| A little border crossing over into
Nicaragua the other week
I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that scare you, hesitation from one moment to the next, sincerity with people you know well and people you want to know well. Sincerity with strangers even. Lending a helping hand or even just a smile to someone you don’t know. And above all, respect. Respect enough to always tell someone exactly what you’re thinking and to do it gracefully with tact, even if you’re afraid of the outcome. Having courage takes balls. It doesn’t happen overnight.
There were so many people that told me I was crazy, stupid, foolish to leave Rochester and move to Latin America. It’s dangerous for a blond gringa. What’s wrong with just staying in the States and working there? Here’s the thing, you can live your whole life in fear, fear of change, fear of tomorrow, fear of relationships, fear of the unknown, fear of the known. Or you can grab that bull by the horns and ride the living daylights out of it, laughing, crying, smiling, fighting, realizing, changing, meditating, rising fierce and loving gently. It’s your choice. You only live once, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Everywhere in the world is dangerous and everywhere in the world is safe, we cannot control circumstances but we can control our actions, we can control what dark streets we walk down at night. We can control how we react to situations, we can take everything as a moment or a lesson in the grand scheme of things or, like a weed that desiccates in the sun, we can let it dry us up, make us brittle and bitter.
I had a moment the other night, I was talking to a friend online and she pointed out to me that “there is no shame in what you’re feeling or hoping for.” I was feeling like maybe I made the wrong decision in coming here. I was thinking, “geez, why did I come here, what was I thinking? Maybe this isn’t the place for me.” Even though I knew it was. I went around the Pacific and felt almost nothing for the places there. They were nice but they were not for me. Here in Puerto Viejo I find myself smiling for no reason, especially when I’m on my bike, especially when I’m by the ocean and simply listening. Sometimes you just need to listen, the crash, the hum, the quick silence at times when no waves are barreling and then the sudden crash and hum again. The energy here is completely different from the Pacific, it’s palpable here, there’s life in the air here, there’s an ebb and flow of electricity and you can sense it if you sit real quiet and listen. I used to always tell Ashley to do this when she was having a rough time in Tulum before I arrived.
I often think of my best friend, Ashley, the one perhaps you have read about in earlier posts. She defied everyone’s negative reactions towards her choosing to have her baby in Mexico at home with a midwife. This was what she wanted, it didn’t matter what others thought. She may not have come out of it all unscathed but she did it nonetheless and she’s stronger for it all now. She’s a different person, she’s someone I admire, she’s someone I look up to (not that I didn’t before but even more so now). I want to mirror her courage, her strength, her endurance. She’s a warrior, she’s a fighter, and that little bundle of goodness nestled at her breast is the luckiest kid in the world. We used to discuss fear and darkness when I was in Mexico. Or, how far would you go for yourself, how far can you pull yourself out of your own fear. Ashley pulled herself out, I watched the entire transformation and it was breathtaking, the transformation from Vermont to Mexico, the transformation from woman to mother. The transformation from one being becoming two separate beings but always bound by blood. A mother has different eyes, I saw them change in Ashley and it blew me away. It wasn’t easy for her, it wasn’t easy for me, the labor, the birth, the time afterwards, the beginning of Calai’s life. She labored for a day at home before she needed to be moved to a hospital in Cancun to have a cesarean. She hadn’t dilated past 3 cm in 24 hours. She was beyond exhausted. I had gone home for a few hours to sleep in the middle of the night when they decided to go to the hospital. I woke up to an email from our other friend, Sarah, who was there for the birth as well. It all happened so fast and they couldn’t find Ashley’s phone to call me. It was 6 in the morning when I got the email and I sat in my little rented room and wept, feeling helpless and sensing the disappointment Ashley must have felt at having to move to the hospital.
I was supposed to be the rock for her, I was supposed to be the face she looked at for comfort, for relief and I was asleep. The guilt I felt, the remorse, it was awful. I just wanted to be present for her, I wanted to hold her hand, breathe with her, look her in the eyes to transfer the energy I had for her since hers was so depleted at that point. Two years ago she was the friend that held my head in her lap and stroked my hair while I sobbed the day I was to move from Vermont after 10 years of living there, after an abrupt break up with a guy I’d been with for three years, a rather sudden decision all together to up and leave VT. It happened in a flash, we broke up, I quit my job and I moved from VT all within a two week period. To say I was a mess is an understatement, I was just a shadow of who I had ever been before at that point. I was looking into mirrors and not recognizing at all the dazed and heart broken stranger staring back at me. I stayed with her for those two weeks, she held my hand, she was my anchor, my solid ground when everything underneath me had turned into a hurricane. She was yet another good reason for me to start my travels, to begin in Tulum, and she assured me that happiness exists for everyone in the world, it’s just a matter of manifesting it. And extremely selfishly, I had this notion that seeing Calai enter this world was going to change my life immensely.
But I was stuck in Tulum, I didn’t know where the hospital was, I couldn’t get in touch with anyone there. I felt like I had failed for some reason. And my heart hurt for Ashley, who had wanted nothing more than to have a natural childbirth at home with her midwife. She didn’t want a c-section, she didn’t want drugs, this was not how she envisioned it happening. She is such an advocate for natural home births, we all perhaps foolishly assumed that everything would be fine with Ashley’s labor and that she wouldn’t have to go to the hospital. We were very wrong and we know better for next time. Expect the unexpected in childbirth. Always. I worried how she would react to it all once she came to terms with it. But this is what we do as women, we give life and how that life begins, be it natural childbirth or c-section, it is the end product that is the best part anyways. What I didn’t know then, but realize now, is that Calai did change my life, it didn’t matter that I wasn’t there for that sobering moment
of a baby’s first breath. I was there for the next three months and I got to cuddle with him almost every day. And my constant presence after the birth did more for Ashley than what I could have offered had I been at the hospital. I see that now. I had been working on being a gentler person, gentler to myself and to others, and what better way than spending time with a newborn. What better way than watching your best friend do something so primordial for every woman in this world. What better way than seeing the animal instinct that is also born in a woman the moment her child is born. And what better way than to see it in Ashley, a woman who has been ready to be a mother for as long as I’ve known her.
So when I’m feeling that heaviness creeping, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, homesick, wondering if I’m doing the right thing by being here, I think of Ashley. I channel her strength, I channel her courage. I remember that at every moment, we are exactly where we are supposed to be, that everything happens for a reason and one moment in life is just leading to another and another and another. What lessons can you learn from your fear? How can you stare it straight in the eyes as it hovers above you while you feign sleep, as it enters your dreams, your thoughts and undulates slowly over your mind, paralyzes your thoughts and actions until it’s all marred in black? I acknowledge it, I remember that I’m a woman from a family of women who are fierce and bold, who have stared birth and death directly in the face and have the strength of a pride of lions. My blood, my lineage, it all brought me to where I am today. The amazing girlfriends I have, they too, brought me to where I am today. And Ashley, for her beauty, her courage, her sheer will power, the way she gracefully moves through the world defying the unknowns and trusting. When the heaviness of the unknowns comes calling, when the fear comes calling, I acknowledge it, I think of Ashley and I remember that we are who we are for the people we meet. Somos quienes somos por las personas que conocemos.