I've been meaning to write this post for a long time but just haven't gotten around to it because LAZINESS.
As you might remember, if you were around then, I had a few months in Palau that were . . . a little rough. I refer to January of this year as "the black hole of my existence," in fact. Not to be dramatic or anything.
There were a lot of things going on then and that was really a time I hope to never have to experience again. I got to Palau last October and sort of settled in through my shell shock for a month or two. When December hit, Palau started freaking me out. By January I was not in a stable place.
Palau was much different than I expected. In retrospect, it wasn't worse than I imagined. It was just different, and I wasn't really prepared mentally to handle it because it was SO unfamiliar and in ways I did not anticipate. I had never lived in a place that was so isolated. Never experienced living in a VERY small town. Didn't know what it was like dealing with constant blistering temperatures and insane humidity. I felt lost as to where my life would go next. And the whole time I just kept wondering why on Earth I left the life that I absolutely loved in Salt Lake City to trap myself in the middle of nowhere.
But what really made the above a big deal was that Daniel was not happy. He was generally adjusting better than I was to all of the things I just mentioned, but his job situation in Palau was, to spare you the excessive details, a complete disaster. And already at the beginning of December, he was looking for jobs online and trying to find flights to head back to the U.S.
Daniel had decided multiple times that if things didn't improve by certain dates, he was going to leave. I cannot overstate how devastating this prospect sounded to me. And during that time, I was living with a constant ball of anxiety engulfing me. The thought of him leaving and forcing me to live in Palau alone, this place in which I was already feeling very lonely and isolated, for the next ten months was almost too much to bear.
Ok, this is not intended to be a serious post at all. I promise. I had to set that all up so I could tell you about this funny thing I've been meaning to tell you about for months. So stay with me.
One day in February, I was sitting in my office and having a particularly hard day. The violins were playing, so to speak. Something had happened, I don't remember what it was, and I felt like it was the final straw and I was about to crumble to the ground. Just then, one of you sent me this very sweet email saying that I had inspired you to follow some dream and go on an adventure. And when I saw this email I did that mock "HA" laugh and thought, "if only you knew the truth!"
And right as I thought this, suddenly an epiphany came out of nowhere and hit me upside the head. And I thought, "what in the Queen of Colors have I turned into?!"
I had never been this person before. So overcome with fear and anxiety. So helpless because of discomfort and being unsure about the future. And I had one of those empowering moments right then where I told myself to stop ebbing and flowing and start steering my own course again. Because Palau wasn't the reason I was unhappy and neither was Daniel's situation. They were my excuses but not my reason. I was the reason I was unhappy. Because I hadn't been brave enough to experience joy when excuses were readily available.
So I sat up and wrote myself a sticky note, which is still stuck to my computer, with a few simple statements that I had forgotten.
Daniel came by my office about thirty minutes later and when he did I looked like a meth-addict (not that I know what that is, mom) and emphatically told him, speaking 5,000 words per minute,
Eli: THINGS ARE GOING TO CHANGE AROUND HERE!!!
Daniel: Did you have your eyelids removed? Why are things going to change?
Eli: Because I wrote a note. With goals! Well not really "goals," I guess. But reminders! And I'm not going to be weak anymore!
Daniel: A goal is only worth something if you're not ashamed of it, Eli.
Eli: What makes you think I'm ashamed of it?
Daniel: What language did you write that sticky note in?
Eli: English. Why?
Daniel: Let me see it then.
Eli: Fine. Ukrainian.
Daniel: That's what I thought. You wrote it in Ukrainian so other people can't read it. Because you are embarrassed.
To prove that I wasn't embarrassed, I wrote it all out onto a piece of paper and taped it to the front door of the apartment (on the inside). And for the next few months, I made Daniel stand in front of it with me every single morning and read the entire thing in unison and in our loudest indoor voices.
Look. We knew it was cheesy. And we could hardly ever get through it without laughing. Especially the "Life is in Session!" part, which we had to turn and say face-to-face. And over the last few months, whenever one of us appears to be indecisive about something, the other will mockingly yell, "maybe you haven't heard that LIFE IS IN SESSION."
But you know what? Things got a LOT better after this. I can't tell you how many times throughout the day I would start to feel worried about something and one of these phrases would come to my mind and I would feel empowered and at peace again. And before too long, I started to love Palau, so much so that I'm actually sad that my time is dwindling down. I regret that it took me so long to get to that point, but hey. I got there.
And after the attitude adjustment, some of the things that caused the anxiety started to change too, including Daniel's job. Things haven't been perfect in Palau, and there are still days, even recent days, when I am ready to charter a plane and have it drop me over Manhattan. But Strangers, life is pretty good in the land of coconuts.
Anyway, it has now been about six months since I taped this note to the door. And we have gotten so used to it that we sort of don't notice it anymore. Until every single time someone comes over and we suddenly become SUPER embarrassed about it. And we don't want to go take it down while they're there because we don't want to draw attention to it. Plus, we put it up there in the first place to prove that we're not "ashamed."
But . . . we're TOTALLY ashamed. Especially when we see people staring at it with looks on their faces like they just found out that we're those crazy neighbors you had growing up who used to sing their outgoing answering machine message as a family.
Oh my gosh. We should totally do that.
"So leave a message, 'cause we're not home, and the butterflies fly away. Yea-ee-ya-ee-ya-ee-ya. It's a party--we'll call back today!"
~It Just Gets Stranger