Sitting in the hammock, listening to music with the dog and getting nostalgic because of conversations earlier in the night. There are a handful of you–a big handful, I’m lucky– who have been with me most or all of my life, through the best and hardest of times. Thank you, all of you (many of whom will never read this blog) for helping make me the person I am today. I wouldn’t have known what to do without you.
1. There is a family of skunks living in my yard. I kinda knew that already though– there always has been in this yard.
2. Skunks like chicken food. They don’t care if it’s dark yet, they want the CHICKEN FOOD!!!
3. Baby skunks are cute but stupid, apparently deaf, and easily alarmed (in a potentially stinky way).
4. The clapping thing works– on adult skunks. Mama ran away like a bat out of hell after one clap. The babies? Not so much. They either flip around and raise their tails at you, or they don’t react at all & just keep on eating chicken food.
5. Stupid us, for feeding our chickens by the front porch, where we can watch them and laugh at how weird and stupid and funny they are. All the while, the skunks are laughing at us.
6. I think it’s official. The skunk phobia is gone. I’m not stupid enough to stop being wary, but I’m not gonna lock myself in someone’s car for twenty minutes because I’m too afraid of what’s between me and the door. Yes, I did that once. I also almost got run over by a huge buck deer because I was convinced the rustling in the bushes was a mammoth skunk that was gonna practically kill me and I froze stiff in my tracks. That deer almost put my eye out. Was I afraid of deer after that?? No.
7. I much prefer the wild chickens, iguanas, lizards, and even the stray dogs of my other islands to skunks, harmless though they may be. They’re obnoxious. Craig Kingsbury (the guy who brought them here and let them loose) was an asshole. He pulled the perfect senior prank on his own island.
You don’t get to choose who you love. You don’t get to choose whether or not they will love you back. But you do get to choose how long and how badly you’ll let it affect you if they don’t.
They say the one who loves less in a relationship is the one who has the power. This is only true if the one who loves more doesn’t recognize their own self worth and that they deserve better and walk away when that lack of love starts to show.
In an ideal relationship, people just love. Not more, not less, just love. I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, either.
Love should never be about power.
The most important thing I learned in college (aside from my social security number) was networking. If you know enough of the right people, you can make anything happen, and usually on the cheap. Be bold, be nice, be generous, and you never know when a total stranger may give you the chance of a lifetime.
You wanna know how to get through the hard times? Take a minute or two– or an hour or two, however long it takes– and daydream about what it’s going to be like when you reach your goals, when you don’t feel shitty anymore, when your life is what you want it to be. Give yourself something to look forward to, and it’ll be easy to get the motivation to keep going forward, get your shit together and move on.
It works for me, anyway.
Dream big. Believe that you can achieve that dream. Prioritize your life around getting there, and you will. And when you get there, come up with a new dream. Inspiration is everything.
Happiness is a collection of tiny, perfect moments. The key to finding it is slowing down enough that you can recognize and appreciate them instead of missing them altogether.
This morning I woke up around six a.m. to use the bathroom and when I opened the fridge to grab a drink of juice (which I expected to be warm), I was pleasantly surprised to see the light on in the fridge, indicating that power had been restored to Vieques. In all honesty, I had no expectation that we’d have power back so soon, as I had no confirmation of what the source of the outage was. Rumor had it last night that there was no power on parts of the main island, that perhaps the outage had to do with the solar storm and resulting earthquakes– in my mind, we could have been without power for days. I was prepared for it. At least we still had running water, a house, and a gate around that house to protect us.
Turns out it was simply corroded wires, and the power was restored by morning, which, given my expectations, was a treat.
If there is one thing that I love about Vieques more than anything else, it’s that it makes me appreciate the small things in life. The simple necessities. It makes me grateful for the things that we take so much for granted at home. Running water. Locking doors. Privacy. Electricity. After camping for ten days, those things seem like a luxury, and every day I’m grateful for them.
And without all of the trappings of home –TV, internet, movie theaters, scads and scads of retail outlets vying for every last dime in your wallet– I find I appreciate the natural world around me more here than I do at home. Not that I don’t appreciate nature at home, but without anything else to do, there is really no choice here most days but to go to the beach, take pictures, go for a hike, or kayak, or paddleboard, or hop aboard a friend’s boat. On Vieques, there’s plenty of time to do all those things we keep telling ourselves we don’t have time for at home. The truth is, we have time for them all at home, but we fill up that time with unnecessary activities, most of which involve earning or spending money. It’s refreshing not to have the option of filling up my schedule with bullshit. I’ve been to the beach every day this week, and I DO have a job. My rent is $200 a month, and although the place is not a palace, it’s enough. It’s all I really need.
The other huge benefit to living without all the unnecessary extras we call “normal” at home is that I have plenty of time to think, to reflect, to write, to read, and to daydream. I think we Americans have trained ourselves to think these are the unnecessary extras, when the truth is quite the opposite. If we spend all of our time working in order to pay for all the things that we really don’t NEED, we don’t have time to live. To be. To relax. To think. To be happy, and REALIZE that we are happy. Our priorities are all messed up.
In the perpetual quest for material wealth that is contemporary American society, we have lost sight of what is really important: the quest for happiness. We all know, on a surface level, that money can’t buy happiness. But then why do we keep trying to fill whatever empty place exists in us with material things? Why do we get ourselves into crippling debt buying toys and clothes and fancy home furnishings and zippy cars? Wouldn’t being debt-free be more satisfying than having all those things at such a steep price? Because the price is not just the debt, and the stress of the debt, but the TIME spent trying to pay off the debts; time that we should be spending with our friends and loved ones, enjoying nature, making art, cooking and eating, listening to music, relaxing, and doing the things that will ACTUALLY make us happy.
Time is the most valuable resource we have, and we waste far too much of it. We waste it on working to pay for things we don’t actually need. We waste it on anger, stress, resentment and guilt. We waste it on pointless activities like video games, television and facebook. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not simply proselytizing–I’m just as guilty as anyone else. But I’m trying to shift the balance of how I spend my time and money, because as I’ve learned here on Vieques, I’m a hell of a lot happier when I’ve got less money, less trappings and all the time I want to sit in the hammock and read my book. Or to sit here, at half past noon on a Wednesday, and write to you.
There has been no electricity on Vieques since about 5:30 pm (Tues). A bit of research leads me to believe it’s got something to do with solar flares and an earthquake in the DR, followed by a tremor in western Puerto Rico. However, friends in San Juan say they have power. Not really sure what’s going on. The lights flickered on for a second around 7, but nothing since.
With no power, the stars above Esperanza are epic. Orion’s belt is kit up like a Christmas tree. The darkness is complete, and stunning. The only sounds are tree frogs, distant dogs and the hum of several generators.
We are camping again, this time in a cement tent with running water and beds. I’m ok with it.
I love having time to get sucked into an eight-hundred page book for pure pleasure. I love having the freedom to spend my morning doing things I enjoy, and not things that are required. I love that I have submerged myself in the Caribbean sea every day this week. I love that the climbing tree in my back yard is a mango tree, though it won’t give us mangoes until April. I love that when I do have to work, I work with friends and food, and that when I leave the building every evening, the only part of the job I take with me is the money. I love the dramatic tropical wind that occasionally slams the metal shutters on my windows closed. I love the simplicity of washing my clothes in the sink and hanging them in the sun to dry. I love the tree frogs and coquis, who provide a peaceful soundtrack to every night’s sleep– and I love that after a week I stopped hearing the roosters and dogs and falling-apart cars that otherwise cut up the night. I love the fact that everything seems possible here, if you’re willing to work hard at it. I love that New York money and arrogance have not polluted this paradise yet, and I love the stubborn hearts of the Viequenses who will fight against them when they try.
I love this island, with all its quirks and hiccups. I love these people, misfits all of them. I love my life.
Sometimes a change in attitude is really all that’s necessary to change your shitty life (or rather, what you perceive as your shitty life).
Take, for example, today.
Yesterday, I was a ridiculous mess. I’m gonna blame mercury, because there ain’t no logical way to explain it, but when my niece came home at 9:00, she found me in a ball on the couch, crying. Yes, I’d been drinking. But wow, was I upset over nothing. That sadness (but not the tears) stayed with me until I went to sleep…
…but it was mostly gone by the time I woke up (at 7 a.m.!!) this morning.
My niece took the day off from work because she wasn’t feeling well, and she needed to get some errands done. When she told me her errands included the bookstore and the library, I asked if I could join her.
I ended up coming home with two brand new books, four free paperbacks, 9 videos borrowed from the library, and 7 new $1 CDs I’ve never heard, from Aboveground records. That’s plenty of distraction to tear me away from my other distractions, which have been bothersome lately.
Getting lost in a fluff book, or a movie with no cinematic merit whatsoever? Listening to music (that may or may not suck) for the first time? Way healthier than dwelling on real or imagined hurts that you have absolutely no power to change.
(patting self on back)
So yeah, today was a good day.