The days we have left

As a child, I thought I was immortal. It’s common belief of children, with their underdeveloped brains. Less common I’m assuming, was my conclusion that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ*.

I was never a religious child, but during my forced church attendance, I learned that Jesus was supposed to be coming back to town, and he was due any day now. In retrospect, I may have been paraphrasing. Naturally, I wondered, “well what if he’s back already? And what if he…is me”? (My views on gender fluidity were clearly before their time)

At the age of seven I had no shortage of confidence. I saw no reason to believe that I wasn’t Jesus reincarnate. I was filled with, what I considered, timeless wisdom. I believed that I would never be smarter than I already was (because I was just so smart). And, I knew that I was immortal, evidenced by the fact that well, I was still alive.

I remember standing on the porch of my childhood townhouse in New Jersey trying to figure out once and for all if I was Jesus. I knew that if I was, I had a lot of work to do. Wars to end, Poor to feed. After much contemplation, I rationalized (this was an entirely rational process) that if I was Jesus I would have the power to do anything. I gazed upon one of the neighboring town homes and thought, “if I were Jesus I could lift that building with my pinky finger”. Knowing the limits of my prepubescent strength, I was disappointed to realize that I probably wasn’t Jesus. Just a superior child replete with infinite wisdom.

That was also the moment I realized that one day I would die.

I spent much of my subsequent childhood fascinated by death. I was constantly asserting to my poor mother that I was dying.  It was technically accurate, but not what a parent wants to hear on regular basis from her strange (only) child. I  was convinced that I would die young. As each year passed, pushing back my impending death date, I remained steadfast. It was coming.  This all seems very odd and morbid, I’m sure. Death is not something that people like to think about in this country. We like to pretend that almost everyone lives to be 97, dying peacefully at home surrounded by tearful loved ones. Other kinds of deaths are tragic, unexpected, unfair.

The most freeing moment of my life was when I realized I was mortal. Since that day on the porch I’ve been keenly aware that you only get a certain amount of time in this world to do everything you want to do. For some people that is 100 years, for others it is much less. Not knowing how many days remain makes me ever vigilant about living my best life.

In the movie Troy,  Brad Pitt utters this line:

“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

I don’t generally like to quote movies that I haven’t seen, especially when it’s a quote that’s widely disseminated on Pinterest boards. But that’s it. That’s the sound-byte of my strongest life force.

It’s a myth that a shark must keep swimming or it will die. But I often feel like that mythical shark. I am always plotting, planning, ideating, dreaming of something bigger than my life. Because if I stop working towards something, I fear I will start to sink. The stagnation of an average misspent life, the life I fear much more than death, will drag me to the bottom.

I’ve started to feel lately like I’m floating. Not quite sinking but not propelling forward either. Just kind of bobbing in place, trying to figure out which way to go.

But Death looms nearby (or far away, I can’t be sure, I’m not Jesus) and I can float no more.  I’m going to shake things up (again) and make that seven year old weirdo proud.

Jesus may spend his days lifting houses with his finger, but this mortal has way more exciting things in store.

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This house was too heavy

*Ironically I later briefly dated a man who too believed he was the second coming of Christ. It was even his e-mail address. But at the age of 23 I think that’s just considered psychosis.

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day

Dear Mom,

On Mother’s Day I just wanted to say thank you for everything you’ve done for me.

For always being there to guide me
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And encouraging me to be an individual
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Even when it meant bringing a chicken to prom
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For teaching me when to speak up
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And when to just listen
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For teaching me to be independent
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And that sometimes in life, you gotta be tough
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For making sure I always appreciated a good plate of food
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Because many people don’t have that luxury
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For encouraging me to always look my best
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Because when you look good, you feel good.

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For showing me that all women should be treated like queens
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And to settle for nothing less

For always pointing me in the right direction
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Even though sometimes I go the other way

For teaching me that life can be painful sometimes, but you can always find a reason to smile
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And dance
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For just being you: the woman I strive to be more like each day. I owe it all to you.

Love always,
Your daughter
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Wildlife encounters

When I was researching for this trip, I read about all the different kinds of wildlife we might encounter during our travels. Howler monkeys, manatees, toucans, iguanas etc etc. I was very much looking forward to witnessing such a variety of exotic animals. The most exotic creature I’d encountered in Baltimore was the rat I once saw eating a pigeon.

After almost a week here I’ve seen and heard lots of gorgeous exotic birds and got a quick glimpse of what I think was a coatimundi. But the wildlife that I’ve seen (and loved) the most has been the creatures that wander the beaches: beach dogs.

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They run up and down the beaches, tails wagging, sometimes politely asking for your leftover bones, sometimes happily splashing around in the water. Some have owners, some are strays. But these dogs, with their mangy, salt flecked fur and sweet, soulful eyes have a way of touching your weary traveling heart. Here are some of the ones I’ve met along the way.

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Oh wait, that last one is my half blind chihuahua. He would love it here.

Eating like kings

Before this trip we were living in the US and subsisting on a diet of mostly pizza and…pizza. Suffice to say I wasn’t sure my bathing suit was even going to fit. We constantly justified this gluttony by saying “well we’re going to lose a ton of weight when we get to Central America”. We even had a “last meal” of Bojangles fried chicken because obviously it would be our “last unhealthy meal for a while”.

False.

The food in Tulum was delicious and appeared to be portioned for two. Our hostel in Belize has a PIZZERIA in it and the pizza is incredible. It is literally around the corner from our room. I mean what kind of sick joke is this? For some reason we also feel the need to eat every 2-3 hours.

Sample dialogue:
Zina: you hungry?
Jill: of course I am

2 hours later:
Zina: I am inexplicably hungry again
Jill: Yep, me too

The (multiple) pizzas, boneless chicken wings, French fries, fried jalapeños, fried eggs etc we have been consuming for the last 4 days aren’t exactly local delicacies. And aren’t exactly helping our whole travel weight loss theory. I had fruit for breakfast yesterday and my body was so confused. Nutrients? As we prepare to head to the next island, Caye Caulker, I am making a commitment to eat only local foods, and much, much less often. My waist line depends on it. But man has it been a delicious week.

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