Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Jamaican State of Mind

Cape Cod Weather today: Cloudy, cold, and sleeting rain... and nothing like Jamaica...

My husband and I just returned from almost two weeks in the Caribbean, on the island of Jamaica. A tropical depression settled over the island halfway through our stay, but did little to dampen our enthusiasm for our vacation away from kids and the responsibilities of everyday life.

Take a vacation. I highly recommend it.

We returned home almost a week ago, and my parents (who had been taking care of the kids while we were away) stayed for Thanksgiving, and both my sisters came for the holiday as well. But even after having a house full of family and my tiny kitchen inundated with holiday craziness, I still have that Jamaican "No Problem" feeling, and am still running on Jamaica time... which means nothing goes according to any schedule and that's okay.

It drove me a little crazy when we first arrived on the island, because even though the resort posts a schedule of events, nothing ever starts when it should. I don't think they understand the concept of "on time," or if they do, it's merely an American thing. It was yet another wake-up call to me that I need to slow down and enjoy each moment as it comes, and not stress over the to do list or the accomplishments list quite as much.

How many wake-up calls does one get in life?

I had one last fall that did much to slow me down, making me realize what was important in my life... One busy Tuesday, I had carefully planned out my schedule in order to get all the important errands done before an important meeting, and was on my way to Staples when the school nurse called. My son had just thrown up all over the hallway, could I come pick him up? I turned the car around and did the time recalculations in my head as I sped back into the middle of town. I would have to leave out one errand, but I could still finish the rest if I hustled.

Bringing my son home, I tripped on the brick front steps and crashed through the plate glass storm door. Blood was everywhere, and my already pale son turned a sickly shade of green. Luckily, my husband had just gotten home. He calmly assessed the situation, helping to pick the last of the glass from my wounds. I'd sliced through my wrist, but managed to avoid any major arteries. He knew this not because he was a doctor, but because the wound was so large and deep he could see them all exposed, and none seemed to be gushing. He waited while I made a few phone calls to arrange care for the other two kids, and then drove me and my sickly son to the emergency room where I got stitched up and my son threw up again. The pain was incredible, and reminded me for weeks that I needed to slow down and keep it simple.

But then the hustle and bustle of the everyday wears down the resolve to take it slow. The speed of life gradually throttles up until you're running full speed once again, saying yes to everyone who asks a favor.

Not so in Jamaica. They always seem to take the time to smile, to say hello and chat with friends and strangers alike. They say "No Problem" when you ask for something, but they fit it into their timetable, not yours. They always stop and take a minute to admire the sunrise, the sunset, the beautiful cloud formations or sparkling blue seas. Every day is different, they say, and should be experienced and enjoyed for its uniqueness. After a few days living at their pace, you have no choice but to slow down your own pace, and readjust your expectations.

And take the time to admire the sunset. Because it really is beautiful, even when it's cloudy.

I hope I can remember this lesson for a long while. Or at least through the coming holiday season. Slow down. Take the time to enjoy each moment as you live it. Appreciate friends and family, and the love they give you. No Problem.

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