Lost and Found in Bali

By Mark Ulyseas

For The Bali Times


al•ter e•go n

1.    a second side to an individual’s personality, different from the one that most people know

2.    a very close and trusted friend

(Encarta World English Dictionary)


Morning blues color the face when one peers in the mirror and the image that stares back is unrecognizable after the debauchery of the night before. We look away for fear of confronting our alter ego – the sprite that resides in all of us: mischievous, cunning, loving, hateful and the shadow that stalks us through life.

So what is it that makes us use, abuse and at times misplace our close and trusted friend in the mirror? And even those “friends” around us?

Memories and dreams are the culprits. They stand accused of keeping us in suspended animation, dulling reality. In the process, the link that holds one and a close friend together is broken and repaired many times over thus leaving it knobbly.

How can we rectify this situation? Is there any superglue that can fix the mirror images to prevent them falling apart and drifting downstream?

Maybe we need to discard old habits of looking in the mirror and try to rearrange or cover what we don’t like with the paintbrush of the ego. After this we probably should go out and make ourselves visible to the invisible sprites that dance before our eyes whenever we meet close friends. Reach out, touch them and attempt to make ethereal contact.

Easier said than done, some would say. But consider this – what if we didn’t have an alter ego – a trusted friend? Where would we be? Marooned in the world of un-belonging reality? One-dimensional beings?

Too many questions, too few answers. Well, let’s review our lives. Scroll back to the time we first made two close and trusted friends – one being the image in the mirror and the other a person. Those intense feelings of belonging to oneself and others invariably giving way to egotistical blunders, bordering on vanity and thereby cracking the mirror forever.

And as age moves on, the refracted image in the mirror distorts our lives permanently. We can retrieve memories but can never make them reality. For as one knows, virginity once lost can never be restored. 

Here’s a classic example of a spat between two friends. Often the punch line sounds a bit like this: “You don’t know who I am. You will never know.” Of course, how will one know who the other person is when one doesn’t know one’s self?

The inscription at the oracle at Delphi – Know Thyself – is relevant today. If we begin to understand and know ourselves, then we will be in a position to view others in the correct perspective. Ever had a friend tell you, “Why did you do that? That’s not you! Is it?” And your answer in all likelihood would be, “Dunno” or “You don’t know me.”

Someone once told me that before we start loving others, we must first learn to love ourselves. To me this sounds a bit screwy. Are they suggesting perhaps that we become narcissists? Egocentrics? And then, with a bloated ego, we are expected to love other people? Whoever thought this one up was too long out on the tiles the night before and the blurred image in the mirror next morning tripped the reality fuse.

The truth for me was when I met Catherina at Warung Sobet in June this year, before she boarded a flight back to Paris. On seeing me, she cried about leaving Bali because she had made so many friends here and said she was returning post haste after selling her assets to purchase a house in Bali for a friend with whom she would live with happily ever after. This was evidently a decision she had made in the heat of the night, and as a well-wisher, I was determined to make her retract or at least review it. So the conversation went like this.

“Cathy, why do you want to return?”

“Mark, you remember meeting Wayan in Kuta? Well that’s the guy who’s going to stay with me. I adore him. I would do anything for him – anything.”

“Oh, but do you know why you came to Bali in the first place?”

“Yes, of course. My cat died and I was lonely. My job stinks. I needed to get out and find myself again.”

“Hold the thought. You said – to find yourself again?”

“Yes, I lost myself when my boyfriend of many years left me – for a guy! I couldn’t take the loss and humiliation. I felt I had lost a part of myself when he walked out of the door. You’re not a woman and you can never understand the trauma I went through. At least here there are no questions. One day at a time. I can live with that.”

“Darling, you missed the point. I asked if you have found yourself again.”

“I don’t know.”

“Then I suggest you first find yourself and then reach out to people around you.”

She never returned to Bali. I received an email a month later informing me she had a new cat and a new job but was still searching for herself. I wish her Godspeed.

Last I heard, Wayan was happily settled in Kuta with a charming girl from Spain. Maybe he had already found himself and simply needed a close friend to complete the equation.

Many a soul looks too far ahead. Some even attempt to peer over the horizon searching … when, in fact, it resides within us as our alter ego and around us in the form of trusted friends. All we need to do is to keep looking. Maybe the mirror trick every morning will finally bring results. Reaching out and touching friends with unselfish emotion could be the next best thing. Who knows?

I admit I have been searching for myself across continents these past few years but only realized in Bali that it was within me.

Now all I need to complete my equation is to find a trusted friend for the image in the mirror.

And I am sure there are many out there with the same predicament.

If only the twain could meet.


Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

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