Life at Sea Level

For many years now, I have had no trouble with silence and stillness. I appreciate a silent place to work or read, a quiet walk alone, a savasana at the end of a yoga class with no instructor babbling about leading me down an imaginary garden path. There is comfort for me in the quiet but lately I have had trouble explaining my slow days to a busy world - and even to myself.

This morning I read a piece in The Atlantic that described quite well how a solitary person may spend their days. The writer tells about renting a cabin in Alaska outside of Denali National Park and the challenge of filling of 24 hours with the modern expectation of productivity. Although our circumstances are different - she lived alone, whereas I live with my husband; she did not have electricity, whereas we rely on wifi - some of the feelings are similar. She describes a restlessness and a yearning of not wanting to fall back into a life dulled by instant access to everything and days of endless, empty busyness. But then, what exactly do you do with your time? I have already posed this question to myself more times than you. I hope I am getting more comfortable with the answer. 

Some days, I wake up late, knowing by the light on the trees outside that it’s 8 o’clock - well past the time an adult my age is supposed to start her weekdays. Some days, my phone beckons me with an artificial marimba beat, bidding me to stir. On those days I get up, slip on a pair of havaianas and walk to the beach, where I attempt to run. It usually doesn’t go well, mostly because I haven’t been a regular runner since my days in the military. But also because the stretch of sand I run on, called Praia Mole, is literally named “Mushy Beach”. My feet sink with every step and some days that’s precisely how I feel about my purpose here in Brazil: a sinking and/or insubstantial feeling, particularly when asked “So what do you do with your days?”

I’m told I have the luxury of time here. And I do. Except when I think about updating my resume or my next career move. Then the luxury of time seems like a curse. Am I just waiting to get back to a life where every morning I put on heels instead of flip flops? Most days, I am caught between savoring being present in paradise and pining for my next job title on a business card I haven’t ordered myself. Most days, my days might be described as forgettable. I mean that literally. I forgot what day it is today. I had to look at my phone to tell me. 

As The Atlantic article helped me discover, my days are not always filled with the verbs we often measure success by: studying, cleaning, working, earning, improving. My days are defined by smaller, stiller moments. This morning I figured out the color of the butterflies dancing on the pink hibiscus flowers outside our home. I believe they’re marigold, or the color of sunlight when it’s just warming up the earth again each morning. I watched their seemingly erratic, delicate flight path just long enough to be filled anew with wonder.