Happy birthday to me!!! When I get up in the middle of the night, Nick sings me Happy Birthday. :)
In the morning, a parade of soldier crabs traverses our campsite; you have to watch where you step. I think they are returning to the forest after their nightly foray to the ocean.
It’s a short drive to Francis Bay, where we snorkel in the turquoise blue water with a blessedly mild-temperature. I fully expect to see turtles, based on someone else’s experience, but not a one. A small disappointment. The coral is mostly dead, but there are some large and small schools of fish swimming about, and some colorful, tropical fish, too.
I’ve come to a realization: Not only do I extremely dislike cold showers, but I don’t like tolerating them either. I would rather skip showering, but that’s hard to do when your hair is full of salt and sand. On my next beach vacation, I think I might splurge for an actual hotel room, so cleaning off is refreshing, rather than torture. But I survive, and it does feel good being clean.
The restaurant I chose for my birthday dinner is mysteriously closed (it’s normally open on Sunday). A small disappointment. There are a few other restaurants nearby, but nothing that captures our eye tonight. The only other option is to drive over to Cruz Bay, on the opposite end of the island. We take Centerline Road, which runs down the center of the island. We’re about a mile away from town when we turn a corner and traffic comes to an abrupt stop. There is a long line of red brake lights glaring back at us. We never get close enough to see what happened, but after about ten minutes, cars begin turning around, and we do the same. I guess the roads are so narrow that if an accident happens, it become impassable. So, we have to drive all the back to Coral Harbor where we can cross over to North Shore Road, which runs along the coast. And then we still have to drive the entire length of this road before we reach Cruz Bay. Yet another disappointment. My stomach is growling and grumbling and voicing all sorts of dissent by the time we park almost two hours later.
It’s during this third cross-island commute of the evening when all the little disappointments of the day swirl unbidden in my mind. The bay devoid of turtles and the dead coral. The overcast weather and rain. The closed restaurant. Too much time in a car. And it hits me: oh my god, I have the TRAVELER’S CURSE. Basically, the more you see and experience as you travel, the more you discover beautiful little bits and pieces of our world. The problem is, they’re never all in one place. So I find myself, on this beautiful tropical island vacation that every single person I know is envious of, comparing the dead reefs to the vibrant coral I snorkeled through in Hawaii; the yucky weather to the warm, sunny beach days I experienced in Costa Rica; the dingy cot and frigid shower to the big, comfy bed and warm shower I could escape to at the all-inclusive resort in Cancun. I’ve had so many incredible experiences that I can not simply enjoy a new one without comparison. Hmmm, this will have to change...
Dinner is lovely (and the two drinks definitely perk up my dampened spirits). As a birthday treat, I get to order my own dessert! Yay!! (Of course, I eat some of Nick’s, too.)
Sometime during the middle of the night, my eyes open and I’m wide awake. I silently step barefoot to the beach and sit in the sand, a starry sky above and the high tide almost reaching my toes. And I discover that I’m ready to cultivate an inner calm, a state without positive or negative. I’ve learned this, but I’ve resisted in the past, because I didn’t want to give up happiness. Who wants to let go of that high? But now I realize that happiness is a dangerous emotion. It’s difficult to perpetually sustain because if I honestly judge my circumstances and experiences, they don’t always evoke happiness. And when the door is open for this positive emotion, it provides space for negative emotions to fill the void when it’s missing. They are yin and yang; one can’t exist without the other. I wouldn’t understand the pleasure of happy if I never experienced the devastation of sad. Happiness is based on judgement, altered by expectations, founded on preconceived notions. I don’t want to live in a world of judgement and expectations anymore, where I can be disappointed as easily as I can be elated. Instead, I will strive to create an inner calm, a contentment with life, an acceptance of being as I am and as things are at that moment. I am grateful to this journey, to the cloudy skies, for helping me learn this lesson.