I arrived in Hopkins village with several intentions: to see what it felt like to spend an extended period of time there, to explore the possibility of living and working in the village in the winters, to establish a good self-care routine, to swim daily, to work on writing my book, and to practice going slower and be more in the present moment. I did my best, and as I reflect, I suppose I was more successful than I give myself credit for. I swam every day, I got a great immersion into village life, balancing my time with local friends and getting to know the expat and traveler community, and definitely got some practice with going slower and being in the present moment. My yoga practice was not what I intended and I was not inspired to write very often. I was surprised to experience more waves of exhaustion and grief that I had to tend to. I realized that my time there was best spent networking, building friendships, and experiencing village life. I can write anywhere; my time in the village was limited.
Slowing down allowed another wave of grief to creep in, and yet another round of community therapy. The children who visited me regularly were such sweet medicine. We colored together, played in the waves in the sea, shared hand-clap games, and talked about our daily lives, loss, and desires. One of my best moments with adults in the village came on a day after I had experienced this month’s deepest wave of grief. After crying in the sea, I pulled myself together and went by the home of a young girl I had promised some books. Her father, whom I had not met before, was cooking chicken on a make-shift cinderblock and wheel hub grill on the front porch. He shared with me that they were preparing for family to arrive for the funeral of his sister the next day. He told me about the other deaths in his family during the past 4 years and talked about life in the village. I shared with the family about losing Jameson and about how healing I found it to be accepted by a black culture, after being brought up in the south where racism is still the norm. The depth of sharing upon our first meeting was profound.
As I was getting ready to leave, he asked me to wait until his wife finished the tortillas so that they could send me with dinner. While I waited, the kids and I took turns sharing dance moves and looking at pupas in the vines creeping up the front porch. It was deeply touching to have this family welcome me, take the time to get to know me, and make me dinner, in the midst of preparing for house guests and a funeral.
Another moment came one day when I found myself feeling emotional about the loss of my best friend and partner. As I rode my bike past the coffee shack on the main street, some Canadian friends called out my name, and I turned around and came back to sit with them as they drank their smoothies. Something came up in our conversation that scratched into the surface of the sadness I was feeling and my tears began to seep out. I shared with them about Jameson’s death and my local friend offered me his shoulder to cry on. The Canadian couple had just been with a local man who lost his sister suddenly and he had also been crying in their presence in his grief. We talked about how we all relate to grief and pain on a soul level, how witnessing someone’s expression of grief touches us all. I felt much better and stronger after letting the emotions I had been silently sitting with out, having the support of my new friends. This indeed was a beautiful example of community therapy.
I also connected with a lovely Canadian woman in her 70’s, who has been living and doing business in the village for about 25 years. She and her husband built their jungle and sea resort from the ground up together. She lost him to complications from a stroke two and a half years ago. Because of having to continue to manage her business, she has not had the time to grieve his death fully. We spent time together talking about the stages of grief and how to find ways for her to navigate this full life she has and make the time to grieve the deep loss she is still experiencing.
On my journey, I am seeking clarity as to what changes I am going to make in my life after this tumultuous past year and a half. I am not the same person I was before Jameson’s death. I know it is important to take this experience and make it into something bigger than my own pain and suffering – to turn it into something beautiful, just as our food scraps compost and create the soil for something nourishing to grow again. I know it is important for me to help others on their journeys though grief. Besides that knowing, I am still seeking, and continuously learning to navigate this complicated world of beauty and tragedy.