History class somewhere around 1997, my head tucked in my arms, asleep on the desk. Exhausted. This was the class I always tried to get the hall pass from and go to Burger King for a scrumptious egg and cheese croissant. Excellent that buying a teacher a BK meal could get you out of class in the good ole days of school. On this particular day, we watched a movie. I assume I was supposed to take notes. A bang on my desk woke me from slobbered slumber at the end of the class.
Only a few short days after this occurred, I found out I had mono. I was sick as I had ever been. My face was swollen as though I had been cast as the blueberry kid in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. The throbbing, the pain.
Through the coming years, the pain continued—no real explanation of the why. I walked the path. Endometriosis, twelve laparoscopy surgeries, cervical cancer, and ultimately ovarian cancer, with the removal of all my womanhood internal organs.
It is funny thinking back to those young years, the trauma, that unknown path, and all the fear.
This same feeling of exhaustion led me to Costa Rica in the fall of 2022. In an attempt to revive my body, mind, and spirit. 2022 has been the year of so much- selling a business, starting a new one, moving, traveling, spending time out with friends after a pandemic, and the unknowns of the path forward.
It’s no secret that traveling is my jam. I think flying is my spirit animal, “cloudsurfing,” as I have nicknamed it. Travel intoxicates my senses and fills my cup with joy. But not in the “Only a 5-Star Boutique Hotel Will Do” kind of way (we all know boutique hotels are my thing!), more in a get-in-touch-with-the-people, places, and things attitude. The connections we make along the way truly matter and inspire us.
For many years, I kept saying, “I used to write. I don’t have the inspiration or the energy. Putting words on paper feels exhausting.” The truth is, I have been writing only for others and not myself. I put my heart and soul to rest because I locked the doors inside and consumed myself in work and the mile-long to-do lists of life, but in the process, that cloudsurfing spirit almost gave up.
In the fall of 2018, I found myself in Costa Rica at a yoga retreat with friends. I was on a new adventure, choosing to take a new turn on this path called life. The country is full of vibrant rainforests and beaches, a blanket color of brown carpet, almost shimmering black in the hot sunlight, hot to the touch. It is beautiful and captivating in only its way. The palm-treed lined shores and dancing waves beg for spiritual manifestation. After all, Costa Rica is a highly sought-after yoga and workshop destination.
Of course, we did physical yoga and mental workshops to dig deep within ourselves. To tell our stories. We were doing the work of growth, writing goals and dreams, and putting them to paper to make them happen. The joy came from the comradery of all those attending and establishing deeper connections.
Costa Rica moves slowly, like the sloths they are known for. At a pace where time can feel as though it stands still and can jump just like the crocodiles out of nowhere at the bridge on the way to Jaco. Must-visits of this magnetic side of the Pacific are Rainmaker, El Avion Restaurant, Surf Lessons at Jaco Beach, Manuel Antonio Park, and Ziplining.
When life questions arose in 2022, I found myself desperately searching for yoga… again. I called a friend and asked to join a retreat last minute. My body needed a vegan week, and I needed yoga. My spirit was just searching for anything to keep going.
This letter is to those attending the 2022 retreat. The first of my series of Letters To. Because it is not the place, it is the connection that lives on. And honestly, hospitality, the business I am in, is a place providing or giving light. Sparking joy and providing the here-and-now moments that will forever live on in memories, Hospitality is where the light shines so bright that all those in that place shine their light, and actual magic happens.
This new blog is about places and links to places I recommend, but more importantly, it is about the lessons learned. Let’s start with Thank You, Costa Rica.
The vibrant blues of the butterflies with wing spans like bats reminded me of my late grandmother’s butterfly decor on her walls. Monkeys swinging from tree to tree made me think of climbing up my Grandfather’s legs and flipping as a child. Parrots effortlessly float through the whispers of winds, making me want to soar along with them.
The vibrancy of color all around was found in looking up and about, being in the moment. The water, while not the crystal blue of the Caribbean side, is perfect for surfing and dipping your toes in the sand. That depth of vibrant being is everywhere in Costa Rica. It is in the here and now, but most importantly, it is in the conversations, the laughter, and the yoga from the inside.
When I arrived, I was tired. Weak. Feeling sorry for myself because my body was not feeling. I had felt it for some time now. Months, in fact. So, when I received a call that something was wrong – I could not have been in a better place. Sure, every year, I battle lymph node swelling. Typically I can kick it. In 2022, I have been struggling with my body.
But let’s not talk about what could be wrong because a cancer scare is a scare until it’s not. And I am doing all the right things for my body that I can do. I’m back on my mat, giving my body the breath it needs to make it through whatever fight may lie ahead. But I also draw strength from the lessons learned in Costa Rica from those I met.
#1 Exhaustion Can Be Reversed With Laughter – When was the last time you smiled and laughed so hard that your cheeks hurt? Find your humor when the world attempts to rob you of your smile. It’s easy to become too serious. Too busy and even sad. Find the laughter.
Laughter is the best medicine.
#2 It Is Ok To Slow Down, To rest. Warp speed is not an option. It will cause burnout.
#3 Never Give Up. Ever. When it feels like you are up against something for the first time or again, giving up is the easy way out. There can be pain in starting over or standing up for yourself; keep going. You are worth it.
#4 A Broken Heart Has Been Broken Open. After arriving home, a good friend gift the book, ‘The Way of a Peaceful Warrior.’ I recommend this as an annual read—this is a reminder to breathe through life and worry about your energy, not others. Life can bring us to our knees. We will feel broken and defeated. But we have to get back up. We may be broken, but we are broken open. Open to what is next, to living until we die. To embrace every moment. To live with arms wide open, soaking it in, jumping in the ocean, and splashing.
#5 Dancing Is Good For The Soul. Never stop dancing. Dance in the kitchen, and invite friends over for laughter, music, and dancing. People who share new music with you and laughter are good. Add some dancing to your daily routine. You will thank yourself.
#6 Teach By Example, Lead By Example. This has been something profound inside for some time. Leaders eat last, as I discuss in my TEDx talk. You must practice what you preach. When you embody the values and concepts, the magic happens—less self, more love, and awareness all around.
#7 Love Is Not Something To Be Understood; it Can Only Be Lived. The world needs more compassion and more caring. Spread your spark of magic. Love more. And in love lost, be grateful for the beauty it created in those moments. Love is beautiful and is around us everywhere.
#8 Attention Costs Zero. This statement reminds me of a time sitting in Las Vegas with friends. My attention span kept looking all about me, taking everything else in except those sitting in front of me. A good friend called me out and asked me to be present here and now. That moment changed me. Money cannot buy attention. Stay present with the people you are with. Put the phone down. Make eye contact. Really listen. Live the moments. There are a million if you allow them and stay present to receive.
#9 Peace Is Right Here. Costa Rica is about the balance of nature vs. nurture. Peace will not come from someone else. This is an inside job. Get outside in nature. Look up. Explore. Laugh. Love. Live. Be Present. The peace you are searching for is there, in the moment. Don’t rob yourself of allowing your mind to time travel to the past and all the things you regret or wish you would have done differently. And don’t get too caught up in what is next in your future. Peace is not attached to outcomes.
#10 Friendships Are Vital. Here is a truth defining moment for me. In the past, I have been afraid of being hurt, therefore, not allowing anyone to get too close. Almost attempting to control the narrative of relationships. Wow. that hits deep. Deep, meaningful friendships are essential. We all need “our people.” The ones we call and count on when times are good and bad. I have hurt good friends in the past for not showing up when needed. Show up. Be there. Surround yourself with good people who align with your values—those who call. Be a friend back. Friendship is not one-sided. It takes effort from all. During the pandemic, I was not a good friend. I did not show up. I hid from the conversation. I missed out on chat and hugs because I was too busy. Life is not a to-do list. We need the people around us. Always make the phone call. Create deep connections. Be present with your friends, always.
#11 Drop The Comparison. Each of us is unique—every human struggles with something, whether it looks like it on the outside or not. Drop the comparisons. We are talented and gifted in our own way, living our journey. Be unapologetically you. Stop putting yourself down for any reason. You are you, and you are always becoming the best version of yourself.
We have today, and that is it. The past was the past. The pain of yesterday was yesterday. No comparisons. No judgment. Allow your magic to shine.
When you feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or in the midst of struggle – remind yourself.
Exhaustion is only a word.
Struggle does not last. When it pushes, pull- when it pulls, push.
Keep moving forward. You control your efforts, not the outcomes. There is greater energy handling the rest.
Thank you, Costa Rica.
Thank you, friends.
Thank you, butterflies.