What do you do when you hate living in paradise?

Many people refer to our brief existence on this planet as “Earth School.” Well, if the world is a school, then I live in the middle of the playground!  Right here in tropical paradise. And the island I live on is my homeroom teacher. And she can be a real B!^@#.

What many tried to tell me before I moved here is true. Island living can feel like a crash program in becoming humanly whole. And many come to it only to be chewed up and spit back out.

In my third month on-island, I was getting chewed up pretty badly. I was in the worst part of the culture shock continuum. Everything felt, tasted, smelled, looked and sounded ‘wrong’ to me. Everything, including driving, had to be done differently than I was used to, and it was guaranteed to be more difficult, less convenient, and/or unnecessarily inefficient.  Paradise has many ills. Most are the same as exist on the mainland, but at significantly higher rates — crime, corruption, poverty, racism, Dengue fever, incest, domestic violence, etc. Oddly, I think it might have been the discovery that Amazon wouldn’t deliver anything other than books and software to the island that threw me into the pit of “rock bottom” here on The Rock.

It was that same evening my husband brought a colleague home for dinner.  It was my first time meeting Jim, but my emotions had run amok and I just couldn’t be bothered to hide them. Not my ideal way to make a first impression, but I didn’t care.

Jim turned out to be a compassionate soul. Having once been in similar shoes, and subsequently spending many happy years here, he said the words that made me even less happy to be here:

“You will never change the island. The island will change you.”

These words would haunt me for weeks.

I was speechless. I didn’t much care for the first part. Every ounce of my ego was geared to control my circumstances and environment. I’m hard-wired for victory, and I had set up the island as my adversary.

At the same time, I was intrigued by the second part. After all, isn’t that why I purged my life down to the bare bones and came down to this God-forsaken so-called paradise in the first place? Wasn’t it I who yearned to live “closer to the bone?” Wasn’t “life as an adventure” my intention?

I wanted all of those things. And…I didn’t want to be here. But the real stunner was realizing I didn’t want to go back to the States either. I felt desperate and trapped “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”  In that moment of grace that often feels like letting go of the end of your rope, I chose surrender.

Surrendering to the Sea - Lindquist Beach, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

The next day, I signified my turning point by baptizing myself in the turquoise bathwater of the Caribbean Sea. As it turned out, it was an initiation into the world of play.

On her blog, Brene Brown talks about what constitutes play.  She quotes play researcher (and husband?) Stuart Brown who lists time spent without purpose as one of the essential properties of play.  I have come to agree with him. That day at the beach, I reconnected with all those “feel good” emotions children come by so easily.  I remembered what it feels like to be free, timeless, and present. I found that pursuing joy with no goal or agenda will lead you to that place inside that is your calm center. Your inner island sanctuary.

For me, playing is like following a trail of breadcrumbs left by an other (my higher self? Great Spirit?) It can constitute any activity that comes from a sense of inner desire and blind curiosity.  I return to it, guiltless, again and again because I’m rewarded with serendipitous surprises of epiphany and innovation. Play is sacred and necessary. It’s how I grow.  It’s a journey of connection, and it keeps me true, centered, and joyful!

I have been living in paradise for thirteen months now (joyfully for at least the last seven) and have since graduated with honors in the art of spending time without purpose. As it turns out, play is a doorway. My friend Jim pointed me toward it, and I had to choose to enter.

Crossing it’s threshold has led me to discover countless blessings and gifts. It was through that doorway that I began unleashing my deepest levels of creativity and started my own business. It was through that doorway that I embodied the truth that, in the words of Joseph Campbell:

“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”

Advertisements

Happy New Year!

Wow, did you get a glimpse of it?  Like a shooting star, the past year seemed to bolt across the canvas of our lives as if it were only an instant, yet the distances we traveled were significant.

Marty spent a lot of time as a “road warrior,” continuing to enjoy and grow while leading Sungard Availability Services’ quality assurance initiatives. He reports the dubious honor of earning his way into the highest echelon of frequent flyer status on two major airlines. We’re always thankful when he returns home safely, and if it happens that he returns on schedule, and with his baggage, that is all icing on the cake!  He continued to provide for us as Bridget nurtured her holistic real estate practice in the midst of uncertainty, and the opportunities that come along with it.

Summer means Adventure!! so we embarked on “An Expedition of Southwestern Colorado.”  We took off on the 4th of July to explore some of the bounty this great state has to offer.  First stop: Glenwood Caverns, where we went deep under ground and inside Iron Mountain, crawling on our bellies and contorting our bodies to fit ourselves through some of the most unlikely passages leading from one naturally formed cavern to the next.  Marty was afraid they’d have to grease him up to get him through some of the holes we went through!

While Marty never did get stuck Winnie the Pooh-style, it was an exciting and amazing experience none the less. Entering into and crawling through an awesome natural phenomenon that is relatively untouched and undisturbed was truly thrilling. To see a variety of unusual organisms that live without any sunlight was life-affirming. To feel the darkest darkness that has ever closed over you is sublime.  To feel the lump of fear rising in your chest before catching somewhere in your throat as you realize that you are sitting alone under tons and tons of solid rock in a small dark chamber that millions of years ago was filled with acidic water and no exit is visible to you . . .  and you have now gone farther down the rabbit hole than you ever imagined . . .  is terrifying.  Letting go of that fear and allowing joy to take its place is exhilarating!

Such intense physical exertion had to be followed up with a long soak in the hot springs pool that made Glenwood Springs famous.  Feeling rejuvenated the next day, we enjoyed a beautiful drive down toward Gunnison to the rim of the Black Canyon where we stood in awe of Nature and Time, and could neither see nor hear any evidence of another human being.

Back in the car and on to Montrose, down through Ouray and into Durango.  All in all, it had to be the most magnificently scenic drive either of us has ever taken.  There are no pictures or words that can do justice to the majesty that is so abundant here.

At the end of the day, we rolled into Durango where the next day was spent riding the old steam engine train up to Silverton and back.  Marty found he didn’t much care for the rocking motion of the train.  Now, he doesn’t mind being thrown around every which way in an airplane, but give him the safe, comforting back-and-forth motion of the train, and he starts to get a little pale!

The next day, we left Durango and soon were climbing around in the ancient cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde to walk in the footholds of the Ancestral Puebloans.  That night was spent in peaceful Pagosa Springs and the next day was a full day driving home.  Whirlwind, beautiful, fun, and memorable!

The following week we were back in Indiana for the annual Foltz family reunion, always a highlight of our summer, and always much too brief.  It was bittersweet without Granny Foltz, who we laid to rest in the spring.  God wanted that piece of heaven back.  We truly miss her.

Bridget was so happy to get some bonus time with Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Monty when they stopped overnight on their way to Colorado Springs after having taken in the Frontier Days Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Marty, unfortunately, was racking up those miles and missed the whole thing.

Marty began winding down the summer with the annual hike up one of Colorado’s fourteeners with friends who heroically made it to Denver from Chicago a day or two later than planned. This year it was Quandary Peak, elevation 14,265’, making it the 13th highest in Colorado.

Just before Labor Day we enjoyed some time together in Las Vegas while Marty attended a leadership conference.  Bridget found that lounging near a gorgeous pool for hours in intense, dry heat, bright sun, and quiet solitude was the ideal creative environment.

Two weeks later we were back in Nevada making our annual pilgrimage to The Reno Air Races, where aviation enthusiasts with spine and character congregate to celebrate speed, power, daring, and love of Country.  We’re sorry for all the Sallies who just couldn’t put on their long pants in time to be able to join us.  Better luck next year?

Thanksgiving brought us again to Indiana.  It is astounding what an inch or two of snow can do to a highway stretched flat across the Kansas prairie.  Bridget had her eyes screwed shut. Marty’s were wide open.  Luckily, Marty was the one behind the wheel.

Somewhere along the line we have been adopted by one, and then later, a second feral cat. The first we eventually named Roger after a character in a Comcast commercial.  The second cat immediately became known as Bob due to his . . . we prefer to use the term “inadvertently abbreviated” rather than “severed” . . . tail.  He found his way to our house during a barbeque we were hosting, and hasn’t been off of our property since.  He’s a little worse for wear: his long gray fur is a little rough and matted, his “meow” sounds like he’s been smoking two packs a day for the last 50 years, and yet he has a gentle charm that makes you want to keep feeding him day after day.

As seasons tend to do this far north, fall eventually fell into winter.  The rhythm of life changed, and the living arrangements had to as well when temperatures dropped below freezing.  Bridget crafted two cozy cat houses, each made out of a polystyrene foam container used to ship meat, duct tape, and a heretofore unopened roll of Con-Tact® paper that may possibly pre-date Marty.  Once filled with shredded newspaper and placed under the eaves in the protection of the courtyard, order and warmth were restored.  Bridget & Marty still sleep indoors.

The year in short:  We laughed out loud, learned something new about the world and each other, played with our food, served in the Civil Air Patrol, stared down fear at least once, shed tears of both joy and sorrow, were blessed with two visits with Jeff & Ilona, loved with our whole hearts, lost a water heater off the back of the truck on the way home from the store and had to go right back and buy another one, discovered new answers to old questions and asked new questions of old answers, celebrated 4 years of marriage, entertained new ideas and different points of view, made new friends, didn’t always do the best job at staying in touch with old ones but we keep trying to do better, believed in the possible and impossible, and danced to the rhythm of life as best we could with our hearts open wide.

And, here we are at the time of year when we all hopefully slow down and reflect on where we’ve been and, more importantly, where we’re headed.  May this find you safe and well!  We’ll keep you close in our prayers, and hold our vision of all of the good and wonder that is possible for all of us in the coming year!  Happy New Year!!!!

Share