I sit tonight on a veranda in Mexico.
The warm breezes caress my cheeks and the gentle rhythm of the crashing waves on the beach in front of me is like a long-remembered lullaby. The moon is full and it casts a shimmering path across the Caribbean to my veranda’s edge.
I am here, once again, in Cancun.
I have been coming to Cancun — to the same resort, in fact — for many years. My aunt first discovered this place more than 15 years ago and promptly bought property here, followed by my cousins and then my mother and her boyfriend. Every year we come. And every year my time spent on this veranda, with this sea before me, is transformational.
Most of us have benchmarks in our lives — pivotal moments that cause us to reflect, to make active choices, or to notice the passage of time and the changes it brings. More times than not, Cancun has been a benchmark for me.
The first time I came here was with my ex-husband when he was only my boyfriend of less than a year. We were months away from moving in together, not quite a year from moving across the country, and nearly two years away from getting married. I remember that trip very clearly and the fun we had together. Our time together in Cancun solidified my belief that this was someone I could spend a lifetime with. I was too young and naive, however, to realize that in a place like Cancun you can have fun with almost anyone. I had no idea of the difficulties before us.
Then there were the years when our children were small and coming here meant packing what seemed to be platoon-sized rations for one short week, and vacation did not mean respite. We seemed to run non-stop with the children and had to work doubly hard to keep them entertained and occupied without all their usual routines and toys. Those vacations were fun in their own way — we laughed a lot and bonded as a family — but they never served to recharge or enrich us as individuals or as a couple. Indeed, as the years wore on, the fissures between us became increasingly most apparent when we were on vacation and denied the day-to-day distractions afforded to us at home.
Then came September 2008 and the horrible moment when I realized, here in Cancun, that something drastic had to happen…. that I could no longer continue with the life I was leading. In that moment, desperation arrived in my life and set in motion the series of events that ultimately led to me leaving my home and my husband a scant six months later.
The following year, I was broken and heartsick. I came to Cancun with my girls, and we all exhausted ourselves pretending that it was all fine, really, everything was just peachy and a-okay. I spent the evenings, while the girls were in bed, drinking multiple pina coladas on this veranda and typing furiously in my journal as tears coursed down my face. My self-pity was boundless — this was not what I’d wanted my new life to be like with my girls. And yet, even through my tears, the solitude of the enormous, yawning bed was preferable to having a man in it, waiting for me, whom I no longer wanted to touch me.
Last year I came alone again with my girls. My mother, whose health is unpredictable at best, arrived and immediately fell ill, and a wildfire of epic proportions threatened my town at home. My relationship with K.C. had come to a crashing end not long before our trip, and I had no idea that James was planning on asking me out upon my return home. I spent my evenings on the veranda wondering what the future held and feeling restless and worried and exhausted. I was relieved to leave.
And now, here I am again. For a multitude of reasons, none of which are dramatic or interesting, this may be our last annual trip to Cancun. My last week on this veranda that has served as a temple of self-reflection. My last week to be in this unchangeable environment that, each year, gives me pause to examine how much else has changed.
Perhaps I should be sad, but I’m not. As my friend Annie pointed out last night when I was talking to her and packing, I am in such a different place — a better place — than I have possibly ever been coming to Cancun. I couldn’t explain with any degree of beauty or clarity what exactly is different because the answer is nothing… and everything. I have some enormous joys in my life right now — and some enormous stressors. But what it boils down to is this: when we arrived this afternoon and I first stepped out onto the veranda, the turquoise of the Caribbean took my breath away as it always does, and tears of gratitude sprang to my eyes and spilled onto my cheeks before I’d hardly realized they were there. But those tears — those spontaneous, joyful tears of appreciation for the beauty and blessings around me — are likely to be the only tears I shed this year in Cancun.
And that’s huge.
Anyone who has ever overcome a great grief or loss, such as a divorce or death, knows that there are certain moments when you realize with perfect clarity that you are on the right path, and you are moving forward, and all the rest of it behind you is just that — behind you. And you will continue to get better and do better and feel better.
And after such a big loss, that knowledge alone feels like a tremendous gift.
So, this year, I will sit on my veranda in the evenings while my children sleep deeply inside, and I will catch up on my writing and I will watch the moon play on the waves and I will meditate on the perfection of the sea breezes.
And I will be grateful. And I will be happy. In Cancun.