When plans change

When I retunred from Cuba, I was really looking forward to a family trip. Initially, this road trip was supposed to be with my daughter, her boyfriend and my two grandsons. I had reserved a two bedroom cottage, The Beachcomber, at the Old Shipyard Campground, Spencer Island in Nova Scotia. Instead, because my daughter was feeling quite ill at the time, she suggested that I go with Aidan. I was not overjoyed that she was ill, however, I was happy to have this opportunity to bring Aidan to the ocean with me for the first time. The road trip to the ocean with Aidan was supposed to be for three nights.

Instinct told me to call to confirm my reservation because after giving my credit card information, I had not heard back. It just so happened, they never received that email. However, it also just so happened that they had a 1 bedroom cottage for the same number of nights available. Ironic that I no longer needed two bedrooms. They told me to drive safe and they would see us the next day.

We left Montreal around 3pm. He is quite the good little traveller. Road stops along the way were ensured to help Aidan not feel bored or restless. We would run around the trees and pretend they were magic forests. Indeed, they were. He would ask repeatedly «Where is the ocean Nana? » This warmed my heart because I felt the same way. Except I am an adult and I know it takes a while to get there. So I would explain that we had to get back into the car so we could get closer. No problems there.

I had promised him he would see the ocean before his head hit the pillow that night. We succeeded in driving to St John, New Brunswick. This choice was because there is a harbour there and, while my geography skills need improvement, I knew that was the «beginning» of the ocean. I was determined to keep my promise. We drove through fog, and darkness. There are moose in New Brunswick, so I was very cautious. We drove slowly, but we made it to the ocean by midnight. The place we stayed at for the night was next to the water. I showed Aidan the ocean before his head hit the pillow.

St John

The next morning, we had breakfast and left for our ultimate destination. Spencer Island. This place has meaning for me. I had never been there, but my second dad and mom would go there every year and they adored the place. Claude had told me about the tides and the ocean. How they would come in so high that they would almost touch the camper. He told me about the cottages. He told me about the serenity of this place. How you could fall asleep to the ocean sounds. I listened to him. Going there with Aidan was meaningful to me on so many levels. I knew I would feel my mom there and I knew she would be overjoyed to see her great grandson there as well.

It was about 3 hours away and Aidan was very excited. I had been told about the road there. It would twist and turn and then a clearing where the ocean would appear in full view. When I saw this, I told Aidan to look and see the ocean. We were beside ourselves with excitement. We were so very close. Then I saw this:

 

May 28th we are at a family gathering. My dad and his wife are in town. My daughter, son in law, grandsons, brother, sister in law, nieces are all together for brunch. They took Aidan for a walk by the river. It was time to leave and Aidan cried «I don’t want to go, I want to see the sea!!!!!!!!! »

I laughed and cried at the sight of that sign.

The couple that owns this campground knew my parents well. When I arrived I was, well, emotional. I said I had a reservation. I told the lady that my parents had been going there for years. She asked their names and then slowly, recognition crossed her face. She asked if Claude had a water company. I confirmed he did and then she said «We were just talking about them yesterday, wondering why they had not been here in a couple of years. » I explained why. She called her husband and explained what had just happened. They hugged me. We cried. They asked how many nights the reservation was for. I explained that it was available for 2 nights. She stated that a third night had just opened up. That was a no-brainer. I took it. They told me they had never seen a couple that enjoyed just being together so much, walking hand in hand on the beach, going for dinner. I agreed.

Our cottage was named «Sea Urchin» and it was perfect. Fully equipped and so cozy. The view from the cottage was perfection.

Interesting how the ocean is. In the Bay of Fundy, the tides are in, out and the ocean looks different every hour. Every day there is something new about it. No matter what, it is still the ocean. So many facets, so many changes, still it is the ocean. The tides are high or low. I suppose that is how life is too.

This location had rocky beaches. Aidan took to the beach immediately and played in the rocks. Aidan would run, trip and fall. He would get up and in minutes, all had passed and all was well again. He found seas shells, rocks and I did too. I even found my first piece of sea glass. One day, we walked along the beach for 2 hours, exploring, playing in the rocks, sand and finding our treasures.

We visited the surrounding areas. Lighthouses, cliffs with each view more breathtaking than the last. Each view of the ocean in all its glory, different that the last.

On the day we were supposed to return to Montreal, we decided to extend the trip. We went to Parlee beach, a beach on the ocean with sand. Aidan would love that. We made sand castles and when the tide started coming in, we were in the water. Aidan felt the little waves on his legs and started to laugh. I wish I had caught that sound on video. The sound of his laughter filled my heart. He sounded just like me. I laugh like a child when I play in the waves. I could relate to Aidan. We had a picnic on the beach. Then it was time to move on to our next destination. We chose Alma. New Brunswick, the Bay of Fundy, NB side. Always by the ocean of course. There was a quaint motel with rooms that had kitchenettes. We had bought food for our journey, opting to cook instead of eating out. We had a nice little dinner by the ocean that night. Aidan wanted to speak to his mommy, daddy and William each night. I loved this because I would get to chat with William. I requested one more night with Aidan and my daughter agreed.

Aidan settled down for bed and I decided to check my work emails. There was one from my partner entitled Personal and Confidential. He thanked me for responding to a client request. Then he informed me that they had decided to present me for a promotion to Senior Manager with a rating of 2. The decision of yay or nay was in progress. The exact polar opposite of what I had been told during my evaluation. I did not know what to make of this email. I was surprised. I had come to some realizations in the recent weeks about work. I went outside to reflect, by the ocean. In the silence I understood that this was out of my hands and I would let the Universe reveal what would happen with this. I let it go.

The next day I walked along the shore and thanked the ocean for a wonderful time, again. You see, there was fog in the mornings but it would always dissipate because of the sun. We had not seen a drop of rain this whole time.

We did not know which route to take on our journey home. I knew of Rocky Harbour, where there is a ferry, a huge boat that goes to Grand Manan Island. The trip is 90 minutes one way. Just anything to keep me on the ocean. However, we had just missed the ferry when we arrived. At that moment, my brother sent me a picture of his African violet that just so happened to have three beautiful flowers. It was my mom’s plant. It had not flowered since her passing. He was in Vancouver visiting my dad and my sister in law had informed him of this news. I was overjoyed for him. I too had purchased an African violet, named her Tessie, after my mom and she had given me three flowers just before my vacation started. It would appear that mom was watching over all of us during our vacations.

We headed towards Fredericton, away from the ocean but next to the St John river which eventually does lead to the ocean…………but I digress. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset that night, as we had every night of our vacation.

Sunsets 2Sunsets

Eventually we made it back to Montreal the next day. I promised Aidan to make a treasure jar with what he had found at the beach.  The following day, I left to go to Sainte Agathe in the north of Montreal. The following day it rained. I walked in the woods and enjoyed the rain. My first day of rain since my vacation had begun. I came across a stream. I decided I would return the next day. I had been hoping to see some animals in the woods, but they were absent that day

I was sitting by the stream in silence. Listening to the rustling trees and feeling the breeze. It was so serene there. A butterfly flew around me. I was surprised because I was wearing black. They are typically attracted to bright colours. It would not stop flying around me. Eventually it flew around my face and fluttered against my eyelid. I called out «Mommy» and it flew around me once more and then went on its way. On my way home, I stopped at Mont Tremblant National Park and saw deer within minutes of entering the park. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach. I thought of Aidan as I made castles in the sand with plastic beer glasses to the interest of little children around me that had boatloads of sand toys.

I suppose things do not always go as planned. I understand there is something precious in this when it happens. Trees, oceans, lakes, streams and nature in general hold secrets to life. This has been my experience in the last three weeks. No matter what the conditions, nature carries on with grace and finds a way to thrive. Every once in a while I feel that way. More so when I am alone, but slowly I am finding ways to be in that state around people. That was one gift of my time spent with Aidan and my vacation in general. Sometimes you really do need to talk with a three year old just to understand life again.

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Wherever you go, there you are

I went to Cuba, not to explore the culture, but to take one week of time to myself to sit and relax by the place I love so much – the ocean. The thought of waking, meditating, swimming and just being by the ocean for one week felt like the perfect thing for me to do. One week may not seem like a lot, but then again, time is relative. I had little expectations for this week other than to be gentle myself and reconnect with my spirit. I felt like I was a human doing instead of a human being.  I was tired and this was my plan. Nothing earth shattering happened in 7 days. But then again, that is also a matter of perspective. What happens when you try to reconnect with your spirit and open your mind to letting things flow? To begin with, I flew through passport control and got my luggage in very little time. I got in the bus to the resort. The tour guide starts off by saying that in Cuba the motto is «Be happy – there is no room for complaints or sadness here. Just be happy». I laugh inside. I will do my best. I am the only person checking into this hotel. There is a terrace and I see palm trees and the ocean is in the distance. I can hear its waves. I go downstairs to explore a bit. The ocean is right down the stairs. I go to the beach. There is lightening, it is spectacular. I put my feet in the ocean. I have arrived.

Day 1

I slept until my eyes opened. All work out plans are out the window. I am going to explore this resort and figure out where i can get a «cafe negro grande» (Americano). The coffee here is delicious. The lady that served it to me is happy and dancing around. It is stunning here. I am noticing how my breath is deep and slow. I am relaxing. This is good. The ocean is calling my name. Time to go for a swim. I see a secluded place under the cliffs with a dot of beach. I decide to swim there. It appeared closer than in reality. I realize I have been swimming a long time now. Once there, I explore and, happy with my accomplishment, I swim back. I then lay back and let the waves do their dance. I am at peace. One nice side effect – work out for today is complete. I moved and did what I love, swam in the ocean. I am liking this time with myself. Me, myself and I are getting along just fine. Success number 1. I am lost in my bubble and hear someone next to me. I realize I almost bumped into this person. I apologize and laugh that I was in my bubble and then realize maybe she is French, I say «Désolé» (Sorry). She laughs and is very happy that I speak French. She too is from Montreal and here alone and is happy to make a friend. I go with this and it becomes apparent that she also likes her space and will not be imposing herself on mine. I say a silent «Thank you» to the Universe. I will call her Miss N. We make plans to eat dinner together at some point but nothing firm and nothing resembling commitment. Success number 2. I am sitting on the terrace and the palm trees are swaying in the wind, the sound is soothing and with the ocean waves, it is almost like the Universe is breathing or meditating. I see a tiny bird and notice it is a hummingbird. I am very happy to see this, I love birds.

At dinner, I am enjoying the mango in my plate and the song «Tears in heaven» plays. I feel tears rising, I am happy .My surroundings have not changed. I realize it is acceptable to let the tears flow and still be okay. I love my mom and Natalino very much. Success number 3.

Day 2

I wake up when my eyes open. I am going to the beach to exercise. I bring my music and start running. I am laughing. I feel a sense of freedom like I have not felt before. It is hot and humid but I run. Until I feel like stopping. I look around at the sand, the waves and the sky. I turn around and run back. I do this multiple times. I notice Miss N is also working out by the beach. I smile to myself. I can relate to Miss N.

It is now time to meditate. I feel this is a good place and time. My guided Davidji meditation is called «Awakening acceptance». I love this theme. I find the buffet and there is mango! My favorite fruit. I only eat fruit because this is all I feel like eating. So it is.

More swimming and relaxing. I have my book «Life loves you» by Louise L Hay. Today’s chapter is «Affirming your life». The question asked is «How would it feel to stop judging yourself»? I ponder on this for a moment. I realize that I would feel good enough, my mind would feel healthy enough. My body would feel good enough and healthy enough. I would be a good enough writer. I would feel capable, competent, and creative enough. My soul pure enough. I imagine I would love myself the way I am. I let myself feel this way for a while and I realize, if I am he thinker of my thoughts, then I can feel this way more often. I can notice when I am being unkind to me. Success for the day. I notice my mind reverting to work. It is thinking «check your emails». I notice this thought and let it float away, like a cloud. These thoughts come from doubt and / or worry and are not soul thoughts. The waves are crashing on the shore. I am going to play in the waves. I do not have to check my work emails. This is more in line with my soul.

Day 3

I decided to check out the gym. There is a stepper there that reminds me of the machine my friend and trainer has at her gym »Jacobs ladder». I decide to give it a try and do intervals for two minutes and then run on the treadmill. It is hot in the gym. I finish my session and decide to go for my mango. As long as it is available I will be eating it. Today’s meditation is « Awakening forgiveness». The chapter in my book is also on the topic of forgiveness. It asks on a scale of 0-100 how much I have forgiven various people in my life, including myself. The first time I had read the book, I had forgiven myself 58%. My parents and Natalino were at 90%.When I saw this, I felt sad. I realized from my previous meditation and now reading this, I had some forgiving to do. I went back to the waves and reflected on this for a while.

I hear music in the background. There is a band playing. I go closer to observe. There are people sitting, enjoying the band. I see a table of three men smoking cigars and having a good time. A table is free next to them. One of the men asks me if I am Spanish. I answer no, and he is disappointed that I do not speak Spanish. He looks like he is from Lebanon. I think of an old friend there. He looks a lot like him. They ask me to take a picture of them. I happily oblige. One of the men is not smiling so much. So I smile directly at him and say «Smile for the camera» and slowly but surely, by the third photo, I get him to smile. Yay me. I sit back down and enjoy the music. I have dinner plans today with Miss N. We are going to the international restaurant here. It has gotten rave reviews.

There is a group of violinists that are playing at dinner. They are extremely talented. The music is gorgeous. One of them comes to ask us what we would like to hear, so I suggest that they play something they love. This is usually where an artist will perform the best. They play Hallelujah. My heart swells and the tears rise because one of the musicians is just beautiful when he plays. His eyes are closed and you can feel the passion he has. Spectacular.

Play the violin for me, play it with passion, your eyes closed for all to see, you’re feeling. Our eyes meet but I look away, I cannot show you me that is not for you to see. Only an artist can expose themselves and right now, that is not me. 

Play the violin for me, I see me in you, the passion you feel, your eyes closed again as you play. I thank you for your artistry. As our eyes meet again, I do not look away. You see me, I see you, playing the violin, a beautiful melody.

 Day 4

I found a perfect spot on the beach. There is an area that is away from the main space. The massage gazebo is just behind it. There are tiki huts with tables. Close to everything but just secluded enough. There are towels on chairs but nobody there. There are two men standing at the last tiki hut with a table not reserved by towels. They ask if I would like the spot. I confirm but did not want to disturb their conversation. They happily let me have the spot and they step back and continue talking. Meditation today was «Awakening Gratitude». I have much to be grateful for. Today my thoughts are with my family. I am also thinking of Aidan and William, my grandsons and my daughter. I adore them. There is nothing quite like meditating by the ocean.

I am relaxed go swimming / playing in the waves. When I return, to my surprise, a man is sitting at the chair next to mine and has taken the other half of the table. I am surprised because there are a multitude of free chairs available. It appears he too thinks this is the perfect spot and has decided that there is only one resident under this tiki hut and therefore the other space is free. I nod hello as does he. We are both sitting in our chairs, relaxing, reading and not speaking. I find this oddly enjoyable. I have accepted the idea I have a roommate for the day. One who does not speak. He gets up to go get a drink. I go for a swim. When we return we both smile and carry on in our shared spot.

Activities have begun. He goes to check them out. The band starts playing so I now go as well. I have always dreamed of dancing the salsa in Cuba, under the sun, outdoors to real live Cuban music. A song starts and one of the entertainers comes right up to me and asks me to dance. I say yes, get up and start dancing with him. He pauses, looks at me and asks where I am from. I respond Canada and he lets me know that I dance very well, that it is not often people keep up with him from the start. Then he asks if I have danced before. I have not really. I just love to dance. We keep dancing I am laughing and feel wonderful. The band is really good too. The song ends and he says I should dance more. I agree. My goal of dancing the salsa has been achieved with someone from Cuba no less.

When I got back to my shared spot, I was grateful my roommate was there. We smiled at each other. I continued reading my book. The chapter is on Gratitude. I realize I have had a most pleasant day at the beach with this stranger. We were mutually watching over each other’s belongings. It was very nice and I decided to write him a thank you note for a nice day at the beach. I decided I would slip it into his bag when he got up to go somewhere.

I was at the restaurant having a beverage when he returned. I noticed him find my note, look around and smile. I giggled. I was having a great time and nobody was invading my space. When I returned, he introduced himself. Mr. X. is from Belgium and had spent 20 days travelling around Cuba. He was not even staying at this resort, but a «casa particular» and had wanted a nice beach to spend the day. The hotel charged him some pesos and here he was. We were both getting ready to leave. It was almost 6pm. He said he would be back tomorrow. Maybe we would run into each other.

I had dinner with Miss N again. We then went to the terrace where I met more of her friends who were in their mid-20s, Italian and also from Montreal. I was not sure about how long I wanted to spend with this group. I figured I would see how I felt as the night went on. I chatted for a while with Mr. M. Age is a funny thing. I used to think it was just a number. In the last few months I noticed myself starting to doubt that. Tonight became clear that age means nothing. I will not go into more detail on this but suffice to say, the message was received. That doubt can now be put to rest.

Day 4

Day 5

Sure enough, Mr. X and I were in the same spot today, sharing our space. I meditated to «Awakening compassion» He asked me to join him for a beverage. He works in marketing, for a chocolate company. He lives 5 minutes away from his work. He told me about his friends and their traditions, such as a men’s weekend once per year, no matter what. Wives and girlfriends are warned this is happening. He let me know he was the only bachelor of his group. He asked what I did and I explained I was a chartered accountant working in the advisory department at KPMG. He had friends that work at KPMG in Belgium and they all left due to long hours, stress and lack of advancement in their career. How ironic I thought. He was leaving tomorrow, going to Havana for a couple of days before returning to Belgium. I enjoyed our little chat and was not sure how to proceed. I did not come to Cuba to meet people or anything of that sort, although he was very interesting and pleasant. It was almost as if he sensed that. We returned to our beach chairs and our little hut and carried on with our day. When 6pm came around, I got up to leave and get ready for dinner. We said goodbye, it was nice meeting you and I wished him safe travels home. I hope Mr. X made it safely back home.

Miss N and I had dinner with her friend Peter. The sunset was glorious, the most beautiful this week. We exchanged information. She is leaving tomorrow.

Day 6

Today is my last full day here. My meditation is «Awakening the divine». Both my companions have left. I am thankful for them too. I see gorgeous flower trees and thank my mom. It might sound stupid but Natalino had this hair gel and I kept it when I emptied his apartment. I asked Jade, our daughter’s permission and she said it was fine with her. In the humidity, his gel is keeping my hair manageable. I feel like he is with me. After dinner I went to see the show. It was my first this week. It was dancing. However, I was not prepared for what would happen here.

March 30 2017, it is just past midnight. I am with my mom and she has just taken her last breath. I am waiting for Claude now. As he walks in, a song is playing. It is one that our little circle know. The name escapes me. He kneels down by my mother’s bed to say his last goodbye. My heart is breaking watching this.

The couple on stage is dancing to this song. The routine is brilliant. Tears start to well up.

June 2017 – sidewalk sale on St Laurent Blvd. – I am packing Natalino’s things. I am in the apartment, alone. I find one of his hoodies, on the armchair. It smells like him. I hold it in my arms, like we are dancing. I dance with the hoodie in the living room and I say my goodbyes.

Then the song, «All of me» came on and a man, alone on the stage, danced with a pink dress. That is when I lost it…………..

I thought all the tears were out and gone. I thought I was finished. I started to cry, but wanted to keep it together. I thought I had succeeded.

One week in Cuba was for me to take time to realign myself with myself. Be with me and take care of myself. One week in Cuba and I feel so grateful, blessed, abundant and happy. I spent as much time with the ocean as humanly possible. However, this last night in Cuba taught me that just like the waves don’t play around, emotions don’t either. I cried like I never have before. I was not even depressed or heartbroken. I just had to let those tears out. I had no choice. They were coming like waves. There was no stopping them. This last night in Cuba, got to me. The dancing, the songs, the everything. There was no stopping the tears, just like you cannot stop a wave. I went to my room. «I accept» I said out loud, «I accept, I accept, I accept». I know one thing – I may not have transformed in one week but I do know that I released something significant this last night. And for that, I am grateful.

Day 7

I went to the beach and meditated to «Awakening abundance» I certainly feel abundant this week. The weather has been perfect, the location has been perfect. I have done what I wanted, when I wanted. I have swam in the ocean for hours on end and relaxed listening to the waves. I thank the Universe over and over again. I went to the ocean and talked with it for quite a while. I thanked the waves and the ocean for being the way it is. I wanted to stay for as long as possible until it was time to leave.

As I went for my last swim, I realized that I had not found one of the beautiful spiral shells that I am accustomed to seeing in Cuba, it is almost like they are not in season. I thought to myself wouldn’t it be nice to find just one? As I looked down, there was one beautiful spiral shell at my feet. No waves were coming to take it away. I was able to pick it up. I started to laugh out loud. I was so happy about this shell. I kissed it and thanked the ocean over and over again. I thanked the palm trees, the flowers, the birds, and the people who had taken care of me during the week. I would prefer to stay but I was also happily accepting that I had to leave and go home.

Mom and Natalino I know you are here with me. If I have to cry like that again, I accept. With all my love to Cuba, the ocean, beach and everyone who was so nice to me. I will never forget these 7 days on my own in Cuba, where on the last night I broke the rule. In Cuba people come to be happy and this is where I let out my deepest sorrows, in happiness, gratitude and acceptance. No matter where you go, there you are. If that is the case, I want to bring back the «me» that I was in Cuba and practice what I did in Cuba at home. It is possible, all I have to do is close my eyes, hear the waves and remember to breathe. I have that seashell as a tangible reminder.