An important message, continued.


I wrote this entry during one of the few times I get a moment of silence alone, on a bus ride through southern Cambodia, and now I’m on a desolate island with almost non-existent wifi, debating on whether or not to even post it. I hesitate only because of how it will be misconstrued… as another “rant” or complaint or attempt to defend myself. Just to clear up any speculation, none of this is directed specifically at anyone who has left a comment on this blog, nor is it a rant in response to anything anyone has said—I’ve never felt personally attacked and have yet to read anything too horrible—I’m just working out my thoughts here, in real time, writing from a place of honesty. I didn’t expect there to be a Part 2 to my last post… I just sat down to write and this is what I ended up with. I know I don’t have to say any of this, but I want to.

In the past, I’d carefully word my posts, making sure only the most agreeable content was published as not to offend anyone or cause a debate. But now I have a different story to tell—one that requires much more from me to share, and also from you as a reader. And in the spirit of taking risks… I’m just going to press publish instead of delete.

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First of all, thank you for the responses on my last post. Many of you came out of lurking to leave a positive message, letting me know you are right here along with me with your own inspiring stories, and that means a lot.

I realize my posting has become unstructured and unpredictable recently… which is fitting as it’s an accurate representation of my life right now. Before this trip I’d always craved order and consistency—in my mind it was the most logical approach and it did serve me well in many ways. I thought that structure would reduce stress in my life because I’d have control, but here I’ve been forced to let go of that. And you know what? My stress level is almost nonexistent now, even after being dropped into an unfamiliar and chaotic environment. The way I treat others has changed, my happiness level has never been higher, and even my health has improved. My reactions to unfavorable situations or consequences are different with this new perspective. Asia has taught me that external circumstances are out of my control, and all I can do is react to them to the best of my abilities—by staying positive and remaining present. As long as I don’t lose sight of this, there’s no way to live an unhappy life.

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I think my last post has inadvertently opened up a portal to a new approach to this blog. I will still continue to share my traveling stories and experiences, largely because my memory is horrible and I can’t let myself forget any part of this journey. But I’ll also open up and let you in as I try to make sense of what’s stirring beneath the surface. I don’t want this blog to be about me. We’re too attached to our own sense of self which is the source of all of our problems. My life is no more important or significant than any one who has ever existed. It’s what you do with it that matters and this trip has made me more conscious of that. This blog is a personal account of my new life for my own documentation purposes, yes. Perhaps more importantly though, it’s a platform on which new ways of thinking and living can evolve and flourish in a way that we can all learn and grow from. At least, from this point forward, that is my goal.

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For the past couple weeks I’d been entirely focused on simply living, trying to process so many thoughts at once and pulled in different directions to the point where I felt stuck and couldn’t find the inspiration to write. And if the inspiration isn’t there, I won’t force it. But a few days ago I finally felt that urge, followed it and started typing out everything that had been jumbled in my mind, begging to be explored and resolved. And by the end of it, I had clarity. Through that post I realized this is how I need to work things out—it’s my form of therapy, and you’re all witnessing it in real time. Some of you are even active participants which is wonderful. I don’t want this blog to be a one-sided affair—we should all be able to help each other. Sharing our experiences and opinions and learning from one another, but this can only be done by letting our guards down and keeping an open mind. We must be willing and ready to change.

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I’ve been told to ignore the negative comments, dismiss them as “haters”. In the past I may have been inclined to do that, but that doesn’t work for me anymore. Putting a label on any individual or group of people is not the answer and will only increase the negativity. I truly love connecting with those of you who understand and relate to my journey… but the ones who don’t? That’s who I want to reach the most. It may be an impossible mission, to break down the wall that divides us and build a mutual understanding that leads to positive change, but I will never give up trying. I know it’s possible because I used to be one of those people. I judged others who I didn’t agree with and rather than try to understand their reasoning, I put a label on them because it was much easier. By putting others down it meant I was somehow better than them—instant gratification. I’d unite with people who shared my views and that pack mentality would only compound the negative feelings because it confirmed we were right, they are wrong.

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But that temporary satisfaction never lasted and deep down it was unsettling—it adds a weight you can feel both mentally and physically, and I carried that around with me for years. Happiness can’t be born out of a place of hate. We put walls up and create barriers to separate ourselves from what we fear or don’t understand, but has that ever really solved anything? That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything everyone else does—we all have our own way of thinking and that’s what makes life interesting. However, we can try to understand why they think or feel or act the way they do, and remember that it all comes down to this: we all react to situations in the best possible way we know how. Even if we’re hurting others in the process, there is some more powerful reason that is pushing us to make that choice, and in our minds the pros outweigh the cons. Even if it’s simply an instinctual reaction and we regret it later, in that moment, it is the right decision for us. We’re all just doing the best we can, and my best may not look like your best but it’s all I can do. I think if we all kept this in mind the world would be a more pleasant place. At the very least, it would release the burden of negative feelings we carry towards others. Those weighted thoughts are only bringing ourselves down.

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At the Vietnam War museum in Saigon last week I recognized a familiar photograph. A woman was placing a flower down the barrel of a gun pointed towards her, taking a stance against the war and for peace in a beautiful, simple way. I’ve been the one holding the gun on the other side… we all have at some point, but through awareness and a desire to live happier and more fulfilling lives, we can put down our weapons and choose to be that daisy wielding hippie who stands for something better. Or at least our own version of her.

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Someone left a comment asking how I’ve dealt with my separation and how it lead me here. That time in my life is when I began journaling, and there’s a lot in those pages. I wanted to share and wish I could, but unfortunately can’t out of respect for the other person and their privacy. But if and when I ever release that memoir… it will all be in there. Because I think it’s important, and I know it could help others in similar situations. For now, all I can do is start from this new life of mine, explain what I’m going through and how I’ve been able to go from place of despair to a greater life than I could imagine. I want this for everybody and will encourage and help in whatever way possible.

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I want this to be a place where you are urged to speak up if you feel a reaction to something. There should be an ongoing dialogue with the lines of communication wide open so we have the opportunity to really understand each other’s point of views. That is my goal, and I hope you can be part of this. It’s all just one big experiment… but that’s what life is anyway, right?

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I haven’t forgotten to write about my last week in Vietnam… working on that post now so it’s coming very soon. Thanks for sticking with me through these unexpected detours,

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20 thoughts on “An important message, continued.

  1. What a wonderful journey of exploration you’re on, not only in the physical sense, but in the spiritual and emotional sense as well! ?

  2. I got up early this Saturday morning and I was glad to see you had posted. I think your intentions are pure and honest, and that is what I personally find refreshing. We all have different journeys in this life, and by sharing our experiences, we learn from each other and grow. If someone is fulfilled by decorating their home, so be it. If someone looks more inward to God or religion for their joy, that is fine too. Then some may travel the world and explore cultures and get to know people that are different from themselves, and that opens up all sorts of possibilities. So may each one of us seek and find what our purpose is. May we be positive and encourage each other. May we reach a level of understanding and have an open mind. May we listen to those who have been hurt and have burdens they carry around and be a light to them. May all of us make an effort to love one another. It’s not easy to love the unlovable, but we certainly must try!

  3. I had dreamed of picking up and traveling the world with my family this year. I wanted what you are encountering; new thoughts, new ideas, but also like minded people exploring, carving out new paths for themselves. I wanted to experience freedom from the expectations our culture puts on me and to be able to step outside the box in my mind that I felt stuck in. It’s not possible for us to wander this year as I’d hoped and so I’m learning to make some of those shifts in thinking from home. I love following along with you (thank you). Your thoughts on external circumstances and “everyone is doing their best” are two ideas I very much need to practice. Thank you for sharing your physical and emotional journeys with us.

  4. Jenna,
    I’m so glad to see someone sharing an honest approach to navigating this life…as an individual seeking how to best love others. I have been going through a situation that has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to question so much of what I believed. I too have found that we all judge others based on our preferences…not usually about what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I’ve always considered myself to be a Christian, however I felt so alienated by the Christian community that it forced me to search deep about what I believe and who I am. I’m slowly coming to this conclusion…first, I could care less if people identify me as a Christian or not…because I don’t want people to see me as a member of some group, but rather as a kind, meek and gentle spirit. The entire time I struggled with religion, the more I learned about who Jesus was as a person, how he treated ALL others and how he truly lived. The more I learn about who He was and who He is I crave a deeper understanding and relationship with Him and my heart becomes softened towards others. People fell in love with Jesus before he tried to teach them anything…love first – what a different attitude to take. Love first in spite of everything else, but I, like everyone else often had a judgmental spirit to justify my ‘right’ actions and other people’s ‘wrong’ actions. We are all hypocrites in some form or fashion, however the more we work to love, respect and understand others the more we become the people I believe we are intended to be! Thanks for your vulnerability –

  5. Well said Jenna. You’ve made me sit and think about my own actions on a deeper level. I like that. Thank you.
    Awesome photography. You have so many gifts.

  6. I look forward to reading your posts, amazed at how brave you are to take on this journey. I’m a very cautious, predictable, don’t like the unplanned kind of person that would never have the courage to do something like this. Ever. But I can relate to so much of what you write. I moved to Mexico almost seven years ago and my perspective on life has changed dramatically. When most people think of Mexico, they think resort life. It’s nothing like that. Not even close. There are no rules here. And things that would totally freak out my fellow Americans ( and some of them still freak me out) are totally normal and ways of survival. How can it not change you? I am not the same person I was seven years ago. And I’m sure in your nine weeks, you’ve changed completely. So continue on your journey, doing what you do, learning more of who you are, more of how the real works. Until someone has the courage to step out of their comfort zone and experience what you’ve experienced, they really have no grounds to speak. Press on!

  7. I have always been told I am a strong woman, and I never really understood it until faced with several life changing events.

    My first divorce (yes, first) was of my doing because I was not in a good place and knew there had to be more to life.

    My second has been about things beyond my control, unemployment (both of us) and a depression on his part due to the unemployment and the dwindling retirement we were trying to live on. He came to a breaking point and exploded and I made him move out (there is more to it, but I won’t give all of the details). We have been separated since May of 2012 and the divorce is just being pursued. For many reasons, insurance, and then not enough to money to file, and then…

    Breast cancer. Stage 1 and no chemo or radiation, but since Dec 2013 I have had 8 surgeries, 2 infections, I am on my 3rd implant, and had to completely redo part of my re-construction. I have had my family, but no one to prop me up the way a partner or spouse would. It sucks. But I am here and my kids have a mom. I had to learn to let go and let God handle my stress and pain and worries. For someone who likes a good amount of control, that is hard. So I understand the letting go part.

    Now I would never undertake a journey like you have done partly because of my kids, but partly because of my creature comforts!

    I commend you for doing what you need to do.

    Please be safe!

    Ronda

  8. I’m not terribly philosophical, so I don’t have any uplifting words. Just glad you are safe and happy. There was a time not long ago that I felt the next thing I heard about you was that you had been killed. Sorry, it was just the feeling I was getting from your posts. I’m old enough to be your grandmother, so my impression of Vietnam is of a different era. I have an aunt that is Vietnamese who escaped the country near the end of the war. My uncle, who was in the service, brought her here to California with her young son. She is and has been better off in this country. Her son, my cousin John, became and M.D. Anyway, just stay safe.

  9. First of all, Ronda, prayers for all you have been facing and are going through. Jenna, wow, I see so much maturity and growth here. You are learning things at a younger age that are so important. Control has always been an issue for me, due to growing up in an alcoholic-like atmosphere as a child. In the last couple of years I am learning to give it up slowly. When my college-age daughter had a complete breakdown 2 years ago, and stopped speaking to me for about a year, she blamed me for everything and said I needed help. Her journey has involved depression, many meds, and feelings of self-harm. She was a perfect straight A student from the outside. I tried not to push her, she always pushed herself harder to be perfect and has said this. I never realized it. I have gotten help for our relationship, my marriage, and for my school aged son still at home. Things are getting better, but I have learned I cannot change anyone else, only myself. I can only work on me. We need to live life with grace for others and give them the benefit of the doubt because you don’t know what people may be going through. They may look perfect from the outside, but may be on a journey of inner struggle, pain, growth, or even illness.
    A close friend of mine seemed to have a perfect family with four kids. We became close when I found out the marriage was not so perfect and we have shared our struggles together, which has helped. From the outside they were a perfect family and now they are divorced. We cannot judge others, but need to have compassion. I would give anything to have learned to give up control about 20 years ago at your age, to have spared my daughter some of the pain she has been through. I really do not have control over some things that happen, like you said, but my actions/reactions. I also cannot look back too much, but can move forward now and be different and change. You are growing! Be encouraged.
    (P.S. I posted recently before as Natalie, but since there are the occasional other ones on here, I am Natalie S. now if I happen to post again!)

  10. Out of respect for your ex husbands privacy, you won’t share the details of your separation on your blog, but if you write a book you’re going to out it all in there? This seems wrong. Either respect his privacy and keep it private no matter the medium or just say you won’t get that personal unless people are buying a book and you’re making money from that.

    1. If I did, it would a) be a memoir published probably decades from now, b) share the way it affected me only and not include anything that he wouldn’t want known publicly, and c) have his approval. To me it’s not personal, it’s just part of my story and would never be classified as a “tell-all” book. It’s just an extension of what I am writing about now.

  11. Jenna

    I started out originally by following your beautiful home pictures on your IG page which then led me to the blog as I was so interested in this journey your taking. I just wanted to write today to let you know that this is YOUR blog, YOUR journey and you owe no one any explanation as to how you choose to find your own direction. People are always going to have an opinion on things they don’t understand but in reality if people would focus as much time on their own lives and happiness then maybe they wouldn’t have enough time on their hands to force their one sided opinions on others.
    I think you are doing an excellent job of painting a picture of your day to day experiences and you should at no point take it on yourself to be a “role model” of some kind… that isn’t what YOUR BLOG, YOUR JOURNEY is for.

    Safe travels…. Keep being yourself!
    Michelle

  12. Gorgeous pictures and very open post. Thanks for trusting your readers. I think many of us were not “hating,” we were simply worried for your well being which is a testament to how connected we feel to your story and this blog. Wishing you safe travels and inner peace.

  13. I am a lifelong traveller. First with friends. Then by myself. Then with my husband. Now with our daughter. We take her all over the world and I see compassion in her. I see wonder. I see possibility. She gets that we are all different yet all the same. I am loving reading about your journey. And I will definitely never stop mine. Travelling is addictive and once you begin there is no stopping. It’s less about the places you go than the things you learn about yourself and others and how enriched this makes you feel. Enjoy it all.

  14. It takes courage to imagine a different life and a heck of a lot of bravery to commit to finding that different life. I went through something that rocked my world this year – the spiral of helplessness and hopelessness was scary – but eventually, I found my way out by imagining a different life. I am on a new path now and the road ahead is exciting, and most importantly, all mine. Ironically, by letting go of everything I thought I knew, I was able to regain control over my life in a much more meaningful way.

    However you find that new path looks different for everyone, it is what you do with the lessons along the way that matters. Keep going and being brave!

  15. ” My life is no more important or significant than any one who has ever existed. ”
    NO! Nobody cares as much for yourself as you can. Just ask anyone.
    Why do you lust after death? Watch how the poor struggle to hold on to their life! Are you any better?
    Never surrender! Never say die!

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