I took a leave of absence from teaching this past year with the intent of not going back. This summer I find myself working as a youth mentor in Costa Rica through a service learning and leadership program. I am here for six weeks and believe it or not, at age 40, it is the first time I find myself so far away from my family by myself. I had my daughter at 18, so from very early on, my focus was to nurture her and provide an environment she could thrive in. Now that she is off at college exploring and building a beautiful life for herself, I am taking the opportunity to experience my life in other dimensions.

 

The first night here felt distant and unfamiliar like the first taste of guanabana in a westernized mouth. I didn’t know the people I was about to spend the next six weeks of my life with, and everything around me was painfully foreign. My stomach felt like a balloon being squeezed into abnormal shapes and breathing was an uneasy function. The insecurities had snuck back in. I found myself in a new situation, a new circumstance in my life experience, and everything that required healing was rushing to the surface. I began to feel unprepared and unworthy for the role I would be serving in.

 

Once again letting go and beginning again became a wonderfully scary process. For the first few days I had to consciously support myself in stepping to the edge. Pushing myself to overcome my fears, but most of all to live more authentically in the space of confidence. To learn to love myself when there isn’t anyone around me to love me. To learn to accept myself unconditionally when there isn’t anyone around me to do so. I am enough, here in this place where no one knows my story, my accomplishments, nor my struggles. I don’t have to convince anyone else of that except myself.

 

I have to own my life, own my experiences, own my struggles, and own all that makes me the woman I am today. Because all of that is enough, AND I MUST LEARN TO TRUST that those things were put in my path to prepare me for today. Most of all, I am learning to listen to my heart, to that powerful voice inside of me that knows my place and purpose in this universe. That is the single aspect I need to trust the most, for that absolutely equips me for all I need to know and all I need to do. The process is about trust in myself so that I can fully stand in the light of confidence, yet still be humble enough to be perceptive to the things I need to learn.

 

The most sacred place dwells within our heart, where dreams are born and secrets sleep, a mystical refuge of darkness and light, fear and conquest, adventure and discovery, challenge and transformation. Our heart speaks for our soul every moment while we are alive. Listen . . . as the whispering beat repeats: be. . . gin, be . . . gin, be . . . gin. It’s really that simple. Just begin . . . again. – Royce Addington

 

This place and time has also allowed me to feel the depths of my roots . . . how anchored I am to the place I call home. I once read in a little book of trees, “Grow where you’re planted.”   I was planted in San Diego.  I have beautiful friends that have been in my life for more than twenty years; we are all a family, and we are present in the most important moments of our lives. I am deeply connected and interlinked to my family, and am so fortunate to have much of them around me.  Each member of my family represents a component of who I am; each one, like the robust arms of an oak tree, lifts me and shelters me.  My family and friends give context to my story, for no one’s story happens in a vacuum. I’m finding I don’t want to give that up, not even for traveling. I would love to keep having opportunities to travel, but never for too long of a span of time, for what I have at home is beautiful. I am experiencing a much more profound understanding that family is home and home is family.

I am rooted, like a tree, through my family and friends. And I can fly and get lost in the skies for a while without fear, because I always have a tree that I can come back to, who will offer me shelter, compassion, and love, so that I may once again have the courage and determination to fly when my soul calls.

“Reach down as well as up. No Roots, No Branches”

The following are some amazing images I’ve been able to capture from Costa Rica.  Pura Vida!

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