I've been wondering what life would be like if I lived in a cave, far from traffic lights and deadlines. What would happen if I let go of any aspirations I had for myself and just lived a simple life (in a cave) ... my only chores – to collect water, make fire, eat berries and sew together animal skins, or something.
You see, it seems that each time I set myself a new major goal in life, I find myself in hospital. It all started with my very first overseas adventure at the age of 21. I’d decided to take Mark Twain’s advice and ‘sail away from the safe harbour’, to explore the unknown, which led me to signing up for a trek in Northern Thailand.
There were 12 of us in the back of the ute, bumping through a remote corner of Asia, bound for our jungle adventure when the massive black furry creature flew in and bit me on the leg. The sting left a drop of blood on my skin and caused a red rash that gradually crawled up my leg.
My Thai tour guide took one look at the bite and said “this wasp never hurt people … usually this animal live near water buffalo” and with that the ute changed direction, bound for a one-room rural hospital where I was attended to by a nurse who wore a white triangle hat that made her look like the flying nun.
Then there was my grand goal to become a foreign correspondent – sent to cover breaking news stories around the globe. As many of you know, I secured myself a journo job in Bangkok but what you might not know is the job led me to my second hospital stay – one which I dedicated a chapter to in my book ‘The Buffalo Funeral’. The chapter is titled “Hanoi Hell” and involves poo-ing blood, losing ten kilos and spending a week in a Vietnamese hospital bed.
A year or so after that, I set myself yet another ‘life challenge’ – to secure the man of my dreams by chasing him to Canada and convincing him to live with me, happily ever after. Yep, as you can imagine, didn’t go exactly as planned. That splendid goal resulted in a fairly costly trip to the Emergency Room of a Toronto hospital plus a week in a Bangkok hospital … the gory details revealed in the final chapters of my book.
Which brings me to a goal I set myself about ten years ago – to write a memoir about the two life-changing years I spent in Thailand.
Have you ever dreamt of writing a book? I remember when I mentioned this particular fantasy of mine to a friend back in 2002, they said ‘Good luck with that. Everyone wants to write a book but not many people actually get to see their words in print’. But I held onto that goal and wrote down all my Bangkok memories in the hope that one day I’d be motivated enough to shape the stories into a book.
A few weeks ago I received a special delivery. A large red truck pulled up. A guy in a bright yellow vest hopped out. He opened the back of the vehicle and lowered a palate, which contained 50 boxes of books. Not just any books … they were my books.
I was expecting to feel elated … relieved … happy … but I felt completely numb. In fact, I felt ill.
This was it. This was me. This was the story I’d be wanting to tell for so long. What if my book was shit? What if people didn’t like it? What if nobody bought it? What if ten years of hoping and dreaming amounted to complete failure? What if? What if? What if?
It just so happened that during the ‘book delivery’ week, I also had a truckload of writing work on my plate. There was an endless stream of emails from clients, with a whole bunch of demanding deadlines, deadlines, deadlines, deadlines….
Question: If you are Ange Takats and you take a whole bunch of evil ‘what if’ thoughts and mix then with a whole bunch of work deadlines – what do you get? Yep, you guessed it.
The plan had been to fly to Sydney and celebrate my grandfather’s 94th birthday but instead I landed myself in the Emergency Room of Manly Hospital. While my relatives ate steak and chips, I was being told that I would need to have surgery – that day.
There I was, hooked up to an IV drip in hospital – again. It’s enough to make a girl start questioning her life choices. Maybe all this goal setting was a bad idea? I’ve read the Buddhist books about the crippling nature of desire. Was this latest hospital trip my body’s way of begging me to find a cave and set up shop … to drop out of society and become a Buddhist nun, perhaps? I’m sure they don’t have to interrupt their meditation sessions for trips to the ER.
All this was buzzing around my brain as the nurse pushed my bed towards the operating room. I began trembling. I was about to be knocked-out and have total strangers cutting and stitching my flesh.
The theatre nurse approached my bed and saw how my legs were shaking.
“I think we need to get you a warm blanket to stop those teeth of yours from chattering,” she smiled. She walked away and, as I lay alone, the word “trust” came out of my mouth.
“I trust. I trust. I trust. I … TRUST”
“I trust this nurse to take care of me”
“I trust this surgeon to do a good job”
“I trust that I am exactly where I am meant to be”
“I trust that everything is going to be okay”
“I trust. I trust. I TRUST”
I suddenly felt this amazing warmth wash over me. I opened my eyes to find the nurse covering my body with a fresh blanket.
“When I said I’d get you a warm blanket, I meant it. We heat these up for patients before they go into surgery,” she said.
There was something so overwhelmingly reassuring and comforting about the unexpected warmth of that blanket. I felt completely calm … completely safe. I shut my eyes and went to sleep.
* * *
I’ve decided that I don’t really want to live in a cave. I’ve also decided that this hospital business has got to stop. And so, I’ve set myself a new goal … to trust.
To trust myself.
To trust my intuition.
To trust my body.
To trust in my life’s purpose.
To trust in the Universe.
To trust the author of the Alchemist when he writes:
“There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe … when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”