew in and out through our wall-less, window-less hut like jet-setters on a whirlwind tour. I whined about the rancid smoke from smoldering trash and burning corpses that suffocated my lungs and brain. My bitchiness increased by a factor of 18. Victor and I fought so much that he suggested I go back to California – without him.

Though it didn’t turn out to be paradise, I believe that going to Bali has made me more grounded, more accepting. My heart is softer. My eyes are wider. My spirit is lighter. I am more grateful than ever for the abundance that surrounds me. I no longer have an untamable itch to go looking for something else to make me happy.

I’m fine just where I am.

Thanks, Mom.

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

You might also like:

In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

You might also like:

For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

You might also like:

There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.