I came to Costa Rica with my family and a mission. When my sister, Jessica, first invited me, back around the second week after Isaac passed away, it was not something I could really process. I took a long time to accept this very generous, all-inclusive, all expenses paid, gift from her & her husband. I think I finally said “ok” the day before I left for Aruba, yet another generous gift from one of my oldest & dearest friends, Dilas & her husband. When I returned from Aruba, which was lovely and wonderful, but difficult because I missed my husband and my son’s father, I wasn’t sure I could leave again. I spent a lot of what little mental energy I had at the time trying to convince myself it was ok to stay home and trying to find a way to tell my sister, even though my ticket had already been purchased. As the weeks passed and my therapist and I discussed it, a mission began to take shape; to allow myself the opportunity to get serious about taking care of myself in a radical way. I spent a majority of my time since October 25 unable to eat, unable to relax, unable to sleep. I was finding it easy to accept an idea planted in my head, by my head, that I didn’t deserve nourishment or nurturing from myself, or anyone else. But everyone else was ignoring the obvious and being supremely kind and generous to me. The kinder they were, the harder on myself I was. I felt unworthy of the attention and the gentle way everyone orbited around me. I can’t really explain it; it was just a place I had arrived in my grief. Although I was, I am, so deeply grateful, I just couldn’t seem to stop feeling as though it was way more than I deserved.
I also knew this was really a bunch of crap! I mean, I know that! I know that is an old pattern for me, a pattern I worked diligently to remove. It is tangled up in Isaac’s choice & a cycle of shame and a bunch of psychology I don’t feel represents me anymore– because I worked on it, right? So why are all these old ways of stinkin thinkin showing up now? My therapist says its normal, that old fight or flight patterns show up when you confront the unthinkable. But damn. Im disappointed in myself, on top of shaming myself, for undoing all the work Ive done. See? See how that works? Its a vicious cycle…
Hence, my mission. My mission, in coming here, was to get back to the center of myself. To see it again, recognize it, and remember how to embrace it. I am not my thoughts. Im not my regrets. I am me. I know who I am~ or at least, I did until October 25th at about 11:11 am.
The thing about claiming myself, as I had been working on doing since September of 2013 when it became inevitable that I must (that’s a whole other blog post…) is that, I had become pretty stoked about who I was, where I was headed, how I showed up for myself and my son & my husband & everyone else. I had been humbled– truly humbled by some re-evaluation and healing and had begun to feel like I was on fire with life lust. In fact, Isaac was regularly singing to me “this girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys because I was a woman on a mission. It was a gentle tease but a truth too. I was living again. I was deciding who I was and how I showed up– I was more than Josh’s wife & Isaac’s mom– which is not to say those weren’t enough, just that I had really lost myself in those roles–(again, another blog post…), and way over attached… I’ll admit it, I was completely dependent on them for my self worth, prior to getting my shit together.
So….. when we lost Isaac, it was as though I reset my default button to factory settings; who am I now without him?
So, to come to Costa Rica, to accept the gift, was my way of saying: Im ready to remember the truth. And it isn’t easy; it feels as though a part of me is ready to move forward and this conflicts with holding on to grief as a way of showing up for Isaac now. Again, these concepts aren’t easy to explain. I know that I will grieve the loss of Isaac forever. What I don’t want to habituate to is grieving the loss of myself. That’s what Im trying to say. I want to live as full a life as I can. I want to feel my wholeness, not only survive my brokeness.
As soon as we arrived, I set down my suitcase and went to check out my surroundings. I needed to connect with the trees. I needed a tree hug. So I walked down the dusty road and found the biggest tree I could, a Guanacaste. Enormous and utterly beautiful. As I looked up to take in its entirety, I saw a bald eagle fly over my head, in a circle, and then head over toward the house. I knew, beyond any doubt, it was Isaac. But I wasn’t sure if it was possible for a bald eagle to be here. When I returned to the house, I googled “are bald eagles in costa rica” and sure enough, they are. In fact, as I discovered later from a bartender at a tiki hut, there is a preserve near us. So, yeah, that was as good a welcome as they come.
I began to look for events that might be supportive of my mission. Where we are is a mecca for health enthusiasts, so I was sure there would be things I could participate in. We are literally 200 yds from the Nosara Yoga Institute. Google that, its ridiculously beautiful. They have classes 7 days a week. I emailed them and asked if they hosted kirtans. I have been to a few and they resonate with me. They don’t have them, but the director emailed me information for one happening on Feb 3, the night of the full moon. As a Lunatic, I had already prepared everyone for joining me in a fire or something for the full moon. No one was really interested in my description of a kirtan so, I went alone. And it was like magic. I sat in a circle of 20 strangers and sang devotionals at the top of my lungs. When I left, it was dark and the moonrise was utterly breathtakingly beatific. I cried with joy and sorrow as I walked in the dark with my headlamp on. I stopped at a tiki hut and the musician was playing “you’ve got a friend” and it just soothed my soul. I felt bathed, in the moon and in the love of those other singers who didn’t know my story but accepted me fully into their circle. Everyone but me there knew each other and do this regularly. When they said “welcome to our tribe” I knew, again, that Isaac was with me, leading me to peace within. I was thankful for the yoga school’s director, I was grateful for my always seeking heart, I was grateful for the safety, being alone in a country whose language is not my own.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, a produce truck drives around with a big amp shouting out “Mango, Papaya, Avocado, etc” in a sing-song spanish lilt. We can’t help but sing it all week. We load up on beautiful, organic, fresh, local fruits and veggies. My body is literally vibrating from all the nutrient dense food it is receiving. My skin is glowing, my energy is soaring. I forgot what it felt to not operate on adrenaline and sorrow, caffeine & nicotine, on an empty tank. It feels rejuvenating! It feels essential.
I recieved a massage from Jessica’s friend Juan Carlos. He had given me one when we were here for her wedding two yrs ago. He is very good. But this was different. Although I had intended to be anonymous, especially with my grief, I shared minimally with Juan Carlos that I had recently lost my son and that the grief was living in my body, not to mention the bed here and all the activity. He said, in broken english, “I will help your heart”. What can I say other than that I was transported. My whole being was humming and I was able to release pent-up emotions lodged in my body. Afterwards, he hugged me like Josh hugs me. I don’t mean like a husband, I mean like a ‘Josh Hug’~ if you’ve had one, you know! It was like a whole body embrace, heart to heart, just one parent to another, sharing understanding of the magnitude of my loss as well as our humanity. It also reignited my passion for my profession~ it helped me know that I CAN do this again, someday. I had been questioning this, which was contributing to “my loss of identidy”. I knew for sure that I will be able to be even more available to my clients, not less, as I had feared.
I make art almost everyday. Goddesses & La Luna mostly. I have been thinking of Frida Kahlo a lot. And botanicals. And The Virgin De Guadalupe. But I haven’t been brave enough yet to attempt…
I asked my sisters friends, Mark & Laura, who live here, what was happening, what could I do? They said I should sign up for Nosara Classifieds on Facebook. When I did, I found a ‘Gong Healing Bath’. I had a basic understanding of what it might be so I RSVP’d. We (Jessica came with) arrived at Bella Vista Mar in time for sunset. it was a scene out of Conde Nast. We entered through sheer curtains to find an altar and a giant gong (think Gong Show!) and yoga mats everywhere. It started with a body scan/meditation and intention setting and then…. the gongs. How can I adequately articulate the sound? …. I can’t. I just cannot. I have tried. But, I can say, it was powerful. It got into my bones–the sound, the vibration. I had moments, as the mind wandered, of giggles, of skepticism. The woman had said when I signed up that I could expect profound healing and deep rest. Knowing Id be lying supine for 90 minutes, I was restless. But as the gongs entered me, I was no longer aware of any discomfort. I had set an intention to “forgive myself and allow my wholeness to flow like a river” (these are all set personally, not aloud). I kept repeating it when my mind wandered and then, all of a sudden, I had an image of Isaac in front of me, smiling and asking me to release my fear, release my shame. I tried to reason with him why I should hold on to it, and that I was sorry, and he just smiled that beautiful smile and said “I love you mama, I love you, I love you. I want you to let it go.” I started to tremble. I started to say to myself “let your wholeness flow like a river” as I repeated this, the tears came, the gong gonged, loud enough I believed I could scream out my shame and no one would know, but I didn’t. I let the tears and sobs and trembling take me. And then, as if on cue, the sky opened up and poured~ I mean, like no rain I had ever heard in my life. I wasn’t sure if it was real or a hurricane! I turned to Jessica, for confirmation it wasn’t my imagination, but her eyes were closed. I returned to my center and I giggled a little. It was supernatural rain! It was mother ocean crying rivers of tears with me, for me~ it was release supreme. As the ceremony ended, I was shaken. As I sat up, there on the altar, very near me that I had actually taken a photo of pre-gong bath, was a candle of the Blessed Virgin, that I hadn’t noticed, but now, here, in this surreal moment, she was the first thing I saw. It was… everything.
I also started Tai Chi classes at the institute. My body cannot seem to get enough movement and it just wants me to trust it, use it, rely upon it. The teacher is really good… I mean, very intentional with his explanations, breaking it down to fine points. I have never been graceful, but the class makes me feel as though I could be.
I know that Ive been truly blessed in my lifetime to have a heart for learning, a heart that somehow, remains open, even to myself. While I fully embrace the work I must continue to do, to heal, to fight for myself, and to learn how to live in a world that is missing my favorite person, I will always be grateful to Costa Rica, and to my sister, for helping me remember who I am, who I want to be, how I want to live this one wild and precious life Ive been given.