Sunset has always been my favorite time of day. As I look westward and watch that giant ball of gas slowly fade behind the horizon, I feel at peace. Throughout my life, I have had some great spots and company for many sunsets. Sunset offers a reflective atmosphere, a stoic peace of mind, a sense of clarity. It also ushers in the night.
If I could make so bold a metaphor, the final days of Cailin’s visit in June felt somewhat a sunset on a certain phase of my journey. As I reflected on all I had done up to that point, and on the incredible journey across Vietnam I had just shared with my best friend, life felt like it should. Cailin left, the sun set, and night came crashing down.
It was pitch black and largely lonely. Days stretched on forever in the dead of night. I didn’t get hardly any sleep. The pain, both mental and physical, was overwhelming and at times I doubted whether I could weather the storm. But this blog post is not about the night, nor about sunsets. It is about the dawn.
Monsoon season has hit Hanoi – hard. For eleven days spanning the past two weeks, rain has rapped down upon the city almost sixteen hours a day. The sun has been held hostage behind a constant thick layer of oppressively gray clouds.
Sunday morning, I woke up and peered out my window. I was greeted by a bright blue sky, with but white puffy clouds peppering the horizon. The sun beats down brilliantly illuminating this beautiful city with natural light and energy. Coincidentally (and perhaps fittingly), Sunday morning was also the first time since my accident I was well enough to do yoga. As 11am came, I hopped upon my bike and sped towards the gym for the first time in weeks.
My first several days back at yoga have been a reawakening. I don’t claim to be great at yoga, I didn’t at the end of May and have regressed in my nearly two months off. I have lost limberness, and my ankle is still not yet 100%, so it becomes sore quickly during the practice. However, I am – for an hour a day – able to move and stretch and be in the moment. The storms of the past month matched the raging storm of dark thoughts in my head as I tossed and turned across my bed in pain, physically unable to do anything but wallow in my own pity. To return to yoga, to capture my thoughts and control the direction in which they flow, to exist in the moment has been cathartic beyond measure. A hearty welcome back from my yoga teachers and fellow practicers was great as well, to know often the only male of the class had been missed, if only because I make everyone else look better (my guess).
Sunset has always been my favorite time of day, but that’s because I’m usually asleep at sunrise. In this stretched metaphor I’ve crafted, night was not but a 12 hour dark period, but rather a month of mental darkness and physical distraught – which is what makes the metaphorical sunrise so welcome. I was not myself this past month, via combination of weather and injury and mental weariness. I was immobilized by injury. I was trapped by weather. I was lost in my own mind. It is tough times which make us, which define us. Struggle and hardships reveal character while at the same time building it. No doubt this journey will not, for returning to yoga and the sun being out a couple days, flip a switch and turn to sunshine and daisies. It will still be difficult, there will still be lows. This last low, the lowest low of my life thus far, I feel is in my rearview mirror, however (knock on wood). I have learned much, grown much. Sometimes to survive, to endure is an achievement in and of itself. Certainly feels the case in this instance. Putting my trust in friends both here and at home, and in myself, I believed the metaphorical sun would rise again. And alas, I can finally see it has fully broken over the horizon to the east, and a sense of clarity washes over me.
In the clarity, I felt a gratitude for the continuing challenge. In the clarity, I felt a gratitude for the journey. In the clarity, I felt nothing but gratitude, for things past, for things yet to come, and for the peacefulness of the moment I was in, the moment of clarity. Clearly, I have a lot to be thankful for.
Storms and Sunrises in Hanoi
Mangled ankles and mango smoothies
Missing home and watching movies
Oscillation between sadness and joy
This is where I find myself in Hanoi
Some days I get out and explore this great city
Some days I get lost deep inside my own mind
Some days I can look around and find what there’s to find
Some days I can’t get out from under my own self pity
As the weather goes from sunny to storms
Darkness in my head like locusts swarm
Adrift amidst an angry sea of thoughts
But then the sea becomes tame and worries naught
Though calms seas never a skilled sailor did make
Can I weather this weather? Do I have what it takes?
Knowing after every storm the sun does return
and after every hardship lessons are learned
To survive in the storm, one must believe
In the inevitable calming of violent seas
But the sunny days won’t last forever
A new storm awaits over the horizon
Through the hardships, to endure I endeavor
And know that the sun will someday be rising