It’s Frowback Friday again, so to help prep you for a relaxing weekend, here’s a re-post of a Sweet3Mango blog from last year on the topic of stress. Specifically, it’s from my “Thai Therapy” series. Let’s dive in:
“What’s up homies, it’s me, Seven. I live the dream in case you can’t. This week’s episode of Thai Therapy tackles an ailment that every single one of my friends and family suffer from back in the bad ole USA. For whatever reason, America has cornered the market on stress. So much so that an entire branch of Big Pharma is dedicated to treating the symptoms of it (never ever attempting to cure it), and nearly half the population (44% according to the American Psychological Association) claim to suffer from it.
I myself was a sweaty, wound-up ball of stress in my younger years. At age 18, I had ulcers from it, and started going grey in my 20s because of it. I emptied countless bottles of melatonin trying to get just a bit of sleep. I had three large knots in my back and shoulders for two decades that were directly caused by it, and I know stress was the cause because I can mark the day they went away. It was my 20th day of living in Thailand. And that’s what this article is about. Thailand can cure stress. Let’s break it down.
Exhibit A of my case is myself. Having trudged through this life with the weight of unending stress on my shoulders from California to Camden to Korea to Costa Rica in a desperate attempt to escape it, I only found release after settling here. In so doing, I abandoned all pretense of following the approved-of life path expected by my parents, teachers, and local clergy, which relieved half my anxiety in one literal GO. With the burden of expectation gone, I was able to sit back and consider what aspects of this world brought me happiness, and to my utter non-surprise, none of it bore even a passing resemblance to Western life. Own a house? Nope. Support a wife and mewling offspring? Psh. Pay taxes? Nah. Save for retirement? Meh. Find a grind and stay in it for 30 years? F*ck off.
These hated expectations were replaced with quandaries like: Have a beer? I think I will. Flit down to the beach for a bit? Don’t mind if I do. Take on a 4thgirlfriend? If you insist. Pork or chicken? Bit of both. Red wine or Champagne? I’ll have one of each, thank you. And so the axis of my planet shifted, and my Atlas shrugged off the world for this new thing. This Thai thing. The ulcers, insomnia, and back pain quickly dissolving into memory, with nothing but bliss each day hence.
But don’t take my word for it. Look at Exhibits B through Z. First, there’s the fact that Thailand is the number one holiday destination in the world, which means living here is a bit like being on a permanent vacation. Even when I’m at work, my mind is scheming about the weekend, or even the coming evening which can easily become a 3-hour tour of Bangkok’s delights. Then there’s the cultural influence, eg. the Buddhist tenet of living in the now, not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Also the warmth and kindness of the Thai people. The only time I feel negative vibes is when I’m around other farang. And who could really get stressed in a city that has a massage parlor on every corner? 30 minutes of a head-and-feet combo treatment and nothing—I mean nothing—seems to matter at all. And don’t forget the weather. Yes, there’s a rainy season, but the rain is warm. And the air is warm. And your Thai girlfriend’s skin is warm, and also a rich, enchanting color, and her smile could melt a glacier, and her eyes light a fire inside you. Add to that the fact that here, as foreigners, we have no stake in politics. Every day my Facebook feed is rife with the strife and psychotic screeching of malcontents who want to burn down the White House, as well as sordid tales of abuse, corruption, and thievery by nearly every elected official. And with one click, I can completely erase it and simply replace it with photos from last night’s gogos (available for public viewing on my FB page).
And maybe that’s the root of it. While people in the West slave away day after day, enduring dismal winters, loneliness, crushing responsibility while being constantly bombarded by bad news, who, if they’re lucky, get to come here 2 weeks out of the year, we fortunate sods—we clever few—live this dreamy fantasy unbridled by “real life,” untethered from consequence, refusing to acquiesce. That, friends, is the opposite of stress.
Thailand offers a new perspective. There are no threats here. No deadlines. No great fears or dangers. Except maybe cobras or negligent drivers. No possibility of failure, no big obstacles. Unless, of course, you create them for yourself. In that event, Thailand can’t help you. In fact, nothing can. But if you can shake off the reins and get free, you should run here. There’s respite in the Land of Smiles.
And if you can’t, or if you’re waiting for your chance, you can idle away the time by following me on Twitter @BangkokSeven or poring over the gogo photos on my FB page. ”
Looking back on this post a year later, I can say with confidence that it all still rings true. Thailand continues to be a giant metaphorical sponge that soaks up all my stress, unrest, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction on a daily basis. There is no other life like it, and I’m going to soak it up as long as I can and thank my lucky stars for it. Now if you’ll excuse me, there are gogo dancers on a stage somewhere nearby, and they ain’t gonna watch themselves. Come back Sunday for the weekly, and cheers to another day above ground in paradise, aka Thailand.