Cruel to be kind

Red ginger flower at Diamond Falls Botanical Garden
Our stay in Saint Lucia was sometimes challenging. We called it our "adventure holiday" (see Monty Python "Travel Agent" sketch). As our stay progressed, I started wondering if it might not be too adventurous for us anymore.

On Monday, our first full day in Saint Lucia, we thought we'd check out the nearest beach, Anse Chastenet. The protected snorkeling area next to the beach was a big reason Sweetie had chosen our particular villa. Google Maps said the walk to the parking lot was 850 metres, and the beach was a short walk beyond that through the resort grounds (all beaches on Saint Lucia are public, though typically are surrounded by resorts and their facilities).

We knew the road was broken up. We had bounced up from Soufrière. But we didn't realize how difficult that surface would be to walk on. As well, the 100-metre elevation change felt steep. We had read over and over that the road was walkable, but hikable would be more accurate.

We made it down a couple hundred metres to a "police" (resort rent-a-cop) checkpoint, were told we needed masks to enter the resort grounds (entirely outdoors, but their rules), crawled back up, hiked all the way down, signed in, went swimming, and then set off back up the deteriorated road, slowly, painstakingly, and with many rest and water stops. We barely made it, and not just the person with balance issues who is recovering from a stroke but her ostensibly reasonably fit spouse as well.

(We somehow didn't take into account that we had jumped three time zones and had had only one night's good sleep over two nights.)

Back at the villa, I drank a bunch of water and passed out for a good hour. Upon awakening, I was a wee bit concerned. We had been counting on reasonably easy access to the beach and snorkeling area. Now we realized that we would not be jaunting merrily down and up that hill on foot. We would have to pay our drivers, in cash, for more lifts than we had anticipated. So we would need to obtain more cash than anticipated, which might require more lifts because of daily cash limits.

The next day, we booked a planned lift, got a bunch of US dollars, toured around Soufrière, had a tasty lunch, and bought a bunch of groceries. It all went smoothly, and I felt soothed.

Wednesday, however, started with me being awakened at 6 am by the gardener sweeping the pavement outside our bedroom windows, just feet from my head. Singing frogs and cooing doves I can sleep through, but broom straws on concrete near my head, not so much. Then there was a surfeit of bad news in the world, the worst of which was the killing of Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. That crushed me.

I had a cry, then got it together. We booked a lift to the beach and went snorkeling, booked another lift so we could walk through a botanical garden and have another excellent lunch, and back at the villa spent time in our plunge pool. We booked a boat trip (and a lift) on Thursday which provided us with excellent snorkeling.

Friday morning began with me yet again being swept awake at 6 am. I needed more sleep, but I wasn't going to get it. Then lingering concerns about being able to obtain enough cash and feelings of being trapped without a driver came crashing back.

The road to Soufrière is tough on bollards too
(sheer drop to the left)
Instead of staying anxious and full of bad thoughts, I determined that I was going to conquer the road into Soufrière on foot. Sweetie had no desire to try it, but I figured I could do it on my own (I'm very sure-footed).

I hiked down, did my business like a normal person, took photos like a tourist, and hiked back up, slowly and with lots of rest and many sips of water. I reached the villa in pretty good shape! After almost failing to make it back up the beach end of the road on Monday, I felt redeemed. And I felt empowered knowing that I could get around better than I thought on my own two feet.

Later that day, when we were negotiating a difficult path in the rain forest, our bird guide Smith found a walking stick for Sweetie that she realized helped her a lot with balance. As we were walking back to his vehicle, Sweetie found an even better stick by the side of the road.

If we had had time, with me feeling stronger and more capable, and Sweetie feeling stronger and armed with a walking stick, I think we would have made it to the beach and back without much problem.

Physical and psychological challenges were probably not the only things that triggered crying spells. Because of international and local laws, I did without a couple of my usual meds. Even though in general I was feeling good and mostly sleeping well, there were still some neurotransmitter adjustments that likely played a part in defences breaking down.

Fortuntely, I still had one med, coffee, locally grown, quite good. I was well caffeinated, which both perks me up and calms me down. On a few evenings, I sipped a Piton beer. The warm climate and beautiful surroundings also helped ease the brain adjustment. Most of the time, I felt pretty relaxed, and relaxed progressively more as the week went on.

I think challenges and med deprivation were like cracks that released some of what I seem to have been carrying for the better part of two years. I don't know exactly what that stuff was, but it must have been substantial, because the relief is obvious. Generalized accumulated pandemic stress, maybe. Excision by the island spirits wasn't always gentle, but it was effective.

On the way home, I finished Sarah Polley's Run Towards the Danger (my kind of beach reading). Her voice is so refreshing, her insights keen, her honesty sometimes painful but never brutal. I took a lesson from the book: when I think I'm being kind to myself by taking it easy, I might in fact be doing the opposite. Sometimes I might need to push through, lest an acute condition become chronic. Self care for me might not be what I thought it was.

When good changes have happened, you want to keep at least some of them and not just slide back into the same stress build-up. When you've learned something, you want to make sure you remember it and take it to heart. So I'm a little obsessed right now (thus constantly writing and rewriting), but so far not too stressed. Holding on to the irie.

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