Counseling in a bamboo bar

Pai, Thailand 12/8/12

I didn't want to talk about Daddy issues with an Israeli girl in a bamboo bar in the far north of Thailand this evening, but, as a campfire flickered by our toes and Chinese lanterns floated up into the starry sky above, that is exactly what happened. 

"He just is like, I don't know the words in English, um, emotionally disabled," she said about her father's interaction with her and her siblings. 

I laughed at her pairing of words.

"Is this not right?" She asked in her thick Hebrew accent.
"No," I replied apologetically, "I laugh because it's perfect."

Emotionally disabled. Incapacitated to relate with human beings on the most essential level.   

"We don't get along because he only wants me around when he needs help doing something."
"It sounds like a business transaction," I added.
"Exactly," she said. 

Her father didn't pick up his phone when she called him from the airport before she boarded the plane from Tel Aviv to Bangkok. Her siblings and mother had already called her to wish her well and say goodbye, but she had to initiate contact with him. 

She was the one leaving, but he wasn't around to say goodbye. 

"It's so fucked up," she said. Another orange lantern was released to the star-speckled black. She looked up to watch. "Family can be so hard."

All I could do was listen. I have been doing a lot of listening on this trip. I feel like I've got a lot to say, but I can't find anyone to say it to, so I shut up and listen instead. 

Besides, she was saying it all for me. 

Her conclusion: "It's not good the way it is, but it's family and that's the way it is."

She resigned herself to this abnormally normal way of functioning within her family. 

I couldn't give her much encouragement. My counseling degree became useless. Besides, her venting wasn't therapy for her anyhow. It was for me.

Americans nearby lit a joint and began playfully arguing about what area of the West Coast can grow better weed. It made me think about how we all travel so far away from home, but conversations return there as soon as there's an opening. Their distant dialogue, and the smell of rank pot, brought me back to the place where we were reclining; pads on a bamboo floor by a fire under the stars in a village in Northern Thailand. It wasn't a typical place for family counseling. 

But nothing is typical when you travel. 

Except that, typically, wherever you go, there you are–you, your family issues, and your weed comparisons. The pain and the beauty from your past, present and future are constant companions.

It's not always good the way it is, but that's just the way it is. 

...ramble on...


  1. Going deeper than you expected or maybe wanting to keep things on the surface. Reminds me of a scripture, "Where can I run from you God. I go to the high places and there you are. I try to hide under the rocks, even still, there you are". (My interpretation, of course). Blessings as you travel along with the Lord. He has family matters to discuss with you. He will use it all to make perfect everything that lies within you. Keep posting, I'm lovin' your testimony unfold, unravel and unveil, HIM...

    1. Thanks for giving even more context to this. So true...

  2. "Wherever you go, there you are." This phrase has been running through my head all week... and then I open this. Eerie. Intriguing experience. I pray that God continues to speak to you through strangers and that you continue to listen.

    1. I learned a double lesson from this experience; a) people from drastically different places and backgrounds and cultures and languages can relate on the most fundamentally human levels and find comfort in one another's story b) ask permission before writing about that story :)