For the Kids

Sometimes, when raising these kids by myself, I am completely stuck. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, how to respond, or what to say. Part of the problem lately, is that I spent a lot of time doing what I felt like I needed and wanted, and not spending enough time with them. I didn’t neglect them, but they haven’t had my full attention either. I had become exhausted dealing with my own crap, and I felt like I needed to shift gears- get out of Auttie Land and start applying what I learned to improve my relationships with people I love.

I read one more chapter in “Waking the Tiger”, and it confirmed that I needed to take a break.  “Reversing the effects of either denial or amnesia takes a great deal of courage. The amount of energy that is released when this happens can be tremendous and should not be minimized or underestimated. It is a time of great significance for the traumatized person.”

I thought I should at least FINISH “Waking the Tiger” just because I was so close, and I was surprised that when I picked the book back up, the last couple of chapters were about how to deal with trauma when you have children. It was the perfect transition.

When I started focusing more of my energy on the kids, I saw some new behaviors that I didn’t really know how to correct.

Iris is already about 10 times more emotional than I am, if you can believe that, and she cries about EVERYTHING. I’m not kidding. A butterfly can land on her, and she will cry. (Yes, that happened.) She has been having bad dreams lately, and crying in the middle of the night. She lied to me a couple of times, and then made comments like, “You blame me for EVERYTHING!” She has tried to show her independence by doing things she isn’t supposed to and by being mean to her brother. She hasn’t wanted to socialize, and I noticed that she hasn’t been as creative with her toys as she used to be.

Legend throws temper tantrums that probably make my neighbors wonder if I’m beating him senseless. He slams doors. He screams and tells me he is mad at me when I don’t let him play with chemicals or sharp kitchen utensils. He eats my makeup and slathers nail polish and lotions all over the bathroom when he is supposed to be in bed. He climbs up on the cabinets and eats all the food when I’m asleep, and he refuses to bathe.

They both whine, tell me “no”, do the exact opposite of what I tell them half the time, and bedtime makes my hair grey. They are both spirited and strong-willed, and are way too smart to be manipulated with treats or toys (an unsuccessful approach I gave up a long time ago).

I saw other friends try to correct the behavior and I didn’t like their approach at all. I tried to correct it my own way, and I didn’t like that either. So I bought a book called “Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids” that I found on Amazon. It seemed like the approach was based more on love, connection, and understanding rather than punishment, and lots of time outs. (I don’t spank, and any book that recommends it is a huge turn off.)

 

Without doing a complete book review, I’ll tell you that I incorporated several of the books’ principles into mine and the kids’ lives over the last week, and have seen dramatic improvements in how we have interacted with each other. This week, was a HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE test of my patience as I tried to understand their feelings rather than just deal with them. Instead of sending to their room, I sat down and talked to them. I hugged and held them more. I went on one-on-one dates with them every single day this week to establish a better connection. I had one-on-one talks with them each night at bedtime for a few minutes. I read more stories, played more games, initiated more conversations at mealtime, stayed off of my computer in the evenings, went for more walks, and laughed more. Iris brought up old memories from Austin that were bothering her apparently, so we talked about that a lot this week. Legend just wanted to go explore with me, and hold my hand.

The result after doing all of this for one week is that I’m exhausted again. 🙂

Juuuust kidding. But seriously. Iris has only cried once in 4 days. That is pretty much miraculous. Legend hasn’t eaten my makeup or covered the bathroom in nail polish for 3 days. No one cries at bedtime. Everyone is napping easier. They are both hugging each other, helping each other, and interacting with each other better. I’m not yelling. They aren’t yelling.  (Ok, Legend is still yelling, but he is getting better.) And Iris has been opening up to me, and telling me things she wants to learn or try, and I see her being creative on her own again. Yesterday, at a birthday party, she played with all the other kids, and she used a fork as a microphone and sang and danced for everyone. THAT’S my girl.

They have both already told me what they want to do on their “dates” with me this week, and it gives us all something to look forward to. Things feel more balanced now that I am healthier- I not only recognize that they need something from me, but I’m learning what they need and how to give it to them, which keeps our home and our little family happy and peaceful. Plus! When the kids are happy, they let me pick the games more often, which means MORE BLANKET FORTS! So we all win. 🙂


Breaths

People frequently say, “Calm down, just breathe”, and it is a good reminder, but I don’t think a lot of people understand the power that comes with controlling your breathing.

I have practiced slow, controlled breathing during my meditation time for the last few years, and I have talked before how I have relied on breathing exercises to get me through the most stressful parts of my divorce a couple years ago, starting my business, and moving out of the country. I also talked in one of my last posts about how I did a breathing exercise during a private yoga session; it was very challenging, but once completed, I felt like I was able to work through yet another traumatic situation from years ago.

Last week, I started my open water diving certification classes. I have a private teacher, so I don’t have to worry about learning with a group. I knew it was a good thing for me because of how much it focuses on breathing, but I have to admit, I was a little naive in how dangerous diving is. Breathing properly is sort of a life-and-death issue. The first rule in diving is to never ever ever EVER hold your breath. You have to breathe calm and steady, slow breaths or you can either damage your lungs or run out of air too quickly. My first day out in the water, I was nervous. I had never dove (that word doesn’t look right- dived? doven?) before and I could feel my anxiety creeping up. I had all of this heavy equipment on, fins, weights, and a regulator to breathe out of, and all of it was unfamiliar and restricting. We went for a very shallow swim, and my instructor said he thought I could do an open water dive the next day.

I decided to meet him in the morning so I didn’t have a chance to talk myself out of it. I practiced slow steady breathing before we went out, and this time, I felt more comfortable in shallow water. My instructor told me that he thought I was ready for part of my testing- rescue techniques.

I won’t lie. I was scared. We had to simulate me being out of air and needing to use his regulator, and him being out of air and needing to use my regulator. We had to go down 20-25 feet, and simulate me being out of air while keeping my lungs equalized (there is a fancy term for this that I probably need to know for my written test, but I forget it). Getting down to 25 feet was scary enough, knowing I was about to have to pretend I was out of air, but I knew how important it was to keep breathing and equalize my ears, so I took my time getting down there.  He was patient too, and let me prepare myself before we went back to the top. Once back on the surface, I had to manually pump up my vest with my mouth so that I could float and not sink back down to the bottom. I wonder how many people who are really out of air remember to blow air in their vest when they get to the top without panicking.

Ok there is a reason this story is important to me.

I was working through my trauma book the other day, and there was a chapter on imagining you’re in a life-and-death situation. One part instructed me to imagine I am in an airplane and I suddenly hear an engine blow. Then it said to note my senses and my reactions. I refused to do that because I HATE imagining horrible situations and losing peace in my mind and body after I spend most of my time trying to GET peace in my mind and body. I can’t make myself think about what I would do or how I would react in such an awful situation because it’s painful. I don’t like how it feels…

But while diving, I was put in a situation in which I had to physically simulate a bad situation. A life-and-death situation. I recognized how my body and mind were reacting to my dive instructor’s directions right before we did the simulation, and I have gotten far enough in my daily trauma exercises to know how to get myself under control. The most important parts to working through trauma are 1) activating the felt senses [all 5 senses] 2) noting the feelings that come with each of the senses 3) allowing the energy from these feelings to be expelled, and 4) move through the fear ind into safety. I knew that completing this simulation was actually going to be very beneficial for me if I could complete it. If I couldn’t, then fear will have won.

So down we went… And after a couple of minutes, back up we came.

He said I did it beautifully. No panic. No shaking. No crying. He had no idea I even had any hesitations. Afterwards, he took me far out to a sunken ship, and I have to say, that exploring that ship was one of the most amazing things I have EVER done. Had I not completed the exercise, he would not have felt confident in taking me out there, and I would not have received such a beautiful reward.

This was a really good indication to me that I’m on the right track, and that what I’m doing is working for me. I’m learning that I am not anyone’s victim. I am not immobilized by fear. I am safe. I am in control of my body, my mind, my feelings, and my entire life. No one who ever hurt me before can keep me down or destroy me. I am whole. I am complete. And I will continue to take hold of my healing and my happiness, while breathing in and out… in and out… in and out…


The Mexican Fisherman Story

I read this story right before I came to Cozumel. I remembered thinking that this is how a lot of Americans are programmed to think- myself included. When I got here and saw how everyone worked enough to live and then really LIVED their lives, I was astounded. People here are happy with very few “things” because they are so grateful for their lives and their families. They share everything. They work together as a community. They give and love in ways I’ve never seen. This story reminds us what is important.

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.” The American then asked, “Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The Mexican said, “I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.” The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA, and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”


Currents

A week before I came to Cozumel, I had a dream: I dreamed I decided that instead of flying here, I would walk. There was a bridge from home to Cozumel. I remember having one bag, and I started walking across this trans-ocean bridge. When I got about halfway out, ominous clouds formed and covered the whole sky. I walked faster, but the storm came, and destroyed the bridge. I lost my belongings, and fought the waves to stay above the surface. When I got tired, I realized I couldn’t continue fighting like I was or I would drown. So I decided to feel the current, ride the rhythm of the waves and watch the sky. I didn’t know how to chart stars (and this frequently comes up in my dreams) but I watched them anyway. The storm kept on. The waves kept rising and falling. And I rode with them. I did this all night. When I got scared, I looked at the stars. When I felt strong, I swam with the currant. At dawn, I saw debris in the ocean and I swam underneath another bridge, so I knew I was close. Finally, I reached the shore, completely calm, at peace, and grateful…

I remember in the months leading up to coming here, I had all these big plans. I was going to work on all these projects, and build businesses, and help the community in all of my free time, and get my non-profit organization running.  Instead, every time I even TRY to work on one of these projects, I feel a gentle reminder to stop and just be.

Since I have realized that this time here is for healing, I’m trying to let it be really for “me”. It’s like a baby coming out of the womb too soon- she will fight for survival unless she waits until she has fully developed.

In the mornings, I go for a run, and I sit by the ocean wall to meditate. I let the waves kiss my feet and listen to them crash against the rocks. I practice breathing steadily and calmly until my face is relaxed. This is usually when the self-realization hits me and I get emotional. I’m starting to discover that brokenness isn’t something to fear or avoid. It is beautiful because when given time, sunshine, and water, new growth pushes through the cracks, giving way to new life. That is where I am right now. Awakening my soul and my senses, and coming back alive at the core of Autumn.

Before I came, I found a woman online named Tammy who practiced yoga and some healing techniques, and when I got here, I found out she and I had a mutual Facebook friend, who was introduced to me by a childhood friend- cool connection. They were going to a yoga brunch together last weekend, and it was open to the community so I went. Actually, I almost just skipped it. I couldn’t find the place, and my taxi driver gave up and left me on the side of the road in an area I had never been, and of course, no one spoke English. But eventually I found it, and I was so so so glad I didn’t pass up the lunch. I met some of the most fabulous women- yogis, and even rock climbers!

I won a free yoga session with Tammy, so I went on Tuesday. We had a long talk before hand, and I told her some of the things I had been working on, the exercises I had been doing for trauma, and how I needed help with focusing and breathing. One of the breathing exercises was challenging for me because it reminded me of the dream above, and I felt like I was drowning. So fear started to creep in, and I had to find a way to work through it in my mind because as I have discovered, if I don’t work through a fear, it immobilizes me. After this, I felt a release and it was very powerful. I hope she didn’t see the tears in my eyes.

This may seem very simple to most people. But this session with Tammy showed me that I am ready to face fears that I have always avoided, and I have found a way to go THROUGH it, coming out stable and grounded on the other side. Tammy said I am “ripe” for healing, and I feel myself receiving that every single day. In my quiet time, I am asking myself the questions Ive always avoided, and I have begun to allow all the traumatic junk from my childhood and my parents to come up again.

Very. Slowly.

Two people have warned me not to try to do too much at once, but I think I have a pretty good grip on what I can handle on a daily basis. I know when I’m stable enough to work on my exercises, and I know when it would be better if I just go to the ocean.

Tammy also introduced me to someone who works with people who have gone through trauma, so we will be meeting soon. And I am about to start body treatments that are good for activating the felt senses (all 5 senses), which is all part of re-awakening the parts of me that I shut down after years of trauma (which is the most common way people deal with trauma, shutting down).

Some days here are very painful. I spend a lot of time alone, thinking, remembering, crying, but emerging stronger. I feel like sometimes, I’m allowing myself to be TOO emotional, but maybe that’s what I need- to swim with the currents of my emotional waves right now, knowing it is temporary, and I’ll be firmly grounded on the other side when it’s over.

I already have a strong support system here. I feel guilty and selfish sometimes that I spend so much time alone, without the kids. But I know I have to do this now so that we can be stronger and healthier as a family. Their nanny is unbelievable- already like family, and she is so good to them. She is very sweet, and includes the kids in her family functions. Even if I need an afternoon to go snorkeling, swimming, walking, or on some kind of adventure, she stays here with the kids, and I am always confident that they are safe and taken care of. In the evenings, I take the kids swimming while we watch the sunset, so we always have evenings and weekends together. That is important…

My ex husband asked me the other day how long I would be here, and I told him I wasn’t leaving until I felt completely healed from everything. I guessed 6 months. But when i Skype friends back home, they say they can see such a difference in my countenance and my energy. Other people here who saw me 3 weeks ago, and then saw me this week have said “You look healed to me!” Don’t say that too loud, friends- I’m not ready to go yet! 🙂


The Journey to Healing

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…


Mexi-flow.

It is such a different world here. I have not gotten uncomfortable with any of the differences, but I haven’t exactly embraced all of them either. I keep finding myself saying, “Well, at home, we don’t do it that way.” Then the other day, one of my friends who has lived here his whole life say, “You are in Mexico. You are Mexican.”

It made me think. If I wanted to live like I had always lived, I could have stayed home. I wanted to live a different way, so I have to live like the locals live in as many ways as I can. I do this easily in some ways- I live with the locals, I shop in the local stores, I eat at the local restaurants, and I usually stay away from “tourist-y” areas. That’s easy.

It’s other things- little ways that make me stand out. My friends here sort of laugh at me because I’m so American. One friend says, “Why do you use electric? I can open that can with a knife.”

Or “Flour tortillas? No, use corn.”

Or “That’s not that far- you walk.”

Or “Pee over there.”

Or “What is this sour cream, you say?”

Or when I cook, “What do you call THAT?”

Or my favorite, “Just let them go. They will learn to swim.” ha.

I decided that they were right (on some things). Yes, I want to be a Mexican while I’m in Mexico. Ok- except for the amount of income I bring in, and how many children I will have. I don’t like their numbers.

I told all of my local friends that I want to live like them and learn their language, so now, they correct everything I do, and only speak to me in Spanish. *sigh*

Not only that, but requests I made previously, like “Be on time. Always.” is now only a laughable request. The other night, we all met at a restaurant, and when I saw them, I said, “Do you realize you are AN HOUR AND A HALF late? We all left the boat at the same time! I had to go home, shower, do my hair and makeup, get two kids ready, walk to the grocery store while carrying my 5 year old [who had 2nd degree burns from stepping on a motorcycle exhaust pipe; yes that was a fun day] to get a taxi; I got here, ordered food and drinks, drank one of them, and you are JUST now getting here?!”

To which they shook their head at me, chuckled and said, “Relax, Sirena [my Spanish nickname]. We are here now. Why waste any time being upset? We can have fun now!”

Oh sure, no big deal…. WHAT THE HELL?!

I hate when people are late. I have broken up with men for being late. No way is that ok. But I guess here, I have to go with the Mexi-flow. You like that? I invented it just now.

The last couple of days, I have tried to be more “relaxed” as they tell me. I just “chill”, go wherever, whenever, don’t worry about a schedule or a clock. I get lost or hit by boats, but that’s just part of the experience, I guess. (No really, my shoulder has cuts and bruises). Let’s just hope that I don’t carry this behavior over into my work, because I have a feeling if I show up to a conference call an hour and a half late, my clients will not understand my Mexi-flow attitude.

I can’t help that I like some of my routines though. Mondays are still laundry and grocery shopping day. But I put a little Mexican twist on it, by walking to the grocery store, buying “local” food, and hanging my clothes up on a clothes line. It seems like a fair compromise. I drink their beer, even though I want MY beer. I still make the kids take naps, and that is frowned upon. Here kids are allowed to do whatever they want. Strangely, no one’s kids are unruly at all. I’ll have to think about this…

OH! Did I mention that I carry re-usable bags to the store? They get a kick out of that. Apparently, that’s not common, and it screams “AMERICAN”. As if that weren’t obvious enough, I can’t tell them in Spanish what I want done with my re-usable bags, so I have to do this charades routine to get it taken care of. They laugh at me a lot there. But it’s the Austin in me. Maybe it will catch on. Or maybe they will just keep laughing at the silly American.

Ohhh so much I’m learning… I spend every evening on my roof, meditating, breathing it all in, teary-eyed most nights, and thankful for this place. Even though it seems to be in its own time zone. 🙂


Things I’ve learned so far in Mexico

I have not been here a week, and yet, I’ve had to figure some things out- not that any of it is bad or hard- I mean, I’m on an island. It’s all pretty easy around here. But the way of life is different, and it’s an adjustment, even in all it’s fabulousity.

Learn how to ask for the bus station. No matter what other Spanish you learn, learn this! Otherwise, the bus driver will drop you off on a random corner with all 6 pieces of your luggage, and your friends will not be there waiting for you. They will be at the bus station. And you will incur a $400 phone bill from AT&T because your roaming will be on. Because you have to find your friends. And they are at the bus station.

Milk isn’t cold. You can search the whole grocery store, but you won’t find it in the refrigerators. You will find it in the dead center of the store, in a cardboard carton. And you will be terrified to drink it because it’s NOT COLD.

You cannot do pull-ups on the door frames to strengthen your climbing fingers. I don’t want to say the houses here are “flimsy”, so let’s just say they are built “differently”. I would advise against trying this…

Two streets within close proximity have the same name. We live on 5th, so I thought. Actually, we live on the “fake 5th”. When referring to street names, you have to clarify if it’s the “real” street or the “fake” one.

You can’t put toilet paper int he toilet. This is the most unnatural thing. You have to throw it in the trashcan after each use. To avoid embarrassment, you should put your poo toilet paper in a separate plastic grocery bag and THEN throw it in the trash. Also, empty the trash every day. Or it will stink. Weird right?

You can drive down the road with your doors open. And locals will laugh at you when you dive into the back seat to close the door of a moving vehicle.

Everyone here has a moped, and everyone here has 4 kids. I saw a woman with a 2 year old holding on to her back for dear life, a kid on each knee, and she was breast-feeding the baby. While she was driving down the street. I was told not to worry- they had helmets.

Oh here’s a good one. When someone asks you if you want to “sleep together” what they mean is “do you need a roommate?” Don’t panic like I did, or it will make for a very awkward conversation.

Water is labeled “hot” and “cold” in the shower. When there’s no hot water, and you have to convince your kids to take showers with “cold water straight from the ocean!” and they’re both crying, let me save you the email to your property manager. They just labeled the sides of the water faucet wrong. There’s plenty of hot water for everyone.

If you tell someone that you want to learn Spanish, they will not speak to you in English. It’s frustrating, but you quickly learn how to take out your frustration by cursing in Spanish. Maldita sea. I say that one a lot. See? Learning already.

Everyone knows everyone on the island. When you’re the new person, you get bombarded with friend requests on Facebook because everyone wants to know you or work for you. This is all really awesome because I want to know everyone too, and I need sitters for the kids! And that’s all- it’s pretty cool.

The number one question I get besides “what is your name?” is “where is your husband?” I decided to start telling them that he is “away at sea, and hes brawny with a sore temper”. This keeps the crazies away.

Mexicans don’t have vultures. They have Mexican Eagles. Same thing, nicer name.

When you go to the grocery store, take re-usable bags and something to haul them home in. I had to buy VERY expensive beach bags while there, and walked home with all of them on my shoulder. With a crying 2 year old and a whiny 5 year old. And a mop and a broom.

Oh, you have to sweep and mop every day!

Ants live inside your house and it’s normal. It’s also impossible to get rid of them. I just sweep them up 3 times a day and stick them back outside.

You have to figure out how to get the cross-breeze in your house to avoid a high electricity bill. For me, its 2 doors and a specific window- haven’t had to run the downstairs AC since I figured it out.

Neighbors are your best friends! People randomly show up at my gate and yell “Hola, amiga!” They just show up to chat or bring me things, like toys for the kids or fresh fruit. Back home, I had neighbors show up to take internet and food. It’s a nice change.

The local guys call me a mermaid. I don’t correct them.

It rains at the weirdest times, and it’s never on the weather forecast.

No one here can get over the fact that I have blonde-haired, blue-eyed kids. It’s almost like they want to talk to me just to figure out how I did that. I’m a mermaid, that’s how. I can do anything.

People here are not vain. Whereas in the states, we have entire stores dedicated to beauty products, here, there is a very small back corner of makeup and nail polish. And no, they don’t have my colors. I have dark purple painted toes now. Yeesh.

There is no reason to straighten hair. Or even brush it. Wind and salt water ruin it. Actually, humidity ruins it before you ever walk out the door.

You can’t leave crackers out, or they get really moist.

Store-bought tortilla chips are AWFUL! Isn’t that ironic?!

You will always have one mosquito in your house. And you will hate him.

Everyone is on Mexico time, so when someone says, “I’ll be right over”, what they mean is, “I’m going to take a nap, go to the store, and to the taco stand, and I’ll be there in a few hours. Possibly tomorrow.” Oh and good luck getting the kids to bed on time. They don’t do that here.

I am the only vegetarian n the island. When I go to a taco place and ask for a veggie taco, they say “no”. My friend here says, “Tacos have meat. No meat? No taco.” We went to a place the other night, and he had to talk these people into making me tacos with bell peppers, onions and mushrooms. They weren’t going to do it! He had to beg them in Spanish. Something about a crazy white girl, and just give her vegetables. I’m just kidding. He doesn’t say I’m crazy. He says I’m “a complicated lady”. NO! I just want VEGGIE TACOS AND PUNCTUALITY!!!!!

This place is awesome, and I’m having a great time. I have lots of stories to tell! I’ll save them for later. I have beer to drink. 😉