What keeps me going when the shit hits the fan? Good question. One that has been haunting me in light of recent events. I am still crawling out of that puddle of tears. That torrential black current that drags you relentlessly across the jagged floor, allowing you to catch glimpses of light for a fleeting moment until your body gets slammed against the next unseen rock. There’s a big scary beast named Depression that lives down there, that silently eats away at your soul, leaving you weak and numb, and then paralyzed and completely helpless. Your chest screams as the beast rips your heart out, and you never knew how empty you could feel until you have no soul, no heart. Maybe you get angry, or maybe you were like me this time and just gave up, but something pulls you through. And then one day, you realize that while you are gasping for air you are finally able to drink it in, and laughter slowly restores your stolen soul, and your beating heart is placed, though shattered, back into your hands to hold and nurture. Somehow you find yourself at the edge of that awful black pool of water looking back, and although you can still touch that raw place you have just come from, you realize that somehow you will be OK. I have been wandering around trying to figure out just how it is that I am standing knee deep at the other side of that puddle, until one day I realized that it was simple. I found the strength and courage to continue on and refused to drown because of love.

I have discovered, or rather have been reminded that love surrounds us in ways we sometimes don’t see on a daily basis. Simple acts of love, such as a smile, a wave hello, a random act of kindness that reminds us that we don’t have to see the world in such negative terms; there are a lot of positive things going on that easily get overlooked.


The first time I came to Taiwan I came here to live. I was tired of San Diego, tired of knowing damn well I wasn’t living up to my potential, whatever that may be (I still haven’t figured it out), and tired of not getting what I wanted job-wise, relationship-wise, and basic goal-wise. I dealt with the demons that needed to be dealt with and found myself happy. And I mean truly happy. I have always been courageous and adventurous and tenacious and smiling but I began to absolutely radiate these things, so much that people started asking me why I was so happy all the time. My answer was always why not? I created new friendships, nurtured old ones, and silently moved myself away from the crappy ones; those toxic people you find you somehow cannot shed. I found the love of my life, my husband, on a beach of all places. I was solid enough in my own skin to trust him and to allow myself to be loved. I no longer apologized for who I am, and I became comfortable with those things about myself I really don’t like.


A little over two years and a whole typhoon of emotions later I am back in Taiwan. This time I need to heal, and mend that shattered heart that’s been placed back into my hands. I have been helped to the other side of that black, murky water by family and friends who keep making sure I am OK, and I know it’s been hard on them to see me so down, especially while they are all so far away. My husband has constantly held my hand, and has refused to give up on me, although I know he’s wanted to a few times. However, not once have we become dysfunctional or have allowed this tough situation come so far between us that the fabric of our relationship frays. (OK, so we have lost it a few times but I can count them on one hand, and hell, we’re allowed to get upset.)


And the random acts of kindness? Well, I had already mentioned to my husband that I was getting frustrated because I was unable to smile and laugh. Trying to do so was like serious work. So I had been wandering around the town that is our home for the next two months and this girl, who must have been in high school, gave me this big smile and said, “Hello”. OK, so it’s like, a cool thing to do for the kids to say hello to the foreigners, and although people are amazingly friendly here they really don’t go out of their way to talk to you, it’s a language barrier thing. Initially that beast named Depression slurped at a little more of my soul. I realized that this friendly girl’s “hello” barely made me smile. But as I walked down the street, and kept somehow passing her and her group of friend’s she continued to say hello, and it became a game. Pass, smile, wave, hello. Pass again, smile, wave, hello. Pass yet again, smile, giggle, wave, hello.


This might seem like an inconsequential bit of interaction, but for me it was a major turning point. It made me realize how much I missed smiling. I realized how much interacting with people meant to me, how random acts of kindness make anyone’s day so much better, and how many little things in this big diverse world there are to smile at. It was at this point that my eyes truly opened to what I knew all along: that I am loved unconditionally by so many people, both known and unknown. And despite the shitty set of circumstances I’ve had to deal with I began to really see what had happened surrounding them. I finally saw the love that has been given back to me when I needed it most. I saw the love in all the phone calls and emails, in all the prayers and meditation and light that has been sent my way, in family and friends who have gotten back in contact and the sympathy given by strangers, yet who know me through a friend of a friend of a friend. I have had people stay with me and go out of their way so I wouldn’t have to be alone. I have had Chinese teas made for me to help me get pregnant again, which isn’t an issue and won’t be happening again right away, but it’s the thought that counts. My mother has received flowers since that was where people knew to send them. I have people I have just recently met in Germany go out of their way to find English speakers for me to talk to. I have been reminded, in so many unexpected ways, that I am an incredible person, and somehow I have inspired people with my strength, honesty, integrity, and openness. (I have to admit I am a bit surprised about this.) But I have been standing back, looking across that black pool with a smile lately, because it really is true: we will get back what we pour out there, and I guess I have been doing something right because I have been told that I am incredible and that I am loved by an overwhelming amount of people.


So this weekend, my husband and I went out to the beautiful Sun Moon Lake and relaxed in the green surroundings and had a good talk. Clearing up any insecurities we had, we both came back smiling and I began to laugh again. The following day, one of my husband’s Taiwanese co-workers took us back out to the countryside for a day at one of the abundant natural mineral baths. On the way home he asked me one question that made me smile wider than ever. “Why are you such a happy person”? While I had to admit that I am not always happy, I realized that I am finally making a come-back. So, if you ask me what keeps me going when the shit hits the fan, I am going to tell you that love is all I need.

Amy, 34, Germany, but currently in Taiwan