Monday, May 6, 2013

Too Many Goodbyes

Well, it's approaching that time of year here - the "season" is ending and with that everything on the island changes. The tourists are still here but there are definitely starting to be less of them and many of the people that live here during the high season are leaving. It's strange - you get to know people then they move back to France, Italy or someplace even further. The island is less crowded, you can find parking and the restaurants aren't packed every night.

My life has never been so much about goodbyes. My parents still live in the same house that i grew up in and I lived in NY for 16 years which is throwing distance from where I grew up. I haven't had so many goodbyes now its become so frequent its a bit unnerving. I am trying to settle into a strange place and make friends but I really don't know if they will be here next week or next month. To them its part of life, for me it's so strange this semi-nomadic lifestyle. I was speaking to one woman the other day who moves every six months - to her staying in the same place for too long seems odd and boring for me to move every six months seems reckless. I guess its part of human nature.

Three of my favorite people I have met since I was here have recently left - one to France, one to Italy, one to Australia. Two more are leaving in a week and may not come back. I hope our paths cross again, I actually think they will. I am trying to focus on the bright side - I have some amazing options of places to visit and then I get to see my friends again, but at the same time - that friendship void keeps getting bigger.

I just started to feel like I am settling in, making friends and living here. I miss my friends back in NY but I know they are there and thanks to me having roots there, i will see them from time to time. But it's these short friendships that have me a little unsettled. I'm not sure how to react. It's hard enough with the language issues, now I need to find people that are actually going to stick around which is rare.

So I guess it's just part of living here - people come and go. I guess such as life - people come and go. But its the time you spend together that matters. I will continue to meet new people and they will flow in and out of our lives. The reality is we don't even know how long we will be here. So there is goes - people will come and go, I guess we just need to learn to treasure the time we get together. But they all know they will always be a part of my time here and I am grateful for it!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Freedoms & Friendships

For those of you who have been reading, I think it's fair to say that my transition has not been the smoothest of transitions. I never expected it to be, but I wasn't prepared for some of the things that became increasingly difficult every day. The language, the new way of life, the new roommate, and new "rules" it was a lot all at once. I think the two biggest things for me were the friendships and freedoms were not as plentiful as they had been for me over the first 40 years of my life.

I never did have a hard time making friends and I have been blessed with some of the best a girl could ask for. Here it was harder since finding common ground isn't as easy as it was back in NYC. I mean think about - growing up you are all in school so you make friends that way, as you get older it's through after school activities, and then jobs. There is always some sort of social aspect to it. Here, I work from home and don't speak the language and there isn't exactly a huge advertising and marketing community here so's not been so easy. 

Then there were some missing "freedoms" that I had taken for granted for so long. A bank account, transportation, the ability to just do something without someone else's help. For 3 months - I had to rely on someone else to do just about everything. I had to ask to use the car, needed him to get me a cell phone and pretty much have him take care of everything.

Well, like with everything, time changes things. As I spend more time here I don't feel as MUCH as an outsider anymore. I feel like I am starting to develop friendships and fell like part of a group. We do things together and I am starting to participate more in conversations in French. Heck, I am even making plans and doing things with others. My social circle is still largely dependent on the dive center and my husbands friends, but that's normal I think.

On the freedoms - I got a car, well sort of, it's currently having "technical difficulties" but it's a car and I can use it whenever I want. I am running my own errands and even dealing with administrative things on my own. And my big freedom? Well I am doing my next level of certification and have started leading dives - I will be a Dive Master yet!!!!

Making new friends, learning to dive, learning a language - these are not typical things a 40 something is normally has to deal with but I have to say, it's been a really fun ride! I am loving this adventure and am looking for to many many more firsts. Like this week - my first Bucket Regatta which I am soooo excited to get to watch from the best seat in the house - my husbands boat with some great friends. I promise to post some pics.

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Lesson From the Oscars

Apologies for the silence lately, it's not that I have nothing to say it's that I wasn't sure what the next post should be about - there was just so much going through my head. The last few months have been challenging and wonderful at the same time. When I finally got to watch the Oscars, my favorite moment was provided by one of my favorite Hollywood couples. During Ben Affleck's emotional and very real acceptance speech, he thanked his wife for all her work on their marriage and admitted it was work but he couldn't think of anyone he would rather work on it more with. For some reason there was a lot of negative associate with what he said and I am really confused by it.

What's wrong about admitting that marriage is work? Of course it's work. In my opinion it was refreshing not to hear the typical "you're perfect and I love you." He thanked his wife for working with him at something you could see was extremely important to him. For a minute, they became so very human and reinforced what I suspected of them all along, they are more "normal" than most of Hollywood. Because nothing is more normal than admitting something isn't perfect but it's still really great.

That's how I am feeling these days in general. I've documented here a lot of the challenges I was experiencing once we actually started living together full-time. We were two grown adults who had been on their own for 40 and 48 years, we both had other major life changes going on in addition to the marriage, so yeah it wasn't easy, it was work. But you know what - it's worth it.

Like anything you work for, if you put in the effort, there is a payoff of some sort. The last month has been as perfect as I could imagine. We've gotten used to the little things that may bug us, we are learning to live as a team. We are both learning compromise - so yes, we are both not always going to love doing certain things but we do them because it's important to the other person and at the end of the day each other's happiness is what we strive for.

The other night we were invited to dinner by probably my most favorite of Didier's clients. I wrote about this family once before - they are truly one of the best families in every aspect. The dinner was just with parents and we talked about our lives, how we met, how they met and how they made it to 35 years of marriage. It was really a lovely evening and we were both a bit inspired by them. Not once did they ever say it was easy - but they did say they have no regrets. When we got home, my husband remarked at how cool it was that they were married 35 years, I couldn't agree more.

So I think we are entering the next phase of the relationship. The time where a lot of the initial romance fades and we settle into our lives. The period where real life is happening around us and we are there to support each other when the days are rough. We know it's going to be work, every day. But I couldn't agree with Mr. Affleck more -  it IS the BEST kind of work, and I couldn't be happier about the partner I have to work with. And i can only hope we get 35 or more years to work at it together!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Approval Not Needed

Why is it that we are always searching for approval for things from the people around us? Also, why are we always so quick to try and provide our two cents without knowing the full story? So many people get so wrapped up in what other people think they often forget to ask themselves how THEY feel about whatever decision is being made. It's something I personally struggled with for years - I was a "people pleaser" and wanted validation on everything from hair color to apartment to men I dated. For a long time my relationships were so much more about how they reflected on who I was as opposed to what they did for me as person. On the flip, I have often been guilty of giving my opinion too quickly and without all the information. Something that I have really been working on.

I was talking with someone about this recently who is dealing with some judging. What I said to that person is "f them." Sorry but it's true. People that aren't there all the time and only see or hear things in small pieces do not get to judge as they don't have ALL the information. Women, I am sad to say, are the worst at this BY FAR. We are always sitting their questioning each others choices. Unfortunately, 99% of the time we only have about 10% of the information. And we are always sooooo quick to provide our two cents. Judging either quietly or worse LOUDLY about other peoples choices based on what we see or hear on the surface. Let's face it - a group of girls having drinks is going to lead to some "bitch sessions" because we feel the need to vent, doesn't mean that it needs to change.

Just because your friend is complaining about a project at work this week doesn't mean she should quit her job or just because she is annoyed that her husband doesn't help around the house doesn't mean they should get divorced - so be careful with you "comments." Remember  - once you say something out loud and people hear it, while you may be able to apologize, the words are there and its going to be tough to be forgotten.

Through my journey this has happened to me quite a bit. Yes people that are reading this - I know what you were thinking and saying and still are. The fact is, it doesn't matter nor should it. My choices are precisely that, my choices. For a long time it hurt to know that people I cared about were making assumptions about my decisions and more importantly, my life. This transition has not been easy - its a completely new way of life so at a time where I needed support I often got the exact opposite due to a lack of information. Maybe it's because we tend to look for support when we are facing a tougher situation?

I am still in the very early stages of trying to figure out what a lot of my new life means. How to get by in new country, how to cope when we disagree, how to communicate when my husband isn't around, how to buy the right butter (something I am pleased to report I think I have figured out), etc. It has its ups and downs and that is to be expected, the reality is the ups are far more than the downs but the downs are still tough to cope with and that's when I reach out. My French is improving - FINALLY I can order for myself and have a little bit of small talk. I am starting to be less annoyed by certain things and instead appreciate them. Am learning a lot of the things that I don't love are just part of "island living" so they bug me less. I may still complain about certain things - pretty normal - but just because I am complaining about flies it doesn't mean that I miserable - it just means at that moment flies are bugging me.

Here's my reality: I married a good man who loves and cares about me. We are very much in love and we want many of the same things. We also came from different places and are learning to understand that about each other a little more. We know our choices surprised a lot of people, its to be expected. What helps is that with time, many people have come to realize we weren't making a "huge mistake" and as they got to know us better as a couple realized that this was exactly right for us. I don't think my reality is all that different or special.

So here's the net/net - you don't really need someone's approval if the choices seem right to you, you are the only one with all the information. And if you are giving your opinion, whether solicited or unsolicited, be very careful what you say and how it's delivered, you may unwillingly be hurting someone you care about while thinking it's "for their own good."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Parents Be With Your Babies

Over the last couple of weeks I got to witness a lot of craziness that is part of the very high season here. The thing I took note of most was how parents and children were interacting with each other and over the last few weeks I have seen some awesome parenting and some parenting that left me furious. It's no secret I want a little one but I am also aware of the fact that I may have waited to long and may never get my wish. I think that's what some of what I witnessed got me so angry. I can't understand why parents who get so little time with their kids to begin with seem so bothered by them.

I covered in a previous post about what some of the very high season crowd looks like. It's the extraordinarily wealthy - people are dropping hundreds of thousands of dollars down to be here these two weeks. With the dive center a lot of times you get fathers wanting their kids to experience diving, and in many cases you are doing private trips with these folks so I really got to see some interesting interactions.

I'll start with the highlights - a family from NYC came and their 10 year old son wanted to try diving - neither parent had interest and the father actually told me when he dove last time it was a terrible experience and he didn't like it at all. But yet when his son did so well in the pool session and wanted to try it in the sea the dad didn't hesitate. So the dad, the grandfather and the little boy all came out together. It was a special day for them and I loved witnessing it. I loved that the dad focused on nothing but his son the whole time - following with a camera and diving even though it wasn't something he enjoyed - at the end he was happy because his son was happy and I would be willing to bet we see them next year.

Another family came back that I had met last year - father with four daughters and his wife. When they found out we got married everyone came back to pick up dad after his dive and sat around and chatted with us for a while. These two weeks you can tell are very special to these parents as their daughters are getting older. What I love most is that they always wanted to do as much together as a family as possible. I remarked to my husband that night how warm I found them.

Then there were a few that broke my heart. Fathers who would rather nap than take a walk on the beach with their sun. Parents saying "not now" because they were too busy trying to look fabulous and this small person was something the nanny should be dealing with - I actually overheard that comment. Father admonishing his son because he was scared of something his sister wasn't when the father was really only interested in his cell phone the whole time. Mothers complaining how "they need a break" as they are sitting with friends and ignoring their daughters.

For those of you who say I don't have a right to judge, you are right, I don't. But as someone who would give ANYTHING to be "annoyed" by my own child it's difficult to watch people who have been given this beautiful amazing gift to only look inconvenienced. Your child is a child for such a short period of time and you never know what life is going to bring you. All I know is if I am somehow lucky enough to be a parent, I hope I will be like mine - present whenever they need me and not like so many that unfortunately seem to be out there.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Lesson From the Past Year

Today is a pretty significant day for me in this whole little thing that is my new life. It doesn't matter exactly why but without January 4th of last year, my "new life" probably wouldn't have happened. As I think about that, I am also thinking about how much has changed for everyone around me in the last year and I am pretty excited about all of the changes that are to come in 2013.

In the past year I know people who have found love, lost love, gotten pregnant, given birth, lost a child, gotten a pet, lost a pet, moved, quit their jobs, lost many of their childhood memories and made new memories. I know people who have started businesses, failed businesses, sold a business and lost their businesses to a hurricane. Basically, I like all of you have experienced or know someone who has experienced pretty much every human emotion imaginable over the last twelve months.

This day a year ago I was excited to start a new job but very sad to leave St. Barth, I didn't like the way things went that week but also had a "feeling" about some things. That job wasn't exactly what I was thinking it would be - I ended up in a situation I never thought I would find myself, completely duped with my new boss being arrested very soon into my new gig - he ended up in prison and I ended up having to figure something else out - and FAST. It's a crazy story but without it, the next nine months wouldn't have happened.

This day a year ago, I said goodbye to my now husband and he was in the process of figuring out "us" you see I had already done that, but you know us women are sometimes quicker at coming to the right conclusion ;) He took some time to reflect on what it was he wanted and whether or not "we" were it. So he needed time and a little space.

The past few days I have seen many of the same folks that had dove with my husband a year ago. There was a hint of something in their faces when they saw me - surprise, delight, maybe even shock - they all had a similar reaction, something along the lines of "so, there have been some changes since we last saw each other." My reaction has been something along the lines of "um, yeah a little bit." In general they have all been very warm and seem truly happy for us.

I don't think I am so special - who's life DOESN'T change in a year? Who sits still and doesn't have SOMETHING happen? The thing is - LIFE happens. Sometimes it happens great sometimes it's not so great - but no matter what happens you have to live it. You have to deal with what's happening around you and ask - is this something that I am going to let get me down or am I going to learn/grow/move forward in a new and "better" way.

There were and still are a lot of people out there that think we made a mistake. But there seem to be more and more everyday that believe in us and maybe even give us a bit of credit as they realize that this was not easy. We have been through a lot in the past year. There have been times I wasn't so sure I could do this. At the end it has all been worth it. Every last bit of it. I learned a lot about myself during that time with my old boss and I am learning a lot about myself every day in my new environment. My husband has learned a lot about himself during his time of reflection.

Together we are learning how to be a better team and help each other when we can how we can. I'm very happy about the way things are turning out and I look forward to continuing to grow and learn as a couple and I honestly don't care so much any more about what other think about it all. We are the only two people who opinions really matter in all this so I'm just going to focus on that. We are entering the next stage of our relationship and I can't wait to see what the next 12 months bring.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tis the Season

Like everything else here, time of year very different from what I am used to "back home." I have actually been waiting for the next two weeks here for a very a long time because from what I hear it's something to see and experience. I have to admit, it's been very hard for me to get into the "Holiday Spirit" this year. Maybe it's the 80 degree temperatures or the lack of constant Christmas music or the barrage of Christmas ads on TV. But it definitely feels like there is something in the air. It's not exactly a Christmas spirit but it's no less alive and very very obvious.

Here the words "The Season" while its very related to Christmas & New Years on the calendar means something completely different. When the rest of the world is celebrating the end of the year, here it's essentially the beginning. The big boats started to arrive a couple of weeks ago but as of this morning, the harbor is almost full. The world largest yacht The Eclipse is here and you hear more English and Russian being spoken than French. "The Season" has officially started - which means this is the St Barth you read about.

It's been amazing to watch the slow transformation from small local community to an island filled with tourists. Most of these tourists aren't your typical tourist, this isn't their first holiday in St Barth and they like to make it clear that they know the Island. When I arrived in early November it was quiet - really really quiet. Not even all the folks that live here had returned from the mass exodus that happens in September & October - the height of hurricane season here. There was Thanksgiving week where we got a sneak peak at what was about to happen, but I can already see it doesn't compare to the next two weeks. Where everything is elevated - there is a "buzz" in the air.

The staffs at restaurants and hotels are increased and the level of service is raised everywhere. I have been watching my husband and his business partner slowly gearing up waiting for what's about to happen. They are already getting the private dives - and have more than one booking a day and the emails and calls are coming in at a quicker pace. For me this is fun to witness as it's the opposite of what I am used to. I'm used to coasting through these two weeks, doing a little work but really catching up on the news and some good books. This year though I am looking forward to making myself useful, if possible, with their business. Whether it's to help them get ready for large groups, answer some emails or just be an extra pair of hands when possible. I will work this holiday season in one way shape or form if I can.

But what's happen around the island, well, it really is something to see. The wealthiest of the wealthy will be here - forget the 1% this is the .001%. To give you context - I said something about Romney and his yacht the other day and the comment I got back was "He's not SO wealthy." Yep, a world where one of the symbols of wealth isn't considered wealthy - that kind of wealth. There are some of the yachts in the harbor cost more than $500 m to build - and they only represent one of the owners toys.  Of course not everyone that comes is on a yacht - most rent villas or stay in hotels. But they are still spend a pretty penny to be here these two weeks and it becomes a bit of a playground.

It's such a contrast to my holidays back home. I miss the holiday parties and will certainly miss Christmas Eve at my parents. I won't however miss New Year's Eve in NYC - never was a fan. It's very different, not bad just different. I don't have a Christmas Tree and all my decorations are in a storage unit. And while I used to dream of a "White Christmas" well the white sand beaches are a perfectly acceptable substitute. I am however looking forward to living it as a local, that's what I am now and I think I am finally feeling like one!

Happy Holidays all!!!!!