You read this blog. Some of you, faithfully. And that's an incredibly fun and strange thing for me. And from time to time some of you have mentioned that you feel like you know me personally, just from reading all the nonsense I post. And I feel like I know you personally as well.

Well, not you you. But the collective "you."

You probably just read that part where I said that I know you personally in a creepy voice. So you got freaked out for a second, thinking that maybe I was stalking you. So I put in that part about the "collective you" to ease your concerns. And now you're back to thinking that I'm not stalking you. Which is putting you into a false sense of security, because I am stalking you.

Don't believe me? Turn around.

Ok, so I wasn't actually standing behind you. But imagine if I was. Pretty impressive, right?

Anyway, through my communication with the collective you, I feel like I know you. And I think about you whenever I'm writing something here.

I imagine you sitting there on the other end in your Snuggie, petting your cat(s) and nodding along in agreement when I tell you that there should be a law against owning snakes and the violation of this law should immediately result in public execution.

I picture you crossing yourself every time I mention the Queen of Colors's's''s name.

And sometimes, I even imagine you tired and scared, pulling up to your computer and needing something uplifting to bring a smile to your face. Something that will make your problems go away for just a few minutes. And maybe even something that will give you a little boost of morale to help you deal with your problems a little better today.

Real or not, I feel a responsibility for trying to provide that for you. I feel that responsibility, if for no other reason, because you strangers have done the same for me in your humorous, encouraging, and uplifting emails and comments to me.

A few weeks ago, I talked about my mini panic attack in the town store when I realized how small my life sometimes seems here in Palau. When I was offered the position as court counsel for the Supreme Court of Palau, I knew I had a really difficult decision ahead. Moving deep into the quiet, dark Pacific would be such a wild change from my cozy life in Salt Lake City.

I thought through so many considerations at that time. What would it be like to leave my friends and family for a year? How would it be to abandon the comforts of the U.S. to go live in a more primitive country? How difficult would my job be? Would I even like it? Would the Queen of Colors and The First Eye be able to find me?

For months, those questions spun through my head until ultimately I felt confident that I should do this. And could do this. The source of my confidence? I knew I could do this because this was nothing new for me.

I had left my family and friends to move to Ukraine when I was 19. Later I moved to Russia completely alone for work. I had travelled quite a bit and had a long track record of trying and loving new adventures. So, this really was nothing new for me.

Or so I thought.

What I hadn't taken into account was the isolation and loneliness of the quiet Pacific. And that is a new experience for me.

The isolation and loneliness here is very real. And sometimes on dark nights when I hear nothing but the beating of the tropical rain outside, all I want is to do is snuggle with everyone I know under a giant fleece blanket and talk about the day.

Since I'm not the type of person that lets myself get too down, I find ways to snap myself out of it. Usually, then, whenever I start feeling lonely, I comically hum or sing the words of a song that Paul Simon said was "about loneliness," and picture myself lightly placing one hand on a window while silently crying.

A winter's day, in a deep and dark December;
I am alone, gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock. I am an iiiiiiii-island.

etc. etc. etc.

I also think of a 6 foot tall prostitute named Lafonda I met in Belize 2 years ago who approached me at a reggae concert and said, "you look a-lost and lonely. And I'm a-lost and lonely too."

I wasn't lost or lonely at that time. But on some days her assertion would be more accurate if she approached me in Palau.

These dramatic and funny images usually bring a smile to my face. You know what they say. The people who find pain humorous are probably the most screwed up.

But beyond the humor, that isolation and loneliness really is what I'm learning the most from in this strange stint.

The loneliness is so much more apparent during the holidays. And I think I have never really appreciated the beauty of human connection that weaves itself through this part of the year the way I finally do now.

There are so many hugs happening without me. So much reminiscing over dinners. So many new friendships forged. So many spontaneous visits to drop off Christmas cookies.

And while I love so much about my life in Palau right now, a big part of me aches for what I'm missing. It aches for that contact and those shared laughs as I turn to bed, dark night after dark night, deep in the quiet Pacific.

I guess the trick is focusing less on what you don't have and more on what you do. It's making the effort to find new people to love, especially when you're far away from the ones you're used to loving. And it's finding a way to be the kind of person you need for someone else who also needs that kind of person in their life.

Life is so much better when you are surrounded by people you care about. It's so much more comforting when you have someone to laugh with at a time when you really need something to laugh at. And it's so much more meaningful when you can share your experiences and know that someone you care about is feeling the exact same way as you.

The people in our lives aren't perfect. But they are the people in our lives. And the more we cherish them while we have them, the more fulfilling our lives will be.

Please, hug your family members. Even the ones you're not related to. Love them a little more this year because a little boy in Palau wishes he could love his own family in person during these holidays. And for those of you who are like me right now and are a little far away from those you love, hang in there. I know how you feel. So, you're not alone.

Even though, you kind of are.

~It Just Gets Stranger