Sunday, June 10, 2012

In The Pursuit of Happiness- Forming A Great Offense... Part 1

This month I celebrate the blessing of yet another birthday.  

My Facebook page both proudly and humbly showcases over 100 birthday well wishes from friends and family.  And while they are each individually humbling enough to bring any girl to tears… there was one in particular that made me take pause.  It conveyed:

“So I see you still have a love of the water… Blessings to you on a wonderful birthday.”

It was sent from a dear childhood friend with whom I had known since the fourth grade.  It gave pause because her exclamation brought me back to a youthful time when my career dream was to become a marine biologist.  It was this, that would later inspire me to become both lifeguard and a water safety instructor. The third of these career steps would require future certification from diving instruction. In hindsight, I’m not exactly sure how my youthful brain translated that into a career in water sciences, but back then, I made perfect sense. I knew, in my heart of hearts, becoming a marine biologist would fulfill a life long dream… and thus produce a lifetime of happiness.  

In the spirit of birthdays and happiness… There’s something that magically happens once you are fully aware that you are about to enter your forties.  At least it did for me, and for a few countless others  whom I have promised shall remain nameless. 

I remember it like it was yesterday, although in hindsight it was almost 10 years ago.   At age 36, I made the life altering decision to not have children.  Fresh out of a relationship lasting seven years that I felt sure would end in marriage; the thought of being a single parent was never even a remote possibility.  Unless my prince charming magically entered my life at thirty-six and we could make a successful run at things before I turned forty, the possibility of becoming a parent would be gone like the wind.  I searched for him, even prayed for him... but all to no avail.  

As strange as it may seem, there was almost a metamorphosis unconsciously manifesting during the three-year period following my childbearing decision.  And with that came the realization that I was living life as it came to me instead of creating the life I wanted.  As a sports fan, this translated into living a defensive life, when the reality should have been that I should be creating an offensive life.  Sure it is true that defense wins games… but it is the best offense that sets the tone for the ENTIRE game.  Set a great plan in motion, and then defend, but only as the need requires.

So at age 39, it became necessary to inaugurate a new way to think about my life’s path.  Firm on my parenting decision, and now knowing what was now set before me, another inexplicable decision was made, which would unknowingly amend the course of my life forever…  I made the choice to be happy. 

Sure this sounds easy enough, but in order to make it happen, and then make it stick, the process one subjects them to is not an easy one.  It’s not just a decision, but series of decisions, that then are required to translate into repeated actions, which should then be performed over and over on a weekly, monthly yearly basis.  

Simply stating that you want to be happy would then actually require that you understand exactly what happiness is.   Then the act of manifesting happiness in your own life takes not just an understanding of how that translates for you, but an entire journey involving exploration, that in my opinion… never really ends.

I believe that happiness is much more than the many words that describe it. Contentment, pleasure, gladness, joy, bliss, delight, exhilaration, ecstasy and glee just begin to touch the surface, once the implementation of happiness begins.  Webster defines it as:

Now, this is just my modest opinion, but to truly possess and retain these emotions is where the true occupation lies. Keep in mind that there are ebbs and flows in every life.  Considering this… How else can we expect to know what true happiness is, if we haven’t been privy to life’s sadness and hurt?  How would we begin to understand satisfaction, if we have never been through disappointment?  To expect to remain in a constant state of happiness is simply naive.  But at the risk of exploiting a further point… I would suppose that this is where defense would play a role.  A great offense is nothing without a great defense. 

So with that being said…  first know and understand what happiness means to you.  This is a big one so feel free to take your time with this one.  It’s important.  For with this initial step, as it then becomes the foundation to forming a great offense.

Without full the comprehension of what I have just described I began to comprise a catalog or a bucket list of sorts, of the items, things, accomplishments I needed to achieve in my trek to undertake the objective that is called happiness.  And while the record has been revised over the years, always remaining at the top has always been to see the world.  So this birthday, it’s Central America.   And since diving was previously on the infantile catalog… then why not knock off the adolescent aspiration as well?  As is my usual practice, I will be celebrating all month.  Most of the month will be consumed with travel, but I will make sure to close it out at the end of the month with family and friends.  It’s just a few of the many things that I know make me happy.  But since we are talking about it…

Exactly what does happiness mean to you…???

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Beauty of Solo Travel

I got sucked in... I mean really sucked in.  The original plan was to leave on Tuesday, but there's something about this place called Utila that spoke to me. It kept saying..."Don't go DJ.... you can't leave yet!" So, I heeded to the call and I didn't leave until the following Sunday.

That's the beauty of solo travel.  If I want to change my plans... I can do just that. But the truth is, who could blame me? With these warm, crystal blue waters filled with thousands of species of tropical fish, rich coral reefs and other fabulous marine life, I just couldn't give it all up without a fight. And I am so glad I didn't... my fight won a sighting of that "yellow-spotted" string ray in the above photo.  So your not into diving, maybe you prefer snorkeling, kayaking, hiking or even horseback riding. My guess is there is something here for everyone. I held out hope to encounter the magnificent blue whale sharks Utila is so famous for, but my timing wasn't quite right.  It seems that they are usually spotted during September and October or from March to April. Oh well, such is life.

But there is truly something in the air (or water) that draws you in and makes you not want to leave this place.  Over and over I heard stories from residents who came for a visit and never left. With all the comforts of home, this idyllic spot is the perfect combination of party town and diving haven.  Not being much of a party person in my older age, I opted for the more soothing diving haven.  And if sports is your thing, there are quite a few places to enjoy them.  My favorite place to do just that turned out to be "the best dive in town..." a little place amply named... Skid Row.  More than just a cool place to kick back with a cold beer and watch the game, the cuisine was simple, but indeed quite yummy.  Everything from a slammin' calzone and pizza, to taco salads and fajita style burritos that knock your socks off, you'll find many menu items to satisfy a craving for great food.  Absolutely, a great place to meet locals, and it's owner Ryan ended up being a really cool dude, despite the fact that he is rooting for the Oklahoma City Thunder to win against my San Antonio Spurs in the NBA semi-finals.  We'll just see about that Ryan! Spurs are back at home for game five, and are gonna give them Thunder..."Some Nasty For Sure!"

With my birthday arriving this week, I kinda felt the need for a little love.  I couldn't think of a better spot to celebrate, than in the quaint colonial town of Copan Ruinas Most come for the Mayan Ruins that are within walking distance from the city's central park, but that's huge mistake.  This tranquil little spot sports an excellent collection of bars, restaurants and attractions too.  From the ultra fabulous Hacienda San Lucas with its romantic countryside eco-friendly setting, to the hypnotic Enchanted Wings Butterfly and Nature Center filled with it's amazing butterflies and 150 different species colorful orchids, you are sure to find something to strike your fancy.  If that isn't enough, try your hand at a two hour sunrise hike, horseback riding, birdwatching or even challenge yourself to a week of Spanish lessons.  There are two schools located here that have gotten great reviews, but my favorite is Guacamaya Spanish School During my one month stay in August 2011, Enrique ran a fabulous school and the teachers were all top notch, including my own maestra, Senora Delmey, who watched over me with the loving kindness of my own mother. Once again, my choice of residence is the ever so fabulous Via-Via. Quaint, with only five rooms, all with private baths, free wifi, superior vegetarian menu (with optional meat selections) awesome beer selections and movie nights for the equivalent of $1 each, this place is definitely a winner. Perhaps I'll spend my birthday at the very cool Macaw Mountain and Bird Reserve, before heading out for drinks with friends to Wine Barcito (yes, there is even a wine bar here) perhaps  ending the evening with movie night.  Tonight's showing... Chronicle. I'm told its a sci-fi flick about three high school friends who make some incredible discovery that gives them super powers that spin their lives out of control. Sounds marginal at best, but who knows what the evening will bring.

 I'll plant myself here through Sunday morning when then I am off to Nicaragua... and this time for real!