I’ve been sharing my exciting, fun experiences in Cozumel so far, but there is much more to this trip than living in a new place and experiencing a new culture. I have gone back and forth in my head, trying to decide if I should share this deeper meaning behind my trip here, and I finally decided to go ahead- because maybe someone else out there can take something away from this… It’s long, and it took days to write, but here it is.
The roots of my moving here were grounded in needing to escape. My relationship with my boyfriend and I was hurting both of us. I felt owned, caged, and unable to re-pay an emotional debt to him that we both knew I never really could. I had to get out, and I felt that the only way I could do this was to leave for the summer. There. I said it. I was running away.
When I came to visit Cozumel in February, I felt a release. Something in me was set free, and it was so enticing that the thought of waiting until May to return was nauseating. I honestly wished someone could just send the kids to me, so I wouldn’t have to go back. On my flight home in February, I cried the whole way. It was Valentine’s Day, and I suddenly felt like it was the most pointless holiday ever created. I didn’t want to celebrate it when I got back home with the guy who was then, my ex, but we were still trying to work out whatever issues we had. I didn’t care anymore. I cried in the airport, and even when he came to pick me up, we had been fighting on the phone for hours, so seeing roses, chocolate and the card he got me just made me angry.
I felt myself curl up into a little ball on the inside and that was it for me. I told him that I wanted to go back to Cozumel for longer. I didn’t know how long, but 3 months wasn’t long enough. And I told him that I didn’t want to try anymore. I had lost myself in trying to please him and make it all work, and I just couldn’t anymore.
For the rest of February and March, I immersed myself in travel blogs, books, and articles. I was desperately searching for other women who were traveling, and I found that the percentage of single moms with 2 kids who were traveling the world were at, well, zero.
I did, however, find 2 blogs about 2 different single moms who were traveling with single children, over the age of 10. Close enough. I remember thinking, “Sooooo, there’s a CHANCE. I can work with this…”
I had discovered Timothy Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek, and I read it 4 times. One time right after the other. I marked it up, highlighted it, filled a notebook with notes, stayed up late, got frustrated, made plans, cried, made different plans, figured out what would and wouldn’t work, cried some more, and slowly started to figure it all out. The problem was, his book seemed to be for men. Mostly married men with good jobs in the corporate world. I was none of those things, so I had to figure out how to make it work for me. While challenging, I at least had a good place to start from because my business is computer-based. Whatever worked for me, I applied it immediately, shifting my work to being “global”.
When I got ahold of Chris Guillebeau’s book, The Art of Non-Conformity, I cried my way through it- in a good way. I realized that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, and that if I wanted to travel and work for the rest of my life, then why the hell not??
This was when another shift occurred in me. I didn’t feel like I was running anymore. I felt like I was taking on a lifestyle change- one that seemed about 99% impossible. When I doubted myself, I went back to the blogs, to Tim Ferris’ book, to Chris Guillebeau’s book, to notes, to my dream book, to photos, my Pinterest page with all the images I had saved and been drawn to, etc. Maybe this actually WAS possible. Maybe this could be one of those things that inspired a group of other single moms to live the life they dreamed too. Maybe this trip wasn’t about running from something, but discovering something else.
At this point, I was still planning on just going to Cozumel for 6 months, then coming home and eventually going back to Costa Rica. I was starting to feel better about things, and I felt like I was falling in love with life again! I was ready for a fresh, clean slate, and then I met a guy. A strong climber with a zest for life and adventure. Seemed perfect, and even though I was leaving in a couple of months, we started spending time together. But I felt like I was always trying to pull him near me, and that he was ok where he was- unshakeable. His confidence in who he was and where he was going was not going to be moved by a girl who was just getting her own footing. Bottom line, it didn’t work.
A few weeks later, I met another guy, a climber with the same love for life and adventure, and I was drawn to it much more strongly. I found in our conversations that he was deeply spiritual, emotional but strong, wounded but not scared. He may have been one of the most beautiful men I had ever met, inside and out. The connection was fast and very strong. We told each other things that we haven’t told anyone else. We both knew I was leaving, but didn’t talk about it. And 2-3 weeks into it, things got really, really, REALLY difficult for me on many levels.
Jefre came back home (remember, my world traveler friend?) and I told him about my emotional disturbance, which I have written about in this blog for months. I told him that I started dating someone, and that I wasn’t sure if I should stay here, go anyway, or ask him to go with me. Which was stupid because we barely knew each other, and there hadn’t been enough time to even have a solid foundation- who talks about that kind of stuff when they have only been seeing each other a few weeks? Him visiting was even only a”maybe”.
My guy and I finally talked about me leaving, and I saw him get emotional about it. Only once. After that, it’s like he turned off a switch, and I never saw that side of him again. If I had known the last time I saw him was going to be the last time I saw him, it may have been harder. Regardless, it was the last time. He kissed me, and told me to be strong. That was it.
I started having really vivid dreams. One was about “the guy”, and it really upset me. Then I had another that was so upsetting, I emailed Jefre about it, and he said, “We need to discuss this, this week. Before you leave.”
Here was the dream: I was standing in a room, and I started slowly turning to my right. As I turned, I saw different scenes from my life. I saw kids playing, I saw friends climbing, I saw us all eating a meal together- all happy things. Then I started turning faster. Soon I was spinning. Scenes from my life were flashing in and out, bad things were happening, there was crying, yelling, and soon, complete chaos. I couldn’t stop spinning. I had lost control of what I was seeing and feeling. Nothing was making sense. Everything was a blur. Then, suddenly, everything stopped, and all I saw was Jefre, walking towards me with a ball- an orb of something. I focused intently on what was in his hands, somehow knowing that if I kept my eyes on that, then I could regain control and balance in my life. As he walked towards me, the orb began to look faint. It was dissolving. Once he had gotten right in front of me with his hands out, the orb was gone.
Even recalling this dream now makes me cry.
Jefre told me that I had suffered trauma in my childhood (even though I had never told him this). He said it was apparent in the way I related to people, and that when I was complimented, I rejected it. He went on on say, “You are repeating a very detrimental pattern. Something happened to you that you probably don’t even remember and it is subconsciously causing you a lot of other problems. The orb you saw in your dream represents an energy that you are giving off to men. Whatever it is, they are drawn to it almost with intensity, but it’s not good for you, and it’s draining you. When you meet someone- anyone- before you allow them into your life, you need to remember this orb. Put it in your mind’s eye and determine if they are going to match your energy with a positive energy or a negative one. When you start to be more careful about who you allow in, you will begin to heal. Your dream is a message of hope. You will find this out in your journey”
We were at dinner, and I cried… I felt almost ashamed…
I asked him why he was the one holding the orb, and he said he wasn’t sure, but probably because I trust him so much. That’s true; he’s like an angel to me.
I left there so upset with myself. And I was scared that if I went back to my childhood again, there’s no telling what I would find. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
When I resolved inside that I was ready to end my patterns (whatever they were) that were causing me so much pain, and ready to face whatever it was from my past, my Cozumel trip shifted again. It was clear now that this would be a 6 month Sabbatical. Time to heal. Really, really heal. My relationships were only a symptom of something deeper, and I had to uproot it once and for all.
I bought a book called Waking the Tiger, and Jefre said it was a good start. I decided not to begin it until I actually left Austin. I felt too emotionally unstable. “The guy” was gone without a word, no idea why or what happened, and I felt lied to, tricked, and confused. So here I was, moving week, leaving my home, getting ready to go to another country, with a broken heart. I still haven’t figured out why this particular relationship hit me so hard, but it has taken me every single effing day since then to pull myself out of sadness over this. When I Skype my best friend back home, I can’t even explain why I’m still having a hard time with it. It doesn’t make any sense to me… But maybe it will soon…? Because, I started the book.
This is so hard to write about. I keep having to leave this entry and come back because the things I’ve discovered the last couple of months and even more especially since I have been here are very, deeply personal and very painful.
Ok. The book.
The first couple of chapters talk about instincts and senses. It talks about how the western civilization goes through traumatic expereinces, but cannot seem to work past them because we buy things, or we sulk in a room, we hire doctors, we take medication, we allow fear and depression to take over, we immobilize our senses, we move away from our basic instincts, and we get locked up inside, unable to move THROUGH it. That’s the key, moving THROUGH it, not “past” it or “over it”. It went on to say that if someone has experienced trauma (anything from a car wreck, to childhood abuse, to a bad experience in a hospital, to sexual abuse, etc) the best thing he can do is to go somewhere where he can be warm. Outside. Near water. Where it is peaceful, and quiet, and slow-paced. He needs to stare at the stars, feel the air, listen to his surroundings, and begin to re-awaken senses.
I had chosen the perfect place, and didn’t even know it.
It then told a story about a bird that hit a window. It was stunned, but when left alone, un-touched, it was able to move through it’s own trauma. It was immobilized, but its senses kicked in, and it shook off the hit, began to be reoriented with its environment, felt the pain, moved through the pain, took a few moments, and then flew off. Another bird hit a window, and a child ever so gently touched it- the warmth of the child’s hands brought a sense of feeling back to the bird, allowing it to awaken, move through its trauma, and fly off as the first bird. The third bird hit a window, and was picked up by a person. It was petted and its wings were held down. It was restrained even after it woke up, and it was unable to move through its traumatic experience. The bird was never allowed to use its senses and instincts to work through its trauma, so it never did.
So something became clear here for me. People are attracted to the beauty of a bird. They are colorful and they fly! When wounded, they attract people who want to see its beauty, and help it be free to fly again. But even the most well-meaning person hinders a wounded bird when they become too close or too attached.
You bet your ass I cried my eyes out.
I took a few days off from reading the book. I had to allow myself to think about some of this.
One day, in my first week here in Cozumel, I took an afternoon while the kids were napping, and I read the book upstairs on my roof- the most perfect, peaceful place in the whole house. It offered a few exercises on re-awakening senses. Some were very simple, like taking a shower and paying attention to which parts of your body are getting wet. Just being aware of a feeling seems simple, but to a traumatized person, it is a base to begin from.
After this, the book encourages one to look at photos. Slowly. And note what emotions they evoke. This was a very in-depth exercise that I dont need to go into here, but OH MY GOD! BUY THE BOOK!
Then there was an exercise about holding ice. This seemed really stupid to me- to hold a piece of ice and consciously note how it felt, how it looked, etc., using all 5 senses. I mean, it’s a piece of ice. But I did it, and I will NEVER forget what happened. Life-altering.
I held this ice, I let it touch my fingertips, my arms, my legs, I left it melt, drip, shrink, do all those magical little things a piece of ice does. When it had melted completely, I was very in tune to all of my own senses. I started asking myself why I had been repeating such unhealthy patterns in my relationships. For some reason, the word “sacrifice” kept coming up. I noted the way that word made me felt and how it resounded inside. There was something about this word. I had hit something.
I got up and started pacing. I must have paced for an hour. I wasn’t getting anywhere. NO other word was evoking the same kind of emotion from me, the same feeling. What was it about this word? I started working backwards chronologically.
From the last guy I dated, to the one before, to the one before, to my marriage. None of that was right. It was all a symptom of something else. Now we were getting back into the years of me being in contact with my dad. I felt very upset. So I asked myself when the last time I felt loved by my dad. Was it after I moved out from his house? No… further. Was it from when I was a teenager? No… further. Pre-teen? Nope, further.
Here is when it got painful. I had to fornce myself back through all the horrible, horrible, awful, disgusting, hurtful memories until I reached little 7-year-old Auttie. I was shaking and crying as I remembered. I remembered the exact moment that was the last time I felt loved by my dad, and suddenly my whole world stood still. I even stopped breathing.
When he and my mom got divorced, he fought to gain custody of my brother and I. He worked 80-90 hours a week to take care of us. He could be completely sleep-deprived, but he spent QUALITY time with us on Sundays. He gave up friends, a social life, any free time to himself. I saw him cry more than once because of the weight on his shoulders, and even at age 7, I saw his pain and his struggle. He had “sacrificed” everything to prove that he loved me.
And that was it. Love equaled sacrifice to me.
I checked this revelation against every relationship I have ever had. And suddenly I realized that I had subconsciously required that men sacrifice their lives for me, and I sacrificed mine for them because that was the only way I knew how to express and receive love.
This explained why I would lose myself in my relationships, why it didn’t take long for me to be so deeply and desperately unhappy. When I dated weak, unhappy men, we clung to each other for dear life, as we both used each other as life jackets and both ended up drowning. This is also why when I dated strong, confident men, I was attracted to them because of their stability and their strength. But it never worked because they were not going to sacrifice themselves to make me happy.
I’ve slowly and carefully begun unveiling other small pieces of this messy puzzle, but now that I have gotten to the root, FINALLY, I am having to re-train myself, and re-set patterns and habits. This is not nearly as difficult to do now that I know the source, but it is taking conscious effort every single day, and even sometimes hour by hour. I don’t mean in my relationships, but just within myself. Learning what makes me tick and why. Deciding if a tendency is a reaction of something that needs to be addressed or if it is ok to continue. I write down words and phrases that evoke emotions from me, and when I feel strong enough to address it, I do.
Somewhere in me, I must have known that I needed this place. I needed the stillness, the peace, the quiet, the warmth, the water, the kindness of the people. I needed the distance, the new scenery, something to marvel at and awaken my senses. The unfamiliarity of it keeps me on my toes and encourages me to be aware of everything, and I didn’t know it when I decided to come, but that is a huge part of my healing.
I now know the reason for me being here. Cozumel is my own magical, healing island…