The arrival meant the start of something new. I unfastened my seatbelt before the light signified it was okay to remove it from around my waist and he grabbed my shoulder from the row behind as if to ask, was I ready?
The warmth of Puerto Rico didn’t bother me. In fact, it was knowing that I had stepped on land–the same soil that was noted in a permanent ink on his death certificate that had my palms soaked with a moisture that could not easily wipe off. I came here with a purpose. There is nothing like clear visions and transparent intentions guiding you towards something. It’s inextinguishable and undoubtedly a feeling that causes you to feel the least afraid, even if you aren’t aware of what actually awaits you. I did not know what this trip would do to me. I’m still feeling the effects…
We were picked up by José (we called him Junior) who took note of the fascination in my eyes to be somewhere other than New York City. The familiarity of the smell in the air made Rob feel somewhat at home, even if he hadn’t been to this country before. Kae and Kam’s inquiries on destinations and now what’s whispered past my ears as my eyes wanted to be a pen to a mental page, jotting down architecture and vibrant colors, jammed traffic and the sounds of fluent Spanish. I wanted it to feel like home. I just didn’t know what home–the feeling of comfortability and security–felt like. And maybe taking in the newness of this place spilled out of me when Junior suggested driving along the coast of Puerto Rico, wanting me to experience this place that he came back to after the death of his wife. I didn’t tell him about my father, but death wove two strangers with a half century separation in age together looking for a new way to view and maneuver through the remainder of life. The Universe made no mistake with that.
That was all I could think of as we drove past coconut trees and sand where footprints had not yet been erased by the water, inhaling the smell of the ocean on the coastline that naturally drew Puerto Rico. I thought of the ways salt is both a curing and cleansing agent and it was an accurate reflection of what this trip would be for me–an introspective adventure that wouldn’t grant me every answer, but would offer some healing to the hurt. The drive through the towns–Toa Baja, Dorado, Vega Baja–gave us the opportunity to hear about their history. It was important for me to swallow every story he told, and in interlacing words together, I sought to bridge together parts of my past and present. Junior told us a story about his former life and his own present-day experiences with restoring his spirit that would make for the beginning of a trip that would affect us all.
He lost his wife after 48 years of marriage and said “If you really want to know how happy you are and what your spirit looks like, it should radiate and bounce off of you unto others. Positivity spreads. Joy glows. It’s evident what’s in you when you see it on others in your space. My wife made me see how happy I was through her and I’m trying to find that with her being gone.”
As much as I wanted to move forward with my life, the things of the past were weighing me down and holding me back. My children sensed my unhappiness. My partner did, too, and it caused a trickle effect that lead to arguments and division. My household fell apart. Stress contributed to my hair falling out. My health slowly deteriorated. Goals went unaccomplished and ideas were clouded by self-doubt. All of these things were implanted in the news of 2015 and feeling stuck.
But that car ride and conversation allowed me to see that if I wanted to move forward, I had to adjust to the current tides of life. We cannot advance if we do not adapt. Life will continue to issue out discomfort until we learn to take the lessons that are produced from them. I had found out this information about my father and I told myself the day I paid for that death certificate that I wouldn’t find out anything else. I got the answer I needed and it was good enough. I wouldn’t dig for family, refused to find out who’s facial features it was I had, what parts of my personality came from the other side, couldn’t see myself playing with more puzzle pieces because every connecting fragment would lead to a door that would expose me to more than I was prepared for. I knew I had to push past that, but I was afraid. Fear kept me from progressing; I was in its possession.
We don’t say that enough out loud–that we are afraid, that we don’t know what it is that’s next for us because we want to live organized, neatly packaged lives adorned with ribbons and feel-good quotes. We don’t want to say that we don’t have it all planned out; that we don’t know what it’s like to be genuinely happy and stay happy; that we have no idea what it is to come to terms with our past because it has such a grip on us and in all of it’s painful glory, it still feels like home. It’s all we know. We have such a deeply rooted affiliation with apprehension and just a small taste of relinquishing that fear means that we are ready for more. Most of us will never know what ‘more’ feels like.
Tweet | I am afraid, but the choices I will make from here on out will reflect my hopes, not my fears
But when we let those things go and can truthfully say, “I am afraid, but the choices I will make from here on out will reflect my hopes, not my fears” that is when we have arrived.