Stress-Free Family Life & The Prolonged Smile (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
I have kids. I know what stress is. It doesn’t matter where we go, how far we run, there are still those moments when you hate everyone around you, and you want to hurt someone (offspring, spouse, or self), or run far, far away. I know. And this is a location-independent feeling. I got that.
But, something changes, something profound and magical takes place when you no longer live in that constant buzz of tension. Tension to wake up on time, tension to be at school/work on time, tension to perform/be productive/make the grades/meet the quota/prove you are on or above standard, tension to do, do, do, tension to earn enough money, tension to hurry up/clean up/shower up/ finish up so we can drop into bed, with drool oozing down your chin, only to do it again the next day.
This is just a snapshot of a snapshot of two minutes of evening. We’re in Siem Reap, Cambodia, walking home from our favorite dinner spot in town, where we eat for about $12 for the entire family. This alone is already a huge source of calm to our hearts.
The cost of living here is ridiculously cheap, and if you learn the tricks of the trade, you can live, really well, on less than what your utilities cost you back home. Knowing that we can feed our entire family with a filling entree of rice and curry stew, fried rice, huge salad with tofu and cut potatoes, super-filling mini-pizza, pasta, or noodle soup, and a round of shakes for each of us for $11-$14 is unreal. Each dish costs an average of $2, plus a $.50 shake. Yes, life already feels good like that.
So, stress-free lifestyle does wonders for the soul. Normal family stress (hang your damn wet towels!, go to sleep!, don’t pull your sister’s hair!, stop rolling your eyes at me!) still exists. Yeah, but we don’t rush anywhere. We don’t have to be anywhere. at any time, and God, that’s liberating.
We have time, in our 2-3 hour lunches or dinners almost every day, to chit chat about all the tiny insignificant and huge character-building, life-changing ways. We talk about moral dilemmas, what mistakes we’ve made and others have made in their lives that have had tragic consequences, how to best deal with life’s vicissitudes. We talk about books we’re reading together, or apart, movie plots and characters, and have family meetings where each voices stuff that is bothering him and begging for some resolution. We play games (usually Kobi and the kids usually, I mostly watch them joyfully, or read) at the table, and then, walk home slowly, smiling at the locals, making small talk here and there, and peacefully get ready for showers, bed, and Kobi reading to the kids aloud.(He’s currently in chapter 9 of Holes by Louis Sachar, and they are loving it!)
I do love life right now, exactly, exactly, exactly as it is. (Sigh.)
And the prolonged smile?
Yes, it’s just a term I’ve made up, it fits. It does. They smile, and if you look back, well after you’ve passed them, it’s still on their lips. That smile, that prolonged smile that just shows the wholesome, genuine joy they hold in their souls, that comes pouring out in that smile, that prolonged smile.
Ever tasted that calm, nothing-pressing-to-do feeling and what it does to you and those you love? Ever felt what it feels like when your brow and forehead are not carrying so much constant tension? Ever seen a prolonged smile and felt how your heart fills up when you are the recipient of it? Ever known the taste of living so under your means that money stops being, even for a brief time, a stress, in any way? Ever read Holes by Louis Sachar? Ever heard how much I love you? Well, now you have.
Going to read with Solai right now,
Siem Reap, Cambodia