Tortola Isolation

November 24, 2012

This was meant to be posted a long long, LONG, time ago. That's why there is references to holy week and summery weather. Please ignore this procrastination error on my part. It's still a good read. Enjoy!

            There is only one tiny problem with traveling on Holy Week and being catholic. Full on catholic guilt.  You do your best to ignore it, try desperately to convince yourself that God would probably want you to enjoy yourself and relax. But you can’t keep the guilt away for too long. She’s sneaky and determined and will constantly remind you you shouldn’t be here. You should be at home praying, going to church and eating fish for the next three days.

Instead what are you doing? You’re on the beach, getting a tan, drinking refreshing frozen beverages and sinking your teeth on smoked barbecued meat. Oh yeah. You’re guilt is on full throttle by now. 

However, there are ways to balance the pure bliss that’s feeding your guilt with some sacrifices that will subside it. So on Holy Friday, the most sober and saddest day of Holy week, the crew decided not to sail to any of the neighbour Islands and stay put in Nanny Cay, the marina slash hotel we were staying at every night.

It wasn’t a stretch of a sacrifice –pool, lovely beach and little shops to visit included- but guilt would just have to settle down and accept it.

We quickly found out most things were closed –because it’s Holy Friday- and the bar wasn’t serving alcohol. At first, it was a bummer. All the things you look forward in vacation were off limits for a whole day. It kind of feels like someone fast forward a whole day of your precious vacation time. Damn that guilt! 

But as it turns out, doing nothing for a whole day became a blessing for me. With no busy agenda to fill with fun visits or loud music, I was able to just be for myself which I realized I hadn’t done for a long time. As I sat down on a wooden bench placed in the middle of a secluded patio adorned with almond trees, the feeling of loneliness started creeping to the surface. 

Immediately I was alarmed. We are told loneliness is an ugly feeling, a gateway to sadness or a hole inside of us we need to fill and that is exactly how my body reacted. As soon as it detected the loneliness, I felt a strong need to get up and do something, busy myself with any trivial task, scream if necessary to cut through that invasion of silence.

As strong as the instinct was to burst out into action, I didn’t. I decided to still on that bench, my fingers curling tightly around the wooden edge, and let the loneliness simmer inside me. After the initial panic to dissolved, it was easy to see the loneliness was no threat to me. It didn’t mean I was empty or my life was lacking great meaning. It was just a call from inside to myself. “Hey remember me? We haven’t spent much time alone for a while. How about that?”

The message was so clear under this bright sun and quiet green surroundings, I laughed softly to myself. I had been so busy for the past few weeks planning my future and constantly figuring out my plans, I had forgotten to just stop for a minute and spend time with myself. Without the noise and the automatic need to something, I was now able to talk to myself. 

I spent the rest of the day doing just that as I walked a few laps around the quaint marina. I strolled around the brightly painted paintings that seemed to have taking tips from the color blocking trend that was happening at the moment. I sat down on the soft grass of a small rustic garden where I could hear the faint crash of waves and the birds chirping from the trees. I must have looked insane. Heck, even the chickens that roamed the area were a bit confused by my presence. But I didn’t care. I sat down and wrote in my notebook, thoughts, ideas, any feeling I had been ignoring recently. I let myself relax so everything that had been tied down could float to the surface. It’s funny. We are so afraid of what’s going inside us, we postpone looking into it in case we don’t like what we see, in case we have left it too long and don’t like how deteriorated it’s become. But once you do, you realize it’s not as bad as you think and there is a certain freedom that comes from sorting it all out.

When the sun became too much to bear, I continued to walk along the docks, admiring all the boats, the different shapes and names that were given to them. The Revenge. Lucy. Couples Therapy. Let it be. Some were small and run downed, like they have had long term relationship with the sea and were still going strong. Some were shiny and gigantic, bigger and more expensive than any house ever could be. Yet everyone came here with different budgets and countries, to find that quiet time we all need. 

The more I spent time alone, the more I cherished it and realized it’s just as important as catching up with your family or friends. By sunset, I was so into it I didn’t want to be interrupted with anything.

 I had a not so small ice cream cone –erm, two really- as I sat on the docks swinging my legs like a child would. The row of boats led your eyes to the Tortolan green mountains freckled with colorful houses that made you truly contemplate starting a life here, opening up a smoothie shop and just live the life of a permanent vacationer. Taking another unladlylike spoonful of mango sherbet and risking a brain freeze, I made a mental note to do this more often. Just be by myself.

Maybe if guilt hadn’t been loud and obnoxious, I wouldn’t have gotten this precious time. Maybe I would have been too busy looking for ways to be busy. But this time, I was grateful guilt had its way (just this time). And as I was grateful for small dosis of guilt, I was grateful for everything else- the incredibly hot day, the sweet and tangy ice cream that counterbalanced the heat, the postcard perfect surroundings, the salty air and the calming ocean. But more than anything, I was grateful I was able to stop in my tracks and really look at it. 

I had a sudden urge to go running to the boat and find my camera to capture this moment forever, to be able to see it again and again in a frozen picture. But the ice cream was too good to ruin with rushing, and so was the view.

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