Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finding Paradise... (and some sea turtles)

"We're moving to Hawaii."  Those words came in the form of a phone call.  My husband, calling to tell me that he'd spoken with the Detailer and he'd accepted the orders offered.  He didn't consult with me prior to accepting.  He didn't need to.  He had assumed that I would be elated.  And he was right.  8 months later, we stepped off a plane smack in the middle of our new island-home.  Our very first Hawaiian vacation was going to be a nice long one - 3 years, in fact.  I couldn't have been more excited!

The drive from the airport to our hotel was unassumingly monumental.  Like a breath.  Or the period between two sentences.  We traveled straight through, what I later discovered to be, the most beautiful part of the island.  Our first drive down H3 towards our hotel was so spectacularly breathtaking that I thought for an instant we must have accidentally boarded a space-shuttle instead of an airplane and landed on a planet far more mysterious and mystical than our own.  The mountains stood so tall.  The clouds so low.  The colors so unnaturally vibrant.  It was all so very real yet so indescribably overwhelming that my senses seemed to crumble beneath the intensity of its real-ness.  I couldn't fully absorb what I was seeing.  I was disoriented just trying to take it all in.  It was ethereal and amazing.  My heart swelled with joy and excitement at the adventure that lie before us.

That afternoon, my children chased ducks and geckos in the backyard.  They marveled at this idea of water falling from the sky (we last lived in Monterey, California...where it might have rained twice in the two years we lived there) and splashed in puddles like they'd only read about in children's books.  My husband put his arms around me as we watched the children playing - the sound of waves crashing in the distance.  Here we are.  Home.  Paradise.

Paradise.  I honestly didn't know that Hawaii's nickname is Paradise before I moved here.  But it was one of the very first things I learned - like 'haole' and 'slippers' and 'Shave Ice'.  Like a password for a secret club, as we made our way towards baggage claim in the airport, I heard countless vacationers uttering the word 'paradise'.  And in the 7 months that we've lived here since, I have heard (or over-heard) the word paradise almost daily. Along with the sentiment, "You are so lucky to live here!"  Yes.  Yes, we are.

But here's the thing:  we're 7 months into our Hawaii life and, in this short time, I have discovered that it's not paradise.  Not really.  Oh, it's pretty.  Beautiful, even.  Of course, it's warm all year yet deliciously crisp and cool at night.  The ocean is blue as blue could possibly be...not to mention only a 5 or 10 minute drive from our house.  But the warm can quickly turn suffocating and sticky, and when the clouds roll in (as they too often do) the ocean somehow loses its blue...and even a 5 minute drive feels like a lifetime when the baby is screaming...and beautiful beach days always mean that there won't be any parking spaces......

"Paradise isn't a place, 
i  t ' s   a   s t a t e   o f   t h e   h e a r t"

So I've been forced to grapple with this idea of 'paradise'.  And I've realized that paradise isn't a place, it's a state of the heart. When people tell me how lucky I am and how much they yearn to live here, what they really mean is that they yearn to live in some endless state of vacation.  I think that's sort of how I imagined Hawaii before we moved here.  But I've learned that, good or bad, life is always there.  Life doesn't 'follow' or 'not follow' me around the world.  Life is within me.  Life hasn't stopped because we live in Paradise.  Believe me, paradise is just full of flat tires, cranky kids, dirty laundry, pesty insects...heck even our bills managed to find our new address in Paradise.  It's all here...same as in California, or Georgia, or Virginia before that.  Sure we get a few more beach days every year (okay, okay, every week...) but we come home from the beach with a car filled with sand, cranky and sun-burned kids, dinner to prepare, and a bigger mountain of beach towels to wash than you ever dreamed possible.

I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining.  We're so grateful for our opportunity to live in this beautiful part of the world.  We're grateful for the adventures, for the memories...

And for that 
tropical sunshine.
(even when it's shining through very dirty windows)

But when our time here is up, I think we'll be ready to leave. And when life inevitably follows us to our next destination, I hope that destination is simply 'home' with our families.  That's the truest Paradise of all.

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