My First Day at Sea

It is my first day at Sea aboard the Oasis of the Seas  and we are sailing the Western Caribbean.  I take some time to gather my writing goals for the week.  I decide to go back and read past journal entries and I find this one.  And I marvel at how my feelings on certain subjects remain the same year after year.  And, I am grateful that, in some ways, at least I am consistent.

 

May 10, 2014

It is 9:24am and having arrived early for my meeting with Angela, I sit at a round orange pedastal table against the wall of the Barnes and Noble Cafe savoring my Caramel Macchiato and reflecting on all that has passed and all that could be.   It is a moment of deep reflection blended with the mundane.  To my left, a couple sits enjoying their own breakfast version of coffee and a muffin, passing commentary on whether one has tried the other’s delectable latte version.  I think about time.   How fleeting it is and what a waste I have made of most of my life.  Or have I?  I am so hard on myself- why?   What is it about my life that seems to fall so short of the bar I have set for myself, for which I seem to never be able to attain success?  The bottom line is that I too often compare others lives with that of my own.   I look to their experiences in the hopes that I can one day perhaps mirror their realities.  Then I am drawn back to my present moment and I listen to the tunes filtering through the line of my ear buds from Spotify.  Right now, I am playing one of my favorite play lists which contains pieces from Handel, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven and pieces also from the soundtrack The Piano.    This is the movie that starred Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunt- set in turn of the century South Pacific somewhere.  I have very vague memories of the actual theme of the movie- it was about a woman and a little girl played by Anna Pacquin- who moved to this remote place that had a beach, rain forest, aboriginal peoples, and she – this lady – brought along this piano that was a required part of her daily life.   And the pieces she played were incredible …they to this day do something drastic to my soul.   Truly.  Classical music moves my spirit in a way that nothing else can touch.  So I love this soundtrack and realize that I must find a way to get ahold of that movie again and watch it.  There was violence involved- she had her finger cut offf which curtailed her ability to play the piano… horrific moment.. and I do not even know why that happened, what prompted it.   And was it in New Zealand, Australia or a French Polynesian Island?  What was the exact time period?   Why were they there?    I have such vague memories of the overall plot … but the music- oh my, the music.  I have had other experiences like that over the years- with movies like:  The Mission- which introduced me to Ennio Morricone, and also Adiemus.   I enjoyed the movies- but it was the music that followed me out of the theater and made me buy the soundtracks and listen to them over and over and over again.

I think about how isolated I am in this experience- I don’t know one soul that has this same passion about music.   I have no one to share it with- is this perhaps the disatisfaction that I face?   Angela has said and written about the notion of wondering “where are my people”.  I feel this same way -most of the time.  Like I was dropped on this planet as an experiment- to see how I could manage surrounded by other beings that had nothing in common with me.    I have so many vivid memories of moments when, in a rush of excitement to share something I had experienced- the person on the receiving end of my commentary glazes over and it is  obvious that whatever it is that I am trying to convey has absolutely no impact on the recipient.  This is actually a regular occurence for me- just about daily.   And, I wonder- why?   Why do I have these passions ..to experience them myself and just enjoy them- probably.   Is there a need really, to have someone else mirror back the same contentment that I experience in these moments?    I recall the time I was in Rome and was standing at the Trevi Fountain.  I was the only single soul standing there marveling at this fountain with sculpted horses in action as if jumping out of the fountain in fear.    I had no one to turn to to say “wow”.   And I remember how sad I was about that.  Or, standing inside the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on a bus tour full of other people that were either couples or families traveling together, best friends on a trip together- and then there was me… standing there under Michaelangelo’s Creation – in awe… alone.
So I wonder – does it matter?  Why do I have a sense of loss when I experience these moments alone?  Why do I long to have those moments shared by someone else.   And the specific and more probing question is- would that other person even get why I was so mesmerized by those horses or by the music or by the piece of art work depicting the creation and biblical moments- like the Garden of Eden on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?  Would that person stand there with me, nod his head and then move on?  What am I looking for in the shared experience?   Having that person stand with me – simply be present with me?  Or, for that person to look at me and for there to be this connection.. this moment of complete understanding that comes from having the same passion.    And, what are the odds – if I were a betting woman, to be able to find this type of partnership?    I admit that I am not looking actively because I fear the risk of getting tangled up in another disatsifying unbalanced partnership that ends up being more service than mutual partnership and enjoyment.
Not finding other souls that share the same deep interests and understandings is difficult- it means that the life experience is more of a solo journey filled with obligations.  Is this the reason that my marriages – in part – failed?    I was stuck in these relationships with people who had absolutely no clue what made me tick, and nor did I know what made them tick and- neither of us could figure out how to move to the next step to learn about one another, to feel what the other felt.  And, with our busy schedules and obligations ..time trodded along, and the experience of being part of a “couple” felt so bland and blank… and pointless.   I was there to satisfy his sexual needs- mine were satisfied in part, but honestly, it felt more like servicing him.   And, the payment was null.    No real mutual benefit ..so then, why stay?   So, I did not stay.  I eventually got out of both of those prison cells and launched myself into freedom… healing a bit along the way and then finding myself here- a solo traveler.  I enjoy my music, I enjoy my dog, I enjoy my parents, I enjoy globe trotting without having to gain access to a permission slip from another party that might find my globe trotting interest offensive or a waste of precious resources.  I don’t have to get permission to buy the vehicle I want to buy.  I don’t have to beg to go to the restaurant I want to go to instead of the one that makes him excited, I don’t have to hope that the movie we pick will be one I like.  I don’t have to share the dinner entree on the menu with him that he picks.   I can pick what I want on the dinner menu and eat it myself.    These all sound likely – like bizarre expressions of freedom- but to someone whose life was directed by another strong personality during two marriage episodes, the very idea of a third foray into this bizarre arrangement leaves me falling flat.     There is this comment I hear from people that one day I will find someone- so that I don’t have to grow old alone.    Well,  maybe I won’t have to – maybe I will live with several canine friends that keep me company, organizing my time as I see fit, enjoying nature, writing, music, and also- friendships.   I do need to get more involved in volunteer and other organizations that offer an outlet for social time and make life interesting- get things on the calendar.
Other than that- this time with the keyboard has been once again, fruitful.   I can count on the keyboard to help me organize my thoughts, to help me put down on virtual paper- the essence of the discontent and then I have a way to observe it through a different lense that brings focus on the situation and a better perspective.
Sometimes I come away from these sessions a bit more blue.   Today, I feel encouraged.  It’s been months since my last daily pages entry… and I am glad that I have re-opened this outlet of thought.     I need to do this much more often.

A Romantic Beach Escape- Anyone?

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Perhaps the best place to start today is with the feeling I have as a single woman participating in a four day workshop in Jamaica at a couples only resort. As a travel consultant, my role is to be knowledgeable about every aspect of travel. I have specialized for quite awhile in travel arrangements to Scandinavia and Europe. Several years ago, I took a path away from mass market travel where I represented every corner of the globe and every possible travel product. During this hiatus, I enjoyed a time away from selling everything from Vegas to Timbuktu, and instead focused my energy primarily on soft adventure and cultural travel to places like the raw appeal of Iceland, the fjords and coast of Norway, the charm of countryside Sweden and Denmark and the cultural richness of Russia. While this still meant I was working in many cases with couples and families, the primary focus has not been on creating a romantic paradise for honeymooners, destination wedding couples and romance driven clients. This past year, I circled back and am once again digging into mainstream cruises, beach vacations to all corners of the earth and my boss has asked me to join the destination wedding team. I had specialized in weddings in the past and have a strong knowledge base and so I rekindle this area of my expertise. I am in Jamaica for a refresher course on a specific collection of properties that focus entirely on a couples vacation experience.

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Becoming a specialist in the “Travel for Romance” niche means delving into every aspect of making a couples trip highly memorable and enjoyable. My goal as a dedicated travel specialist has always been to create a vacation that will have clients thinking back fondly to their time together, away from the stress and daily grind. I can’t help think of my own life experiences having lacked any luster in this department. And the truth is I am sure that many couples heading for a romantic get-away likely encounter a reality less glimmering than the glossy brochure pages of an adult-only all inclusive in the Caribbean, with its perfectly bodied models lounging on beaches and taking in that couples massage in little huts with the white flowing sheets wafting in the breeze. The reality is likely a bit less gilded.
My last travel memory with my ex-husband included shouts at me across a crowded gate area in our connecting airport city. His rage at me was embroidered with explitives because I had dialed my cell phone to check on the house and dog sitter since she had not appeared at the house before we headed to the airport. I was nervous that she might have forgotten her arrangement with us for some reason, and we had not been able to reach her by phone prior to our departure. I was merely calling to make absolutely sure that the dogs had not been abandoned by us and that someone was with them by now, and if not I would call my plan B option. The problem was that I had not asked his permission. This phone call was going to cost money and he was trying to figure out a way to avoid the phone call in order to save money. The fact was that we only had so much time before the next flight, and the dogs were our babies… and we had to get down to business and make sure all was ok. Mama was checking on her brood, after all. The good news is we did reach her and all was fine. This miserly behavior on his part followed us throughout the trip. Since I had coffee with my breakfast in the morning, later in the day when I wanted a coffee- he refused me. This sounds minor, but it was this tension over every decision that made the trip dreadful for me. A heaviness hung around my shoulders which made my chest feel heavy, as if I was pressing against a hurricane force wind gust most of the time.  I couldn’t seem to get my footing. Everything about that trip was an effort, there were not any moments of tenderness. Our time in London, the Lakes District and Cornwall were fairly rigid and mechanical, moving from one place to the next to take that next thing in and mark it off our list. During this final trip that led to our last months together before I would finally leave him, I recall having this urge to flee, all the time. I wanted to get away from him and find a quiet spot, somewhere to sit down with a coffee, pull out a journal and write, or read a good book. I wanted privacy.
This longing for my own space where I could breathe and live more fully has been with me ever since I left him more than eleven years ago. I have remained single by choice because the idea of getting entangled in another lie, another hidden monster behind the initial facade of love and tenderness, frightens me. And it is that feeling of being caged by an impossible and ornery person that keeps me single. One day, perhaps, those love songs I hear streaming through the public areas of this couples only paradise might once again apply to me. Maybe I will get caught by the bug again and feel the surge of joy and awe at being part of a world built for two. Still, my memories feel fresh and I lived through two cautionary tales. With my second husband, I left him because he was mean more than he was nice. We tried counseling, which did not work well because he felt that the counselor was stupid. The minute we would leave the office, he would launch into a diatribe on all the reasons this was a complete waste of time. In hindsight, I agree with him on that point because there was no way that counseling was going to work since he did not feel we had an issue- or rather, that he had an issue. The issue was all me. My “love” partner was the kind of person that put a wet blanket on any kind of notion of lavishing the spouse with messages of affection. Mind you I am not high maintenance. I don’t require much. But a little indicator of having any kind of fondness for me would have gone a long way. There were never any efforts made for birthdays, nor for Christmas – not because he would forget, but because no one was going to tell him when to offer up gifts to someone else. No Valentines’ Day special expressions- and back then, I worked in a major department store (still as a travel agent) that would deck itself out each season- to the gills. For Valentines Day one would encounter dangling hearts and bursts of flowers on every floor – weeks before the romantic date, to entice consumers to buy that special treasure for their lover or spouse. Every department had their announcements that this was the place you could find that personal gift which would convey the deepest love and appreciation you carried for your beloved. In the end, with my spouse, the final expression I received on the final Valentine’s Day of our marriage was “Don’t Expect Anything!!! Because, if you expect something from me on this Hallmark driven day- you can expect to be disappointed”. There- in case I was not clear on his intentions. For New Year’s Eve that year, I reached out to a friend of his- asked him to call my husband to go out on the town… a sort of boys night out. My husband was more than delighted at the prospect of having some bar hopping fun with the boys. It did not occur to him that he should want to spend New Year’s with me. So off he went, and I packed my bag to head up to my parents for the night with sumptuous Lobster, Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce and sautéed mushroom caps and, of course, some bubbly. I took one of our dogs with me, my Skye Terrier whom I had in my life long before the marriage. I wasn’t planning to actually leave him that night permanently, that was not my intention. But after the New Year celebrations and no phone calls from him to wish me well or find out how my evening went (I could have called him of course, but something in me prevented me from calling), I felt an exhaustion overcome me that blanketed me like one of those old dental visit X-Ray blankets they would lay across your chest to protect you. I just couldn’t go back to him. So, I looked at my parents over breakfast, and said: “I can’t go back”- simple. Dad immediately had my back: “Ok sweetheart, you got it”. They were so supportive because they had witnessed so many moments of my spouse’s narcissism over the years, his rudeness to them, his lack of care for me. Dad was only too willing to help make an exit from him a reality. They had been sitting in the wings for a couple of years just waiting for an indicator that I was finally ready.
Ah, so romance and the supportive role I play in making it happen for others? Well, I take the plunge and detach myself from my own reality and offer bursts of joy and excitement for the couple, after all- they are blessed and the fact that they are now taking their own dive into a partnership gives one hope that love can and does exist. So how about that Beachfront Walk-Out with private plunge pool only steps away from Azure Blue Caribbean Waters with a romantic beach dinner by candlelight to get things going? Tomorrow, shall we schedule your private couples massage combined with a soak in the tranquility tub with champagne service and chocolate covered strawberries? In a couple of days, we set you up with a private catamaran dive excursion with your own captain. Sound enticing? Let’s help you celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity to kick off your lives together as a married couple. Salut!