The last few days have been a little rough emotionally. It’s heartbreaking that my/our relationship didn’t work out. But it is salt in the wound to have to coordinate significant life logistics while trying to heal that wound.
I’ve been leaning on folks when my brave face falters. If you’ve received one of those phone calls or texts, thank you. Every single cry for help has been answered. There are also the God-winks along the journey that remind me that I’m not alone and am following His call, no matter how counter-intuitive it sometimes feels. But, one can’t discount the power of music. Meredith Grey would dance away her sorrows and, I have to admit, I’ve been singing away mine. (Sorry neighbors.)
Remember my story about running in the rain and feeling so alive? Part of the reason was that nobody was on the street so I started singing along to my music while I ran. Today, sitting on a deserted beach, I put my headphones in and sang/scream to a playlist I’ve created called “Me.”
I’d like to share some of the lyrics that have embedded themselves into the fabric of my soul and have had a part to play in reminding myself how very much I love “me” and deserve to always do what makes my heart and head happy.
This Is Me – The Greatest Showman
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
Sit Still, Look Pretty – Daya
I know the other girlies wanna wear expensive things
Like diamond rings
But I don’t wanna be the puppet that you’re playing on a string
This queen don’t need a king
Oh, I don’t know what you’ve been told
But this gal right here’s gonna rule the world
Yeah, that is where I’m gonna be because I wanna be
No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty
Mister Right could be nice for one night
But then he wanna take control
And I would rather fly solo
Blank Space – Taylor Swift
So it’s gonna be forever
Or it’s gonna go down in flames
You can tell me when it’s over
If the high was worth the pain
Got a long list of ex-lovers
They’ll tell you I’m insane
Many the Miles – Sarah Bareilles
There’s too many things I haven’t done yet
There’s too many sunsets
I haven’t seen
You would’ve thought by now
I’d have learned something
I made up my mind when I was a young girl
I’ve been given this one world
I won’t worry it away, no
But now and again I lose sight of the good life
I get stuck in a low light
‘Cause I’ve had my fair share
Of take care
I’ve learned how to cry
And I’m better for that
I’ve been talking to God
Don’t know if it’s helping or not
But surely something has got to got to got to give
‘Cause I can’t keep waiting to live
Clean – Taylor Swift
The drought was the very worst
When the flowers that we’d grown together died of thirst
It was months and months of back-and-forth
Hung my head as I lost the war
And the sky turned black like a perfect storm
Rain came pouring down
When I was drowning, that’s when I could finally breathe
Growing Pains – Alessia Cara
And I guess the bad can get better
Gotta be wrong before it’s right
Every happy phrase engraved in my mind
And I’ve always been a go-getter
There’s truth in every word I write
But still the growing pains, growing pains
They’re keeping me up at night
Try to mend what’s left of my content incomprehension
As I take on the stress of the mess that I’ve made
Don’t know if I even care for “grown”
If it’s just alone
Starting to look like Ms. Know-it-all
Can’t take her own advice
Can’t find pieces of peace of mind, I cry
More than I want to admit
But I can’t lie to myself, to anyone
‘Cause phonin’ it in isn’t any fun
Used monsters as an excuse to lie awake
Now the monsters are the ones that I have to face
No band-aids for the growing pains
A Different Beat – Little Mix
Out of your comfort zone
‘Cause I’m breaking out
Not breaking down
I got the right
To make up my mind
Say it loud and clear
For the whole wide world to hear
Yeah, we must have different shoes on
We’re marching to a different beat
So baby put your boots on
Keep marching to a different beat
I got my head up
I’m doing me
I take a look in the mirror
And I like what I see
So baby, I keep marching
To a different beat
Mom – Meghan Trainor
You might have a mom, she might be the bomb
But ain’t nobody got a mom like mine
Her love’s ’til the end, she’s my best friend
Ain’t nobody got a mom like mine
Vieques was the perfect way to end my solo journey. Carolyn comes to visit tomorrow and then she hands over duties to my Momma on Monday. My, how the time has gone.
Given Vieques is farther east, Maria hit it even harder than San Juan. Plus, rebuilding is doubly hard when Home Depot is a flight or ferry ride away. I’ve heard several stories about the difference ‘GoFundMe’ and other crowdfunding sources have provided. The beauty of Vieques is undeniable. When the appreciation of the scenery subsides, you stand in awe of the people. This is a place that could only exist by the power of human will mixed with a dash of God’s grace.
Yesterday, I slept-in and was struggling to rally myself. But, one of the songs from above wormed its way into my head and I decided the best way to listen to it was while running. I was excited to see Playa Negra, the black sand beach and it was about 1.2 miles away. That would be a perfect round-trip run.
True, until I was about 5 minutes in and realized 85-degrees in Vieques was much more humid and stifling than 85-degrees in San Juan. Plus, there were hills. And horses. And the smelly “I was here” memento that horses leave. Then, there was the dark feeling that I was on a back road on a small island and could easily be picked up without anybody knowing for a very long time. So, I turned my music up louder — I always run with just one headphone in so I can be semi-aware of my surroundings. I made it to the turn-off for Playa Negra and was ecstatic. Until I started down the path. Suddenly I recalled somebody saying, “Yes, it’s just a ten-minute walk from the road to the beach. It’s a little trail through a lovely creek area.”
Well, you can see in the photos that the ‘trail’ was really a creekbed. And, those horses had visited here, too. I kept turning a corner and thinking to myself, “Oh. This might be a mistake.” But, then I would encounter people walking back from the beach that would say, “It’s beautiful!” so I moved forward. The last straw was the last turn. It was a pond. No ifs, ands, or butts about it. The only reason I willed myself forward was because I could see the sea behind it.
What a reward! I was the only person on an amazing black sand beach. There were so many small, smooth rocks on the shore. I remembered how, one beach vacation, my sister had us all write our names on a rock and then throw them into the ocean, together. I decided to figuratively write on a couple of rocks. I injected all my pain, failings, sadness, and negativity about certain situations into each rock. And then I chucked them into the sea. “I don’t need to carry you with me, anymore. You can stay here.”
Of course, for one of them, it was misshapen which caused it to not fling very far. I retrieved and re-released it. And, truly, how often in life do we have to re-release what we should have quit carrying long ago. Ironically, as I kept walking down the beach, I found an even larger collection of skipping rocks. I thought to myself, “Ah, of course, all those stones we cast to the sea must end up somewhere. And, here they are.”
I tried to call a taxi to pick me up so I didn’t have to walk back the 1.2 miles but had no luck. I started on my path. At one point, an older couple passed me in a Jeep and then slowed to a stop. The passenger side window rolled down and my guardian-angel-in-the-form-of-a-random-woman asked if I’d like a ride back to town. In classic God-wink style, I saw them later at lunch. I still kick myself for not sending them a ‘thank you’ drink.
I had lunch at the same place as the previous night, Duffy’s. I would come back the next day for lunch, too. In fact, as a result of having a restricted diet and visiting during the off-season, Duffy’s would be the only restaurant I would patronize during my entire Vieques trip. But, we’re still on yesterday and lunch. I enjoyed several Medallas — the beer of Puerto Rico and went ‘home’ to nap before my bio bay tour.
The Bioluminescent Bay — the primary reason I visited Vieques, was so cool. In my enthusiasm, and perhaps because I’m a little more like my mom than I sometimes admit, I was at the tour meeting point 45 minutes early. I spent about 10 of those minutes waiting in line for a different group’s bio bay tour. “Oh. You’re with Fun Brothers. They’ll be here in about 20 minutes.” Rather than sitting there like a kid with no friends at the birthday party, I wandered down to the boat dock. I found a dry rock and enjoyed practicing my most recent mindfulness exercise to the soundtrack of the waves. It was the perfect way to start the tour.
Driving to the bay was easy in the sense that it was a very short ride in an airconditioned, comfortable bus. It was horrific in the sense that, once off the asphalt, the dirt road was pocked with cavernous bumps. On more than one occasion I was fairly certain we had bottomed out and would be stalled there in the middle of, what looked like, the Everglades. We made it to our destination but the swampy Everglades appearance remained.
The tour guide told us to take off our shoes, “It’s a glass bottom boat, so even if you have on water shoes, take them off.” We got off the bus and were each handed a kayak paddle. It felt like Hunger Games. We were partnered up and I was paired with a lovely girl named Maria. She currently lives in Brooklyn but is originally from the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico.
We sloshed in our bare feet through the shore of the bay to our kayak. When the tour guide yelled, “check” each kayak had to shout out our number. We were number two — which immediately made me think of Austin Powers. We paddled out into the completely dark, completely still bay. Even though I had my phone’s dry case and tried to take photos, none were captured. Clearly, you need to get yourself to Vieques to experience it yourself. However, until then, my lackluster and insufficient words will have to suffice.
We called out “TWO!” and fell into line with our fellow kayakers. Suddenly, it was like my eyes were playing tricks and the paddles were glowing. But, only in the water. Then, I looked down at that glass bottom, and bright blue lights were streaking along like an 80’s game of Asteroid. The 90 minutes on the bay passed so quickly. In fact, the only way I knew time was passing was because my elbows were getting sore from paddling.
I am always a little skeptical of tour guides and the info they provide because I think it’s in their interest to embellish, however, on the tour we learned that there are 5 bioluminescent bays in the world and 3 of them are in Puerto Rico. One is in Jamaica and the other is in Thailand. However, the brightest — because it is most dense with the dinoflagellates, is where we were kayaking. The little ‘things’ which have characteristics of both plant and animal, apparently flash seven times per night and then return to the bottom of the bay. They only flash when activated by movement. It was awesome to see fish zip around our kayak with a momentary flare following them. I told Maria that I wish I had a rock to skip across the water. I also told her that I thought the paddle trails looked like a witch’s cauldron. Later, on the bus ride back, someone mentioned it was like fairy dust. In reality, (in that reality where witches and fairies live), they’re just two sides of the same dinoflagellate coin.
Although I was in bed by 10pm, given my brain’s nature I wasn’t asleep until much later, which meant I slept-in again, today. I had been given an invitation by Abe of Abe’s snorkeling adventures to go paddle boarding and snorkeling. I had told him (yesterday, while enjoying my Medallas) that I wasn’t a confident swimmer and had once had a negative snorkeling experience. Backstory: I snorkeled in open waters and couldn’t differentiate the other snorkelers’ black fins from the school of fish. I hyperventilated in the water and promptly returned to the boat.
Abe told me that we’d go snorkeling somewhere I could stand up and that I’d overcome my fears. He said, “Show me your foot.” Which, the Medalla made me do. “You’re 6.5 right? I I’ll bring fins and a snorkeling mask when we go paddle boarding.” While I was impressed he could size my foot so quickly, I still wasn’t sold but told him I’d think about it and maybe stop by his shop the next day. Cut to me waking up the next day (today) with even more confidence that I would NOT be paddle boarding nor snorkeling.
So, I gathered my borrowed beach gear from the cat inn and called a taxi for Sun Bay. It was the beach Maria (from the bio bay tour) had said was the best she had visited on Vieques. It was completely secluded and completely gorgeous. I even found a picnic table in the shade to leave my beach stuff. At one point I tried to set up a beach umbrella but that resulted in me running after the aloft implement for half the distance of the beach. So, then, I mostly spent my time in a beach chair with waves lapping my feet. I think I’ve made peace with the sand.
Remember how I talked about sing-screaming music at the beach? At one point I noticed movement in my periphery and realized a couple was standing right by me. Whoops. Hope they like Taylor Swift karaoke. They hung out for a bit but ultimately wandered on — later that day, my taxi driver would pick them up on his way to drop me off from the beach. Another God-wink.
Then, I sensed another wave of movement from behind me. This time, it was the wild horses of Vieques. It was unsettling and supernatural to see dozens of horses saunter by on the secluded beach. There was one white horse in the bunch, and so, as Karen taught me, I licked my thumb, rubbed my palm and slapped it on my other hand to ensure the wish that I would find happiness might come true. As I finished the superstitious act, I heard a quiet voice whisper, “Happiness is a choice, Josie. You always have it as an option.”
Flying back to San Juan, I looked back at the beautiful shoreline of Vieques. That same quiet voice said, “You’ve left your pain behind, Josie. It’s back there; you don’t need it for this journey.” I immediately thought of my rocks with their figurative writing.
So, baby, I keep marching to a different beat.