Archives for the month of: March, 2013

stuff

And just like that, it is done. He’s out in the garage searching for the contractor sized garbage bags. We’ve opened a flood gate, and it’s broken free from its hinges and rushing downstream never to be seen from again.

We’re downsizing. In a big way.

Maybe it is this quote that I saw the other day that inspired me.

“I’m 82 and live on and with the barest of necessities, for the less I have, the better I feel. I regularly go through my small house wondering what else I can get rid of. Minimalism is soothing, aesthetically appealing. I sometimes fantasize about living in a cell like a monk – a cot, a table, and a window.

Knowing what I know now, if I had my life to live over, at the age of 18, instead of sitting around devising plans for a cluttered life, I would put a knapsack on my back and with my dog I would leave the house and just start walking.”

Or maybe it was this article that I read about living in a tiny space and making room for bigger and better moments in your life.

Or maybe, just maybe, it is time. Maybe I’ve just outgrown my things as I no longer want to be “kept” by them. Take my beloved books for example, years of collecting titles to fill some fantasy library, moving them from place to place… now just reminders of words I haven’t read, time that I just don’t have.

And for the books that I’ve read, that I love, that I’ll go back to again… how fair is it for me to keep them waiting on the “someday” where I might read or need them again? Or would they best be served on someone else’s nightstand, inspiring, encouraging, educating?

The other day, my 9 year old declared that she wants a bigger house, one with rooms upon rooms that we can fill with many things, and some that we can just keep empty. “As big as a hotel,” she declared, “so there is space for everything I want.”

I am horrified. Time for a change.

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sidebyside
(photo credit: me. And I swear to you that these images are not retouched… except for erasing some water droplets that got on my lens in the Guam shot.)

There was a lovely man, with crazy hair, that proved that time is relative some years ago. I understood this to mean that waiting an hour in traffic when you are late for an appointment was actually akin to doing so in years, and spending an hour catching up with an old friend goes by in the time it takes a hummingbird to dry its wings. You know, the uncomplicated, easily digestible understanding of time. Then I traveled to and from an island in the Pacific to a town in the Northeast, in the winter, with children, and time became an entirely new concept for me.

No matter how much I prepared, how many activities, sleep aids and herbal supplements I packed, I now realize that I was preparing for something that I couldn’t possibly comprehend. Kind of like packing to climb Mt. Everest, and being sent to teach English to a group of small children in a Thai village. Not even English… Swahili.

Going there was taxing, but not insurmountable. We chased the sun as we flew west, and spent 21 hours in daylight. This just tricked us into feeling like we had lived through the longest day ever. Once we boarded our last flight (4 hours long), and the night sky descended upon us, we were toast. We tumbled off of the plane, out into the 86 degree humid air, and into the loving arms of our family. Congratulations, you have now arrived at Bliss State! We spent some short hours celebrating, then off to bed. It was midnight Guam time, 3pm our time.

In the days that followed, I quickly gave up looking at clocks, converting time zones and worrying about sleeplessness. It was easy. When you wake up in Guam at 3:30am, you simply strap the paddle boards to the car and go off in pursuit of some night snorkeling. And as you do so, you are treated to the most symphonic rising of the sun over the ocean that you can imagine. Even the rain, warm rain!, brings you waves of joy. You think to yourself, “Thank goodness that I’m awake and I did not miss this!”. And later, around 4pm when your children are passing out asleep trying to go to the bathroom, you simply scoop them up, kiss them on the cheek, place them into bed and look forward to swimming with the phosphorescent fish in the wee hours of the next day.

I never knew what time it was in Guam, and I didn’t care. When the sun came up, I was there waiting. I ate when I was hungry and went to sleep when I was tired. Our days were so filled with sun and warmth and activity, that we simply dropped when we couldn’t stand anymore. We were exhausted and happy.

I realized that I had put so much time and effort into worrying about my kids and the long flight and the time difference, that I never even gave the actual experience any thought. Perhaps that was a good thing. I can’t even say that our trip exceeded my wildest expectations, because I didn’t have any. But if I’d had… it blew them away.

And perhaps this tactic also backfired on me when I never gave a thought to the trip home. I can’t help now wondering if there was some way I could have steeled us against the jarring affect it would have upon us to return. I doubt it.

To come home, we boarded an early morning flight to Hawaii (7 hours) and crossed the international dateline. The day before we departed it was my youngest’s 6th birthday. Now, in Hawaii at 6:30 at night, it was her birthday once more. For this second birthday, Oahu pulled off a rainbow, right outside of our terminal as we disembarked our incoming flight. The sun was setting and the breeze was magical. My husband and I looked at each other with a flash of panic. Quick! How do we stay? How do we keep the inevitable at bay? My husband actually begged at the airline counter for any solution that would keep us in the Pacific breezes just a little longer.

“I’m sorry,” sympathized the agent. “Unless one of your children is either severely injured or desperately sick, which would prevent them from flying, there is nothing that I can do. You will have to board your flight.”

Our children will never be able to question our love for them. We thanked the man and left Oahu, Hawaii for Newark, NJ in February.

Hawaii to NJ was 9.5 hours, most of it filled with fitful sleep and repeated movies. Immediately following was a final 1 hour flight to our hometown, complete with no onboard bathroom, a 6 year old’s bladder, and a spilled carrot ginger drink. We arrived home at 2:30pm, miraculously collected all of our bags (I’m always thrilled and amazed when all of my luggage ends up where it is supposed to be. For this very reason, I will forever believe in Santa Claus.), and stumbled out into the NY afternoon… grey, brown, raining, snowing, cold.

The days that followed… well, I’d like to give you an honest recap of the days that followed, but frankly this must be what it is like at the beginning stages of rehab for a meth habit. Sleep became an elusive drug that was never available when we needed it. We try to go to bed at a decent hour, only to be wide awake to start our day in the middle of the night once more. However this time, there was no symphonic sunrise or gentle tradewinds to greet us – just darkness and snow and ice. So we’d toss and turn and cry. Sleep is like a lover who has moved on; the harder you to try to embrace her, the farther away she gets.

Nights felt like days, and days felt like Hell. That first morning I dragged myself out of bed, after 4 hours of sleep, at 11am terrified that I’d be left behind in the Guam time zone. Grocery shopping seemed like the most reasonable and less demanding activity, however it just intensified our feeling of culture shock. I craved to find myself once again in a sea of happy, vacationing, polite Japanese tourists, hearing nothing but their giggles and soft voices. Instead I was met with angrily knit brows, ashen flesh and the bitter sentiment that we’d all been orphaned in this godforsaken frozen wasteland and it was every man for themselves.

By the second full day home, I was desperate for a solution. Experts say that spending as much time as you can in direct sunlight will increase your melatonin and speed your recovery from jet lag. Yeah, great, I live where the light is like weak tea with a strong shot of whole milk. These grey skies did nothing for us. So, I thought perhaps we just needed some re-orienting to something familiar, warm and exhausting, and I made us swim at the local Y for 3 hours.

It was great and worked like a charm for the children – they slept for 12 hours straight. I don’t know if that would have worked for me. I got a call 15 minutes before midnight from my sister who was going into labor and I was the birth coach. Two days back and time to help deliver a baby. Most definitely the crowning achievement out of all of my beyond-my-bloody-mind moments.

After 3 days and nights with 3-4 hours of sleep, sporadic at best, and dangerously high levels of caffeine in my system (in my dreams, I would be lost and confused, and go searching for coffee to help me re-orient) I found myself dreaming while I was awake. My husband would be trying to hold a conversation with me, and I’d throw something in there about it raining macaroni, and quickly realize that despite the time on the clock, I needed to go to bed.

Perhaps it is only when we are so far out of ourselves, out of our comfort zone and the cushion of what we’ve come to expect, that we are able to perceive our situation and the reality around us in a new and never-before-considered light.

That first night, at 2:17am, in a pathetic bit of parenting, I turned on what would hopefully be an incredibly boring television show for my children to help them fall asleep.

[image of snow laden forest]
“Do you hate the cold? Are you tired of being stuck inside all winter? Why not live where it is warm and you can swim, snorkel and surf all year round? You don’t have to be rich to live in Hawaii, you just have to want it.”

I looked around to find the hidden camera, and in my delirious state, wondered how Alan Funt could hide in my closet.

“You know what Mom? I could live in Hawaii, as long as we brought all of our pets.”

Thank you Universe. I’m reading you loud and clear.

dharma
We have stumbled upon a secret government project to create a race of super humans here upon the island. Everyone here is extremely fit and is either training for (or just completed) a marathon, triathlon or Iron Man. 5ks are for fun or for the children. You can recognize the specimens because they are all clothed in race t-shirts and say things like, “Oh, you can do this, it’s a short triathlon.” Our first few days here, my sister-in-law ran a half marathon rather unwillingly since she hurt her back the day before. She won, of course. Her medal was a beer bottle opener and a plastic carabao bank. She is excited to run their international marathon in a few weeks. What human would be excited to run a marathon with a toy as a prize? A bionic human designed for world domination, that’s who.

Brian lost 10 lbs. in our first 4 days. I can now fit into my sister-in-law’s Speedo. We’re tan, fit and exhausted. We may just move here.

aganabay
After several days of feeling like a pebble in a washing machine, we’re just beginning to get acclimated to the time, temperature and sun. We’ve spent several mornings waking hours before daylight was even a consideration, which gave us the opportunity to night snorkel, learn to paddle board in the dark and watch the sun rise. Brian and I are in the middle of dive certification. Between the 15 hour time difference, and sitting under 20 feet of water for the last few days, I’m no longer actually in my body. I think I’m floating somewhere about 3 feet above and to the left.

I now believe in ozone depletion. 50+ SPF is the starting point of sunblock here, with re-application every 30 min. Even with 50, 70 and 110 SPF on, everyone is getting burned. Today is a day of hiding.

Guam is exceptionally beautiful. The skies are pink and fluffy and the breeze feels like a slow kiss from a new lover. The sea is teeming with life, fireworks under the water. It is so easy to just exist in gratitude when every waking hour isn’t filled with fighting the cold. Reconnecting with our family after 2 years is like finding a favorite lost sweater – warm, cozy, familiar. The children move together like swarms of bees, eat like lions and drop into bed with smiles on their faces. We are truly blessed.