Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Independence Day

Rather than a BBQ and fireworks, two things that I thoroughly enjoy, I crossed the Gulf to Mexico for an extended 4th of July this year and celebrated my very own version of Independence Day. Not terribly patriotic insomuch as the USA is concerned, but very true to and supportive of my own self, the country of me. You see, though I travel often for work, which entails many flights, meals and hotel stays solo, this was a solo travel for pleasure. Admittedly, I was not entirely alone. Dear friends of mine who live far away finally decided after 13 years and 2 children that it was high time for them to get married in the Catholic church. They'd had a civil wedding many years ago, but he only recently became Catholic. Since it was very important to them to formalize their union in this way, off went a group of close friends and family for a beautiful getaway in Riviera Maya, Mexico for some fun, sun and an oceanside wedding.

There is a degree of irony that the first solo trip I took post-divorce, was to a wedding. The weekend prior I was partying it up in South Beach, living the single fab life to the fullest, and the next I'm off to honor marital bliss. Adding to the irony, the other wedding guests were composed of about 90% married couples and we were staying at a beautiful resort full of couples and families enjoying their vacations alongside the turquoise waters and warm breezes of the Mexican coast. So for the intermittent chunks of time that I was not with my friends and/or doing wedding related activities, I was one of very few people that I encountered doing just about anything solo. When I checked in there was a slightly puzzled look on the face of the receptionist when she confirmed that I was traveling alone. The handful of times I strolled in for a meal on my own at one of the bountiful buffets the server would politely inquire if another guest would be joining me. It was an odd sight, apparently, for me, a young woman amidst a resort full of people with their people, to be alone.

In reality, many people choose to travel alone, even if they have a significant other, family or friends to join them. For some, it is extremely pleasurable to strike out on their own and have an adventure or just relax. Whatever the reason, the attraction is having space and time to do what you want to do without worrying about meeting the needs of others. I must agree that there is something to that. My married friends with children really envied the afternoon I spent lounging on the beach and eating lunch at 4pm while they'd been doing the family thing. I loved it as well, along with the book I read cover to cover, the giant bed I had all to myself and the room without overflowing suitcases and clutter from the kids. I was able to appreciate that, just as they are blessed with the love and incomparable bonds of their families, I am blessed with incomparable self love and independence. These qualities allow me to enjoy an experience such as this trip rather than wallow in the pangs of sadness that do occasionally strike when I find myself longing for my special someone by my side.

Let me be real here. . . Swinging the balance in this direction took work. For a while after my separation I had a really hard time being around couples, even the couples who happened to be great friends and showered me with love and support. I found it much more comfortable to be with just the girl half of said couple, or better still, my single girlfriends. And the friends with kids, oh boy, that was another tough one. I'm a kid magnet. I LOVE children and have this uncontrollable urge to engage them whenever they are near. Everything in me wants to be a mother, and it is perplexing to some that after 6 years of marriage I did not have any children of my own. It is easy now to see why that didn't happen, and frankly, I am glad. But it did take some getting used to for me to be around my friends with kids and not be outright jealous and sad that they had the thing that I want most at the very core of my being. I remember being brought to tears while visiting one of my best friends in her beautiful home, complete with handsome husband, adorable infant, cat and dog. . .you know, the "happily ever after" package?!?! The thing is, I know better than to draw conclusions based solely on outward appearances. I know firsthand that this particular couple has fought hard to nurture the beautiful relationship and family that they have today. And I know too that there are moments when they envy my single life just as I envy their married one. In this case, I don't think a little shot of envy is such a bad thing. It reminds you to keep a little balance between what you have and what you would like to have. It gives you something to strive for.

So what am I striving for? Right now, what I want to continue to do is explore and embrace my own independence. I would like to grow increasingly more comfortable with solo travels and adventures because I absolutely intend to keep seeing the world and enjoying myself whether I do it alone or not. My plan is Europe in the fall! Also I'm going to continue going nuts over the absurdly adorable children my friends keep popping out and relish every moment of it. Being Auntie Jess is a blessing of its own and a role I'm honored to play. I'm going to live my life, fully, freely and with wild abandon. That is what makes me happy, right here, right now.

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