This winter has been pretty tame for Minnesota, but I'm far less tolerant than I was during last winter's infamous awfulness. Maybe it's that last winter was full of distractions - moving and starting a new job and Small Dances - that prevented me from being able to fixate for more than a few minutes on how cold I was. Or maybe it's that this winter's project, also known as Gestating a Small Human, has made the cold (specifically, its effect on my muscles) and the need to bundle in 6 layers (increasingly challenging as I get larger) more annoying. This is why I've escaped to the tropics. Last July, when Ben suggested we plan a winter getaway, I shrugged off the idea. That's the trouble with July in Minnesota: you forget about February, the longest shortest time. You forget about how sad and vitamin D deprived everyone looks as you meet their eyes at the grocery store. I'm very glad to be on a break from Minnesota.
There are many different kinds of travelers, which is what I learned when backpacking in Europe with various friends after college. It just so happens that Ben and I are the same kind of traveler. We opt for wandering neighborhoods and sitting at coffee shops and bars in favor of most of the typical tourist spots. We like a nice mix of energetic activities and chilling out on our itinerary, and just a touch of structure. Mostly we walk and eat and hunker down in our Air B & B to rest. Eating in this island town is slightly tricky, because restaurants close whenever they like (and regularly go out of business). Also, there aren't any legible street names, so finding some great place that you've heard about is hard unless you are good at following landmarks. That's ok- sometimes its more fun to grill up your own tacos and stare out at the sad, sad view from your one-room cabin that is bright blue skies and turquoise waves and palm trees. You know: a touch rustic, but with wi-fi (the delightfully irregular kind that makes communication with the outside world feel very optional.)
I like to think that I'm the best version of myself when I travel: spontaneous, anxiety-free, positive and easily delighted by the smallest things. I'm more present, and when I'm not I'm musing over the big picture life things that get shelved during the day-to-day. It's a big perspective check, easier when the lists disappear and you're in a place where no one knows your name. I can generally feel just as at home on an island as I do in my small house in Minnesota, and when I return to the latter, everything feels like a clean slate.
Perspective is something that I've particularly craved in the last month. It takes 40 weeks (well, technically 36 by the time you know you're pregnant?) to bake a small human, which is simultaneously forever and no time at all. It seems evolutionarily brilliant that a million small changes happen along the way to this big change. In the first few months I slowed way the heck down out of necessity for maybe the first time in my adult life, which felt like a pretty shocking (and surprisingly awesome) change. Now I'm back functioning at mostly full speed, but I've found myself with this strange body that I hardly recognize in the mirror, that moves totally differently. (Also: what does a person do with this much boob?) On one hand, I'm totally impressed with my body's ability to know what to do and where to put things-- to make these dozens of tiny changes. On the other hand, I find myself in moments where I feel completely confused: wait a second, where did the old boobs go? I was kind of fond of them! Or at least familiar with them. And I'm used to knowing if a pain is a stomach growl or something I should be alarmed about. And used to knowing approximately how much food I can eat in order to feel comfortably full, with enough space to still easily walk. Everything is a little bit different. More so every day, and my sensitive self goes back and forth-- one minute fully embracing each change with pride, and the next feeling awkward and concerned. It's like puberty all over again! LUCKILY (says my inner self-help guru), I have the next 14-ish weeks to learn to flex and stay open to both the goodness and challenge, because I hear this is a skill I might need to hone.
This all might sound ungrateful or at least persnickity, but it has little to do with my excitement for this new chapter or any kind of ambivalence I feel about parenthood or this very conscious decision to have a child; that's not the issue. I'm always like this when it comes to change: I equally crave it, love it and am challenged by the growth and stretching it requires (ha- literally this time). I'm too emo and sensitive to handle it all. I mean, Ben and I are the kind of people who get nostalgic for a meal we cooked last week. Throw a big transition into the mix and we feel all the feels (and then promptly change something else- because we can't get enough or something).
Strangely, when I think of the small human (who I refer to as "The Passenger") being here in the flesh or the big labor rally it necessitates, I feel surprisingly calm and even reassured. I am stoked to confirm that it's a person, and not the reptilian creature its movement often resembles. I'm looking forward to dozens of sentimental things that I will save for listing in my diary, other than to share one: Ben, who's adopted, has never seen someone who shares his DNA. And how cool will that be to watch? I'm saving up my tear stash as best I can.
I'm also saving up my stash of ocean zen, sleep and uninterrupted quiet. I hear they might be in short supply. Meanwhile we've almost made it to March. Nice work, winter troupers.