A Honu World

There are moments that define entire chapters of our lives, instantly.

I woke up early on a Sunday morning and decided that this was going to be the weekend I pulled out the snorkel gear and went for a swim before Beach Dance. The group doesn’t start until 9 AM, and I could easily do a swim at a favorite spot adjacent to where the group gathers. I knew from a snorkel trip I took in December of 2012, that an area populated by lots of sea turtles (honu) was right on the same beach.

Pulling in to the parking lot, the weather was perfect, the sea relatively calm, and the water clear. I was a little nervous to be swimming in Makena alone. This was the place where shark attacks had been reported over the last year. I am not the world’s strongest swimmer. Doubts and fears were starting to creep in. If I drowned or got eaten by a shark, my son was still asleep at home. How long would it take them to find him, to contact him? I started having hyper-responsible Mom thoughts. I am not the reckless, footloose and fancy free person I might seem.

I decided that it was worth the risk. The water was calm and the conditions not the type that are usually a danger for drowning or sharks. Besides, I believe that if it’s your time, it’s your time… and meeting my end on a beach on Maui would be a pretty awesome exit given the alternatives. So off I went.

Just that morning I had been thinking about my new life as a single person. I love the freedom, the options available to me, the potential for something new to show up. But some days, I think “I’m probably going to be alone the rest of my life. There are pretty slim pickings out there. It’s pointless. There’s no one out there for me. I give up. I’m actually just fine by myself.” These thoughts were still swimming in my head while I was swimming in the sea.

I swam out along the reef and in the first 10 to 20 minutes all I saw was one strange fish that looked like a pointy noised bumper sticker. Otherwise, just clear blue water. No colorful tropical fish. No honu. I really, really wanted to see a honu. I have a special connection to turtles. I once tripped over one on a sidewalk outside by tai chi class… in a shopping center. I have a sacred turtle rattle that means the world to me. One day, when we lived in Sacramento, I was at the river with my son and a turtle turned on it’s side and waved at me from the water. Strange things. On my first visit to Maui, I swam in this same area with nearly a dozen of them. I just hovered and followed little groups of them. It was the highlight of my visit.

Hawaiians have a belief in the aumakua. The idea that certain animals embody the spirit of ancestors who guide and protect us. If there is any animal here that is my likely aumakua, it is the honu. Honu represent wisdom and peace. So, I was very hopeful to see one that morning.

All around the reef I swam. At one point my snorkel mask started to get a little water leakage, so I emerged from the water the clear the mask. As I looked out over the ocean, the reef, and the beautiful sky I was just grateful to be there and be having the experience I was having. It didn’t matter that I was there by myself. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t seen any fish or a honu. I was swimming in warm, beautiful water. I overcame a whole bunch of fears and jumped in. It was all good. I decided I might as well swim back to shore and go to meet the group for beach dance.

I put my face back into the water and right there, swimming toward me and just below me was the biggest honu I could possibly imagine! It was breath-taking. So graceful, so majestic, so terribly cute!

If honu are mind readers, this one heard me say, “Oh hi! I’m SO happy to see you! Thank you for coming! I love you. You are beautiful.”

As I swam back to shore full of wonder and delight, I knew that I wasn’t alone and that things can change in an instant… when you are content, grateful, and no longer looking. 😉

 

The Fun Factor

“When was the last time you had FUN?” he asked me.

carmenCatWe were sitting at the bar in a popular sushi restaurant on Maui and karaoke night was about to get started. Hundreds of patrons were working on achieving sufficient inebriation in order for most to sing badly (and a few fabulously) in public or endure others singing badly in public. This is what some people define as “fun.” I’m sure, for them, it is. And good on them. It is not the only definition of fun, however. It is not an item in my Fun Box. Questions like this in situations like that cause introverts like me to stare blankly, stammer, and shrug.

We know that nothing we can say in that moment is going to sound FUN to the person who asked the question. To us, it is assumed by many that if you don’t like to be either drunk or stoned and make a jackass of yourself in public that you are opposed to fun and that you never experience this thing called “fun”.

Introverts think it’s fun to sit in a coffee shop and eaves drop on random snatches of conversation and spin the sound bites into novels or screen plays we are, in fact, actually writing.

Introverts think its fun to go “beach dancing” and listen to their own little iPod with 14 other people and rock out and do their own thing. We don’t have to blast our music so the entire county can hear it. We want to have our own fun and let you have yours. We don’t impose our definition of fun on others. You probably won’t see us slam dancing at a club, rubbing up against dozens of other sweaty bodies who try to have conversations in snatches between beats but mostly keep repeating, “Whaaaaat?”  The noise and the number of people suck the life out of us. Extroverts are energized by being in such environments. To an introvert, this (and CostCo on sample Saturday) are our version of Kryptonite.

Introverts think its fun to read a great novel then spend hours discussing it with a friend over coffee in their favorite cozy coffee shop. We enjoy time in nature, journaling, creating art, and doing things by ourselves and then sharing the experience when we come back. Sometimes, we like to share these experiences with a select few who “get it”. We think it’s fun to REALLY get to know someone in depth. We like to understand what makes people tick.

 

Introverts learn, usually somewhere in junior high or high school that they are not going to be part of “the scene”. We will be branded as people who are “no fun” because we have a different definition of it. And so, without really trying, we are not invited to the dance, the party, the event, the whatever. This only enhances the pattern, of course. By the time we are in college, we figure out that our best hope of a social life is to join a club or something—ideally with other disenfranchised introverts.

Being labeled “fun phobic” that night got me thinking (as introverts do) about the nature of fun. Is FUN a generalized experience? Is there a definitive experience “out there” that people are enjoying and I have totally missed it? Or is FUN a personal interpretation and experience? Am I, in my own introverted way, having a freakin’ blast and I don’t recognize my own joy because it looks different than how my extroverted friends define it?

I put the question out to my Facebook friends. It was helpful. The best themes that emerged in the discussion were:

1. Most people agree that FUN is doing something YOU like to do with people you enjoy. (Even if it’s solo.)

2. Many people have fun doing exactly the kinds of things I like to do.

3. Fun, like beauty,  is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think knitting is fun. Some people think bungie jumping is fun. Different strokes… We do not need to judge another person’s fun, just celebrate their enjoyment of it.

4. It is good to experience new things because we never know when something will be added to our Fun Box. We don’t know unless we try, right?

So, you know what I think is fun? Going to a sushi bar to visit a new friend on karaoke night. Not to sing karaoke, but to have the conversation, try some amazingly delicious sushi I never tasted before, and open up a great discussion about the nature of “fun” and then write a blog post about it. 🙂 I know it will never get me arrested, but that’s okay with me.

My Life: Reloaded

It was like cracking open a time capsule when I navigated back out to “taniavonallmen.com”

The site was originally created to be a web-based lobby to direct a person who might “Google me” to the various interests and offerings I had going on at the time. I just discovered that most of it is obsolete. In just under two years, most of it needs to change, because most of ME has changed.

I couldn’t possibly imagine that when I wrote that last post in September of 2012, I would be visiting Maui in December of 2012. (I hadn’t made the plane reservation yet.) I certainly would not have imagined I would move here in less than a year, sell most everything I owned, and start a new life.

It is interesting to see how certain themes, still in their infancy in 2012, have played out over the last couple of years:

Simplicity:

At that point, I was beginning my exploration of minimalism, of reducing not only clutter but overall possessions. Today, after the big purge to make the migration and over a year on island, I can still fit everything I own in a 4’x4′ storage unit. When I lived in Sacramento, I enjoyed a hammock in my backyard. Now I have opted for one in my bedroom instead of a bed. I will probably do a blog just on the hammock topic as a number of people are strangely curious about everything from the hardware to the sleeping comfort.

I have learned, especially thanks to moving 4 times in one year, to keep it simple. Less is more. I have also learned that there are some things I really cannot do without and it is good to know that about myself. (That will also be a stand-alone topic.)

Integrity:

A core theme for me has always been to be true to myself. Being in alignment with the core of who I am is essential to my happiness and well-being. If something or someone is steering me off course from my true Path, I need to make adjustments. I am finding that awareness that took me 20 years to finally take action on is now coming to me in weeks, days, and sometimes just hours. I am traveling light not only regarding possessions, but in relationship with others as well. I am not entangled in stuff and it’s care and feeding any more than I am entangled in relationships that are not mutually beneficial.

Clarity:

Everything got really complicated for awhile. In my first year, there were lots of things, really basic things, to figure out that were not really issues in my old life. Things like shelter, transportation, and education. Things like what I do and how I do it. For example, I was a home-owner for 18 years in the same house. I didn’t think much about having a place to live. My first year here housing was a huge project. I spent a lot of time, resources, and emotional and mental energy looking for the right place that met my needs financially, geographically, energetically, and spatially.

As each situation presented itself in 3 to 5 month sprints, I was able to dial in more precisely what I wanted most. I had the power and the clarity that comes from making clear distinctions. I discovered I preferred to be closer to my son’s school and drive less even if Kihei wasn’t as green or was a bit hotter than Wailuku or upcountry. I discovered that I am not cut out for roommates, and that I am happier and more productive in a smaller space with just two of us than a bigger space with others.

The same thing happened with my business. I made a lot of clarifying distinctions. I dialed in what I like most about what I do, what I like least, and what sort of lifestyle I want my business to support. I discovered I like working alone alone in nature, seeing people less frequently, and having lots of time to create. I like building a business around my lifestyle and not my lifestyle around my business. It changes everything.

Creativity:

Most important, I have discovered that I really need a place to express what’s going on with me. Even if no one reads it  or can relate… I get some of my biggest personal insights by writing them down. And sometimes, those insights are things other people can relate to and they benefit from the shared experience. I meet interesting people every day on the beach and have thoughts that need to go beyond a short paragraph on Facebook. This will be the place I explore them.

I am starting Year Two on Maui. I am out of my cave of recovery. Every morning I sit up in my hammock and slip out of my silk cocoon (quite literally a brand called Cocoon of silk sleeping bag liner) like an emerging butterfly from her chrysalis. Every day a new adventure in this new life I have chosen for myself.

It is time to fly. I invite you to join me.