I always wanted to be that chick on Point Break. The one that shimmied her jean shorts up her wet and sand covered legs, tossed her bikini on the floor of her MG and rushed off to work. Her name was “Tyler” (Lori Petty). I must have watched that movie a hundred times, always imagining my escape from Frederick, Maryland to Encinitas California. All I knew was that I would surf. And by default I would have long white hair, tan skin and strong legs.
That was NINETEEN NINETY ONE. Patrick Swayze was hot and Keanu Reaves had a big future. I was 13 years old. Turns out a lot can happen in 20+ years. Patrick Swayze lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer, Encinitas has been named one of the World’s 20 Best Surf Towns by National Geographic and is home to some of the most premier yoga and wellness centers in the world, including The Chopra Center for Wellbeing (which is nestled in the LaCosta resort where my mom worked in her 20’s.) Keanu Reeves is 50 and well, I tried surfing at Moonlight Beach in the late 90’s, got pounded against the rocks and left my dream there.
So I laughed out load today when Lori Petty came to mind as I shimmied my own shorts up my sticky legs. In a rush to pick up the kids, I slung my wet bikini on the floor and raced around to the drivers side. The image of “Tyler” hit me. I may not be 18, or in Encinitas, but here I am – living at the beach. There were certainly no kids (or even a man) in my dreams and ‘water walking‘ with my pregnant friend is hardly the surfer I thought I might be. But sure enough, I’m here. And its time to carpe-fucking-diem.
It may seem a bit late to be coming to this realization, as we have been here for nearly a year. I’ve spent the better part of the past 12 months absorbed with life in Frederick or thinking I was living somewhere between my kitchen sink and the clothesline. I’ve seen the outside world here, instagram-ed it and adored it, but not lived in it. Silly me.
As the one year mark hits and reflections run rampant, I realize I have no time to waste.
I think about leaving New Caledonia every single day. Ironically, it keeps me present. When I pull the driveway gate closed, I imagine what it will be like to say goodbye to our house. When I drive along the coast on my way to meet Adam for lunch I pretend it’s the last time I’ll take in the beautiful kite sails and the turquoise waters.
Its my way of appreciating what is right beneath my nose. Maybe its a mind trick, but when I do pull away from the house for the last time, I don’t want to leave here with one regret. I don’t want to look back on a cold winter day in November from my kitchen in Frederick and think – why didn’t I go to the beach every damn day? That would be pretty stupid. And so, I’ve made myself a promise to go to the beach – everyday. Besides, one must cool off daily in the heat of the south pacific.
What presence I have lacked this year (despite all my mindfulness practicing), the kids have indeed made up for. They have walked down the street everyday in their blue school shirts, worked hard and rocked an entire grade of school in French. People always tell you that kids pick up language so fast, but to see is to believe! I’m so impressed and inspired with the human capacity (as children anyway) to adapt. Neither of them knew any French when they started and now they both understand their teachers and speak French with their classmates. Jonah is quite motivated to really improve his language skills and wants to learn Spanish now too (and then russian after that). Ivy uses her skills as needed, or when no one is obviously listening you’ll catch her signing some French tunes. I’ve hired them to teach me. Never too young to get a job. And never too old to learn a new language.
And now its summer! Jonah has wasted no time mastering swimming. I suppose
‘mastered’ is not quite the right word, but he has turned a corner is really comfortable underwater, swimming from one end of the pool to the other, snorkeling and he now wants to windsurf like his Dada. Perhaps the presence of the exciting PWA (Professional Windsurfing Association) World Cup Championships here in Noumea in November was inspiration too. In other events, he got his yellow belt in jujitsu and lost his first tooth (where is my baby?).
Ivy is growing up too. Its been an emotional year with her and there has been a lot of screaming and utter defiance. She is assertive as hell and clear as can be. She is amazingly strong, powerful and clever. She loves me passionately or hates me intensely. I just assure her that I love her either way (which she hates).
But she is learning to feel things deeply but also channel and direct herself. She misses Nana and Gma a lot. Our three week whirlwind trip home in October reminded us all of the deep love that is there for us with family and friends and it stirred up raw emotion left forgotten in our hurried departure. Now Ivy tells me very emphatically that next time she goes to Frederick she is not leaving again. But within a few minutes, she’ll ask what our next adventure will be. Suddenly, she realizes that with refusing to leave Frederick again, she will never see her best, best friend Lydia again. She’s beginning to get it. Our predicament.
The predicament of having two homes far far apart, two sets of friends and living a transient, temporary life. It is not something I have spelled out for them or really discussed, but I don’t have to. So many of the great friends we’ve made in Noumea will be gone by the end of the year. Poof. Gone. Off to Switzerland, Australia, back to America. And the questions begin to be asked. Where is Keighlan? Why isn’t she coming back? When is Nana coming? I found Jonah outside in the rocking chair one day, worried that everyone was leaving because they didn’t like him. (ouch).
It’s a great teaching opportunity, but a tough one too. Life, by nature, is impermanent and change is inevitable, but we manage to convince ourselves otherwise by creating the perception of security. I’m not sure if learning this young will make it harder or easier to experience healthy relationships. It starts to feel easier to close your heart, to NOT get too close to people, as you know they will be leaving.
And so, for all the beauty, success and excitement, it sure has been an INTENSE year. We hurdled a BIG move in 2014, a lot of transition, a new language (not me), a few big trips back to the states and all while still having a baby.
But the sweetest baby ever. She’s grown from an easy, sweet six month old to an easy, sweet
and funny little-big-girl. Paloma and I still have a little ‘nuggle’ fest every morning while she has her one remaining drink of mamma’s milk. I can’t let it go. She’s my baby and watching her toddle around the house, put cell phones in toilets and raid the kitchen cabinets almost always brings me joy.
Paloma is my mini me. I smile, she smiles. I make a silly face, she repeats. I walk around the house talking on the phone, she picks up a phone and imitates me in baby gibberish. I go sit on the potty, she wants to sit on the potty. She bring me a colander and chants “beans, beans, beans” when she wants me to make her some beans (because I always rinse them in the colander). Instead of “yes,” she sings a lovely little “Ouiiiiii” that sounds like “wheeeeee” in response to a question. Or she shakes her head emphatically no – back and forth, back and forth, hair flying, cheesy smile.
I’m pretty sure Adam comes home at lunch just to see her. They chase each other around and have a squish and a tickle (or a ‘nuggle’). Both seem pretty pleased with the arrangement. It must be delightful to commute just 5 minutes for a warm lunch + baby giggles + homemade chocolate. I’m not sure I’m making this miserable enough for him to want to move back to Frederick anytime soon. Four hours of commuting in a commuter van on route 270 in the winter with no hope of a lunch date with Paloma would make me think twice.
Beyond always taking a proper lunch break, Adam has wasted no time diving into South Pacific beach life. If he had the Point Break dream, he’s hit the jackpot too. He has been living it up since he got here Dec 4 last year. Always demonstrating his great ability to have perspective on what is important; dishes, laundry and tidying the house will never crowd out adventure, leisure or a learning opportunity. And so he’s working his IT magic by day, windsurfing at lunch a few days a week and keeping his jujitsu skills up by night. His SPC work team is gaining recognition and they assisted in hosting the controversial French President Francois Hollande on his visit to Noumea in November. As a natural leader, he has taken on the role of staff representative with some-important-after-hours-work-group, despite my raised eyebrow. But he makes sure I get my yoga nights too while he does the dinner/bedtime shift which often includes the kids listening to ‘This American Life’ (NPR). We make a good team when we can appreciate each others strengths. Which, let’s be clear, seems to be more rare than common. Currently, we are having a standoff about getting an above ground pool for the summer. I think we all know who is going to win (not me).
While he may win that game, I make the food. Life could get very boring and meager for Adam McWilliams. Not that I would ever hold a grunge against him for a decade or anything:-). But I will limit his meals to healthy ones. Well, in particular, no sugar, no yeast and pitta pacifying. I noticed we were all eating an extreme amount of white bread baguettes and chocolate croissants (remember, its French territory here) so I upped the ante on Jonah’s no junk food diet back in August. And although, no one else is really participating with any fervor except me, they won’t find any junk food lying around when their blood sugar crashes.
They might find it boring and disappointing, but I find it fascinating -food, nutrition and digestion that is. In the absence of opportunity for trips to Kripalu and teacher trainings, I’ve discovered incredible online education and inspiration. The latest is the Digestion Sessions. 19 talks from doctors and experts practitioners on how and why good digestion is the key to health. Some of the data is controversial about specific things like gluten intolerance, but the overwhelming evidence supports the need for a healthy human microbiome to ward off disease. I could discuss this for hours and fortunately I’ve gained a new nerdy friend who loves it too (until she moves back to Sydney in just a few weeks so she can begin studying Chinese Medicine).
I wonder if the next friend to blow into my life will be a smoking, drinking, dorito-eating partier to balance me out. I think it is possible to get too uptight about being ‘conscious’ and mindful and lately I’ve noticed how hard I’m working, all day, everyday just to maintain, what I think, are the basics. Perhaps its the end of the school year, the rising temperatures or the fact that my regular babysitter/cleaner is on vacation for a while. Suddenly, re-using all glass jars, limiting screen time for the kids, meditation and yoga everyday, not wasting food, composting, getting the right amount of vitamin D, consciously communicating, oh-my-god-the-list-goes-on-and-on, is just over the top. I might need to smoke a cigarette, scream at my kids and eat a whole container of ice cream to balance myself out. The truth is, its become clear to me that there is not enough time in the day to be good at everything. (insert DUH). As a good friend just said, “I’m just not on my A game anymore since I’ve had 2 kids!” MEE TOO. Something has to give. William Shakspere (and my wise husband) might just be right: “Expectations are the root of all heartache.”
Unrealistic expectations is a broader theme for me to examine. Beyond conscious living, taking care of myself and mindful mothering, there is ‘my real job’ that gets sandwiched between drop off, naptimes and pickup, and now that its summer, I’m not sure where to squeeze it in. I love my work. I love business and I love running Sol Yoga. But the studio sure has weathered a rough year, perhaps our most challenging ever on many levels. In reviewing it from this year-end perch, it is all beginning to make much more sense. Remote leadership diminishes intimacy and we are in the business of connected-ness. Since the months before I left until now, we have all been in a transitional shit storm. I am grateful for the dedication of everyone involved and the practice of yoga because it has not been easy. But, we have once again, beat our marks from previous years, hired great staff and are beginning to see the edge of the storm. Fortunately, as a pitta, I welcome the challenge it brings, but might need to soften my expectations 🙂
Letting go is also another continuous, predominant theme in life this year. My contribution is limited with Sol Yoga, my days are full with the bounty of motherhood and I’m a million miles away from sustaining relationships. It makes for really weird, sometimes even hard days. Which seems inexcusable when I look around and see the beauty and realize with so much gratitude just how blessed I am. But I’m pretty human. I miss seeing my mom with my kids. I miss good, deep friendships and I miss feeling truly integrated in a community. It’s always hard to be away from people and places that have parts of your heart, even if it there is a beautiful beach nearby.
We were not here for the holidays last year. And I’ll tell you what. That is pretty weird too. The calendar says December 21, but ALL external indicators tell me it is June or July. I rallied a few girl friends for lunch for the summer solstice – my favorite holiday in the entire year. For a moment I longed to be popping into Sol Yoga to practice with some of my old-time buddies, but then I remembered that it’s not the summer solstice at all in Frederick!! It’s the shortest, darkest, often very cold, day of the year. Instead, five moms (sans kids) sat at a beach-side restaurant wiping sweat from our upper lip and fanning our faces with the menu and offering a baby blessing to my 33 week prego friend Zita. I’ll take that 🙂
All this weirdness can also be spun as liberating too. The absorption into family life, the dissolving of the my ego and the sense of anonymity, the lack of seasons and tradition all leave me feeling undefined and curious about the layers beneath the external.
“For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, likes spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community, stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spiders web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet, how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.”
She goes on to say, “The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Women and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. What is the answer? There is no easy answer. I only have clues, shells from the sea. “
Perhaps I did not make it to California when I was 18 because I didn’t need the gifts the Encinitas sea offers. I did not have yoga yet. I did not have children. I did not have a husband. I was not stretched out, exposed and sensitive. In fact, I was tough, certain and closed. Dreams often come to fruition not when we want them to, but when the timing is right.
And so, this hot Christmas and onward for the summer, my intention is to be here now. To indulge my superficial inner desires and embody the skinny surfer chick from a movie (avec trois enfants). To take on the carefree quality of summer. To rock a tiny bikini, tan my strong legs and shimmy into my Billabong shorts with wet salty hair. This is my chance. Hopefully Jonah, Ivy and Paloma won’t mind straggling along for the summer ride. Junk food and TV allowed.