Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Balm for the Psyche: St. Maarten

Another blog from the balcony of Explorer of the Seas...We are on the balcony of cabin 9622 as our ship docks in St. Maarten. We have all of our travel documents and coupons in order, and from the looks of the coupons, we should be returning to the ship with a fistful of jewelry!

The water is a beautiful, clear aqua and the terrain is mountainous, with houses built on the sides of the hills and up to the top. Can't wait to see it all up close!

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After a long and productive shopping trip and one last stop at an outdoor bar on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, we returned to the ship around 6:30.

St. Maarten is easily the most beautiful place I have ever been. The water was a gorgeous aqua in some places, and a deep blue in others, and the sand was very white, due, in part, I think, to the crushed seashells.

Somehow, I think we managed to fill the day with a perfect balance of activities - shopping, a walk along the beach, lunch at an outdoor cafe and lots of time spent walking along brick and cobblestone streets and sidewalks. The kind of day that lingers in the psyche as a perfect vacation day.

Sometimes, especially when I'm not on vacation, I worry that I've become too jaded. I've always been an enthusiastic and even excitable person, but the older I get, the more it takes to get me truly excited. And sometimes, when I do manage to achieve that childlike enthusiasm, an age-induced reality check kicks in, knocking my excitement down a peg or two.

Sitting on high stools at a cafe on the boardwalk in St. Maarten, however, was enough to fill me with a sense of awe. The food was good, the company even better and the beach breathtaking. Clear, blue water, white, white sands (and none of the nudity that had caused us NOT to select the beach as our family excursion). Apparently, I remarked on several occasions how gorgeous it was, because my daughter was quick to point out that I had already voiced that particular opinion.

On a more mundane level, I was also quite excited by the jewelry purchase we made...and, prior to our departure, the e-mail from my agent telling me that my novel was going to committee this week. Unfortunately, it didn't take long for a reality check to poise its dark cloud over each of those last two events. Going to committee is not a contract, my mature, practical side announced only a few minutes into my revelry. The ring is gorgeous, just what I wanted at a much better price than I could have gotten in the States, BUT it was also nearly three times the amount of money I wanted to spend.

While I realize that a major part of the adult role is the ability to be responsible and practical, not reckless and impulsive, sometimes I wonder if reckless and impulsive - at least on occasion - is such a bad thing. Little (and even bigger) kids don't worry about how much things cost, and they don't feel the need to squash hope into a non-threatening, reality-based pancake.

As adults, however, we've had more experience with dashed hopes, and so we build a wall of "yes, but" around our hopes, protecting them from the sharp sword of disappointment. We don't dare to hope for diamond rings or accepted novels or awe-inspiring beaches because we're afraid that having the hope will only lead to disappointment.

Today I was reminded that without that hope, we go along, at best, in a fog of sameness - a plateau of emotion that recognizes neither soaring excitement nor aching disappointment. And I think what I'm afraid of is that living on that plateau means that I am truly old.

I'm not ready to be truly old - or even virtually old, for that matter - so I have every intention of
taking my sunny perspective back home with me. When dark clouds of adult reality checks loom, I'll simply envision clear water and white sands dotted with blue umbrellas....and my balcony on Explorer of the Seas.

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