Being stuck inside my house reminds me of the time I spent living in a tropical paradise. I know, that sounds strange. When I moved to Hawaii 7 years ago I envisioned an extended vacation released from my usual responsibilities. Instead of reveling in my freedom, I discovered that island life meant physical and social isolation.
Amidst swaying palms and gorgeous sunsets, I felt a lot like I do now. Often tired and listless, my emotions spiraling up and down, I was most decidedly, unlike my usual self. What was wrong with me? Here I was in a glorious place, unfettered and free, yet I rarely felt at ease.
The circumstances are completely different now, and most of the world is sharing this uncomfortable experience with me. There is a lot of discussion on how to survive uncertainty and social isolation. The alien emotions I’m shuffling through this time are familiar, the roller coaster of highs and lows predictable. Plus, I better understand what my island girl self went through back then.
Back in Hawaii, the feeling of isolation improved eight months later when we moved to a more touristy location where people were friendlier. There were new challenges to deal with as our small cottage was hot and oppressive and didn’t easily accommodate two big dogs.
Then, and now, the relief was to be found outdoors, looking at the ocean and sky. The hillside where I walk today affords expansive views of my hometown below, and the springtime clouds merge and shift overhead. It’s possible to imagine the better days ahead when I will once again walk through the familiar streets, greeting friends, stopping for tea and conversation.
I’ll be grateful when we return to our former privileges, and I know I won’t arrive unchanged. Returning from Hawaii taught me that the shifts in perspective gained living in a different culture were lasting. The gratitude I felt returning to my life in California remains undimmed. My large, clean home, the cool nights, the work I enjoy, all a daily blessing. The relaxed beauty culture in Hawaii showed me I was worrying too much about the wrong things. The humid tropical climate meant that everyone wears sleeveless tops and saggy arms (and thighs) go unnoticed. Clothes are meant to be loose and comfortable, just like the sweatpants we are living in now.
Today my hair is too long and my nails unpolished. Comfort is the priority as my pretty spring wardrobe hangs in my closet, untouched. Flipping through a fashion magazine seems absurd but I’m still applying lipstick. I’ll welcome back the enjoyable aspects of caring for my appearance, but I suspect the way I view the beauty culture in the future will change in a lasting way. We’ll see.
The part of me that has always loved Hawaii, vacationland of dreams, lives on. The relationship I developed with mermaids continues and even though I can’t visit the sea I find solace listening to the whispers of the trees instead. I’m enjoying the time I spend living in my imagination and painting the clouds that hang low in the sky.
Stay safe and happy dreaming.
I miss you and look forward to some colorful times together in the future.