Today marks three months of being in Grand Cayman. When I arrived, I remember feeling surrounded by fear and uncertainty. While I was assured by more than one person that obviously I was ready to take this leap, or I wouldn’t have made this choice, I was finding it hard to keep my mind focused on the present. Wise guides used different terminology, but offered the same advice: “stop futuring” and don’t take “future trips.” Essentially the idea is that it’s healthier for me to stay mentally in the present moment.
It was not uncommon for me to have times at work where I had no choice but to stay present in the present. This came from the simple reality that if I wasn’t alert, a child with autism might put himself into a position that was not safe (schools did not have rooms set aside for therapy, so climbing on furniture and putting items into mouths was not unheard of in sessions). With that reality, I found there were many days where my biggest goal was just to make it through.
But staying present outside of work also became quite easy as the days passed. The pace here is much slower than New York, which let my mind settle a bit. I could sit by the water, or place myself at a picnic table with resident chickens to catch up on work. And I could plop down on a friend’s couch and catch up on “So You Think You Can Dance” episodes. All of these moments have helped move my mindset from the future to the present.
As I find my flow, living from moment to moment here, I have acquired more than one weekly ritual. One involves going to the Farmer’s Market every week and asking what new things I can try. The gentleman always excitedly offers me samples and tells me all about what he has. Because of this, I have now tried sauteed sweet potato leaves (a mild green), java apples (texture of a pepper, but much without the tang), ackee fruit (Jamaica’s national fruit that is poisonous if eaten before ripe; nutty in flavor), and sweetsop (a seedy sweet fruit that visually reminds me of an artichoke). Another involves yoga on the beach with a friend who has completed yoga teacher training.
During one of our weekly yoga sessions, she spoke about the recent rain on the island, and commented that she felt the need for some twists. She brought up some of her recent study of chakras, and pulled out a book she was reading. She asked to share the quote– which I failed to capture word for word– that essentially asked: “can you have the patience to sit in the mud until it settles and the water is clear?” She commented that it had felt relevant to her as she thought about the recent weather. Then, after a short pause she added, “and actually it’s relevant to your life right now.”
I had been thinking a similar thought. Though I had come down here for an agreed upon three months, I have decided to stay through the summer, which still feels like a brief time for me. As I realize that my time here is limited, I find my brain trying to once again take those future trips. I want to remind myself that it’s OK to sit in the mud a bit longer. It’s important to take in my shared moments with friends, who I feel so fortunate to have found, rather than to imagine the time when we no longer live on the same island. I want to remember that sometimes the best action you can take to move forward is to sit back. As I continue to look for an obvious answer for which direction to go, I want to also remember to value the here and now. So here I sit, open-hearted and mud-covered. I may be here for a while. As I sit here, I can’t help but think what a present this present is.