This post isn’t like anything I’ve written here before. It’s not full of tips and inspiration on the best places to go and the best ways to get there. It’s not about how to save loads of money but still have a fabulous time traveling the world.
But it came to me after exploring the ruins of Tulum and I thought maybe if I feel this way, others do too. And maybe sharing would help.
What happens when life gets in the way of actually living?
For me, it happened with our latest adventure to Mexico. We were all set — flights booked, hotels reserved, excursions set. But then life happened. And I found myself not wanting to go. At all.
Let me tell you a story about a dog named Remy, and how she changed my life.
A Dog Named Remy
Remy came from the pound. The first day I saw her, I thought she was so strange. But the S.O. was obsessed.
“I found a German Shepherd!” he had said has he dragged me over to her crate. She looked at me with doe eyes, her oversized ears brushing the ceiling of the small box they had shoved her into.
She was not, by any sort of standards, a German Shepherd. The S.O. could see the doubt on my face and was just about to throw in the towel. But she sat there thumping her tail, looking down her nose at us. Thump thump thump.
And I caved.
We brought her outside, where she immediately laid her head and front paws in my lap while I sat on the plastic chair.
We didn’t bring her home that day. I still wasn’t sure we needed another pup. But a week later we were back and she was there, face pressed against the cage door, tail thumping. Thump thump thump.
She looked at me as if to say, “Where the hell have you been?”
And from that day on, Rem had my whole heart. I would spend her whole life fighting for her, and trying to make up for her horrible start to life and the week we left her at the pound.
I chose the name Remy after one of my favorite characters in a book, who was rough around the edges and soft on the inside. We found out soon enough that’s how our Rem was, too.
Rem ended up in the pound after being abandoned in a garage in the middle of summer, tied up with no water or food. Her feet were webbed, and we would later learn from her trainer that it happens to dogs who are kept in very tight quarters for very long periods of time. There was no doubt about it — the life Remy knew before she came to us was harsh and unkind.
But Rem had so much love to give. She gave it to us with everything she had. In the first few weeks we had her, she would cling to our legs like a child. We would have to drag her through the grass just to get her to go outside to pee. Our lives changed irrevocably as soon as she came home with us.
Remy had so much love to give, but such a hard time giving it. She wanted so badly to please and be pleased by everyone she met. But she had an uncontrollable fear of almost everything. At first it started small. And then it grew and spread like wildfire until it consumed her almost completely.
But to us, it never mattered. Rem was our special girl. She never wanted anything more than a cuddle and maybe, if she was feeling especially energetic, a lap around the yard with her brothers.
She loved me during a time when love was what I needed most — and she gave it unconditionally. We understood each other. We knew what it was like to be scared, to want to please everyone, and to want nothing but love.
So I fought for Remy every day in her year and ten months with us. I fought for her peace of mind and her security and her happiness. I fought for her comfort and for her wellbeing. I fought for her love of green grass and lazy weekends and the occasional sprint around the yard and endless snuggles. I stood guard against her demons the way she stood guard against mine. But in the end, Rem’s demons became too much for anyone to fight.
We lost Rem the week before we left for our next big adventure. We were faced with an impossible choice and an impossible set of circumstances.
And so when the time came to go on this trip, I couldn’t quite find the excitement within myself; that yearning for adventure and tasting life. Because I think of her — always.
So what do you do when life gets in the way of living?
Coloring the Gray
The first few days of the trip were amazing. There was sun and sand and I was far enough away that it felt like everything back home was put on pause.
But then I as I laid there one afternoon, surrounded by Caribbean blue, I felt a tug deep inside me. It ached so deeply and so badly that I wondered if someone had turned out the sun, just like that.
And that’s when I realized it.
You can’t outrun sadness. You can’t hide from grief, or put loss down and pick it back up when you come home. Pain goes with you, no matter the adventure.
It’s how you pack it that really matters.
I could let it take up my whole bag. I could let it consume my entire luggage, so that it’s too heavy to allow me to get on the plane. Or I could leave a space for it in the corner.
I decided to pack it lightly. It’s there, no doubt about it. But it’s not prominent, and it’s not stopping me from living. Because the only thing to do when life gets in the way of living, is to simply keep on living.
Life is too short to be too sad, too scared, too angry, or too overcome with grief to keep you from doing what you love. To keep you from seeing new sights and tasting new tastes and smelling new smells.
The colors weren’t as bright for me this adventure. But they were there: blues and yellows and pinks and reds among the gray. And eventually, if I add enough color, it will be really bright again.