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i am learning

i am learning

Playa del Carmen has proven to be the most beautiful, friendly, visually entertaining little town. I’ve truly enjoyed my first few days here! If you are connected to me via facebook, twitter, or instagram, you’ll have already seen some amazing pics by now. When I bought my plane tickets, this was definitely NOT what I had imagined. I’m learning quite a few new things… about myself, my sister, the world. We actually get into some pretty deep convos together. We’re halfway convinced when we run the world, we’ll actually be quite good at it… we are definitely full of opinions.

My adventure started with some mechanical difficulties on the airplane and a nice, long wait on the runway of Las Vegas. Normally, that would be irritating. Normally, I’d get a little stressed. Normally, I’d have a wiggly, impatient teenager next to me and I’d have to try to get him to entertain himself and exercise some patience. As you know, my ‘normal’ has been altered. It’s just me, heading to see my sister and brother-of-sorts, so even though sitting on a runway for an extended period of time is obviously no one’s idea of fun, instead of getting stressed, I just sent my sis a message via Facebook stating I may or may not make my connecting flight. Then I stuck my nose in the book she sent me (Love with a chance of Drowning… you MUST read this memoir!), and waited for the mechanics to sort out the drama. No one needed an explanation from me. No one looked to me for anything.

The passenger in front of me immediately started making calls. She knew there was only one flight to Cancun each day, and her party of six was not going to get screwed out of their 4 day trip! Her words, not mine. I could hear the determination in her voice as I eavesdropped from the row behind her. She was actively working the situation, deciding whether to have the flight attendant move her entire party to the other airline or wait it out to see if we got up in the air on time. I felt her angst… shooooot, I could almost smell it. I was silently cheering her on. I wanted her to find the best solution, not only for her health and well-being (‘cause this mama was s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d.) but because I totally intended on following in her footsteps. Well, no worries. They had wheels up in less than 30 minutes and we made our connection with ten minutes to spare.

I am learning that the fight doesn’t always have to be mine.

I want to share every single detail of my trip but it is just impossible to describe all of the sights, tastes, and sounds that have overwhelmed and enveloped me since arriving. Instead, I’ll share with you what’s happening internally. I am learning. Each day, multiple times a day, I am presented with new perspectives, unfamiliar ideas, different approaches, and I come away from the experience changed. I came here to hide and to heal… not to learn. That requires effort and work. I wanted to curl up into a ball, knit myself tightly into a cocoon, avoid the world, and just cease to exit. That’s the truth. I bought my ticket with every intention of being a total vegetable. I wanted to empty my heart of all of this pain, and add some salty tears to this massive ocean. That was my plan in its entirety.

My sister has a way of challenging me and it has absolutely turned my trip upside down. She operates in stealth mode though, and I really didn’t see it coming. Not only did she organize all of my accommodations for me (hello, she got us comped into the nicest hotel suites with a private terrace, bbq, jacuzzi, and stunning views!), she assured me I didn’t have to do ANYTHING to prepare for this trip. No money exchanging… “we’ll sort it out when you get here.” No converters, no chargers… “we have extras.” She actually told me to take half of what I had packed and put it back in my closet. She didn’t want me bogged down with things like hair products or makeup or too many outfit options. She was right… I’ve been in shorts and swimsuits the whole time. I literally did not lift a finger to get here or have any input in planning this trip. You can see why I would think my plan to sit and sulk was on track, right? Wrong.

Sarah is one of the most unique individuals I have ever met. She is my sister, yes, but after having been raised in separate families (she’s an Aussie and I’m American), without being encouraged to foster true family connections, I am only now getting to know her. We have reconnected multiple times as adults, and I have to say she is one of my favorite people in the world. She is honest, authentic, and beautiful. She will tell you about her journey through fear. She will openly share her past with addiction and how she deliberately and painstakingly carved out a different future for herself. What she won’t tell you is that on your trip to ‘sit and sulk’ she will be challenging you to do things you would NEVER have done in your entire life! Oh no, that little nugget won’t be revealed until you get here.

I’ve always had an aversion to ‘mouth breathers’ – hahaha! Well now I have become one, under the expert tutelage of the best lil snorkel instructor in Playa del Carmen, Sarah Jane Chamberlain. I have learned to snorkel, and to overcome my fear of breathing through my mouth via a flimsy little tube. I felt very panicky at first, like I was going to hyperventilate. Those who truly know me, know that I am not a fearful person; some of you have even told me I am fearless! Well, you should have seen me in the waters of Akumal. I was a baby, a chicken, a scaredy-cat! Sarah kept saying, “Remember you can just stand up” or she’d reassure me and say soothingly, “You can stop any time you want and just breathe normally.” I listened, and I learned, and I saw the most amazing sights. Huge turtles, colorful fish! The world goes silent, and all you hear is the water as you stare at these gigantic sea turtles that have been alive for over a hundred years. There is peace among them. I felt it.

I learned that I can always stand up.

I learned that I can stop anytime, and just breathe normally.

We have been to a couple of cenotes, as well. We snorkeled then jumped off a very high ledge at Cenote Azul. We cheered for a young mama who was so afraid to jump but forced herself to take the plunge… we were willing her, urging her, to conquer her fear! We wanted to be a part of it… I am amazed at how invested we were. It was absolutely critical to us that she jumped. I think because Sarah and I both know what it feels like when you let Fear win. We climbed a bazillion stairs on a hot day, through the heavy humidity, to reach the deep waters of Cenote Zaci, and laughed as the skies finally burst and it rained on us as we swam. We applauded for Tyrhone, my brother-of-sorts (BOS), after he jumped off a ridiculously high cliff. He’s absolutely nuts. We discussed the possibility of a monster lurking in the depths, or piranhas devouring us; we felt fish nibbling at our toes and didn’t scream too loudly.


I’ve shared in previous blog posts how I have often wished for death just to be reunited with my boy. I’ve been sort of joking with Tyrhone and Sarah about that death wish…I know that is weird, but I’m a little ‘off’ these days. I’ve made reference to the Hunger Games trilogy, and said if any life-threatening situation presented itself I would ‘volunteer as tribute’ and offer myself up to die so they could get away. They have gladly accepted and we have an agreement. So far, I am still alive.

I have learned that fear is crippling and the imagined outcome is almost always worse than the real one.

I have learned that I do not really have a death wish. Life isn’t over, it is just different.


Through each of these experiences, my sister has been gently encouraging me. She has stayed by my side, and coaxed me down the mossy steps into the murky waters. She has shown me how refreshing it is to take a dip in the unknown, and to wash away the stickiness of the day. She has readily and enthusiastically discussed every single idea I have about my future plans, and has laughed at my tendency to leap forward then pull back… “This is awesome! Ewwww, gross, a fish!” My bipolar approach to adventure, haha! She has allowed me time to sleep, time to soak up the sun, but she has not allotted time for sulking. There is adventure all around us, and a beautiful life to be experienced. I will forever be thankful for the many sights, sounds, and flavors of Mexico, but mostly, I will be thankful for my sister’s kindness, her choice to be my family, and her daily challenges for me to embrace life, however it presents itself.

I am learning to how to live.


p.s. Tomorrow will be 12 weeks. Mason will not be starting high school. He’s long gone. Every day, I send him my love. Every day, I tell him I miss him. Every day, I cry and ache and mourn. Every day, I wish he was here to enjoy life with me. Every day, I ask God for strength to make it, to keep me from falling apart. I’ve read that “A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” I will see Mase soon.

…but tomorrow, I will be swimming with gigantic whale sharks.


  • Juli Curtin
    Posted at 17:43h, 25 August Reply

    Sounds beautiful and wonderful and exactly what you need,
    and then some……. Perfection! XO

  • Dani
    Posted at 18:11h, 25 August Reply

    Beautiful….nature is good for the Soul:)

  • Karrie
    Posted at 18:14h, 25 August Reply

    Once again, you amaze me! Your sister sounds as amazing as you are. I am so glad you were able to go on this getaway. You are right…your life is not over, it is just different….much different

    • it's just me
      Posted at 03:31h, 27 August Reply

      it’s just so moment-to-moment, karrie. one minute i am fine. i understand life is not over, it is just different. the next minute i am bawling my eyes out struggling to understand. it’s so great to be busy and distracted here- i am dreading going home. absolutely dreading it.

  • Daisy Rain Martin
    Posted at 18:55h, 25 August Reply

    Cried yesterday again over you and Mase… Crying now… but smiling. My heart is heavy and light, broken and full.

  • Jennifer Moss
    Posted at 19:24h, 25 August Reply

    I’m so grateful Sarah chose you (and vice versa) so that you can challenge yourself instead of shrivel. What an amazing trip…with amazing people! Be safe–you have many more things to do here before you meet up with Mason!

    • it's just me
      Posted at 03:29h, 27 August Reply

      thanks moss… shrivel is an excellent word to describe what i want to do, every other minute. it’s strange how u can thoroughly enjoy an experience, yet have an aching sadness within. all day yesterday, i thought “i wish mase could see this!” or “i wish buns was here now!” it’s just not real without him.

  • Sarahsomewhere
    Posted at 20:12h, 25 August Reply

    I think I need to write my version of events – of how you manage to make me see my adopted home with new eyes, reminded of the beauty again and again through your observations, and how I am simply in AWE of you for being such a force of life and a bestower of grace. YOU are something special Holly and I am also learning, more than I ever thought possible. So grateful (and yes, now you can have more tostadas and ice cream…) xoxo

  • Sarahsomewhere
    Posted at 20:14h, 25 August Reply

    *of* grace 🙂

  • Joleen
    Posted at 20:30h, 25 August Reply

    I never had a sister…. Never wanted one, but I do now!! If I can have yours. 😉 seems as though you are exactly what one another needs right now. Enjoy this living thing….I’m praying for you every day.

    • it's just me
      Posted at 03:27h, 27 August Reply

      thanks joleen… it’s amazing how u can have an absolutely perfect day, challenge yourself with new things, embrace the adventure with an open heart & mind… then get back to your room at night and crumple into a sobbing heap. i just wish mason was here to experience all of this with me. it’s just so difficult to wrap my head around it… but i’m learning.

  • Tyrhone
    Posted at 20:36h, 25 August Reply

    I like how you play down my awesomeness because of how humble I am 🙂 Great post Holly, I am sure Mason would be as impressed with you as we are.

  • Jimmy Dau
    Posted at 20:44h, 25 August Reply

    Beautifully written. Enjoy the rest of your time in Playa. It certainly is a special place!

  • karrah
    Posted at 11:36h, 29 August Reply

    You simply amaze me holly. What you have learned in the past few weeks many people will never learn. I’m so grateful of your sister and how she has helped you heal and learn about life and what you have to offer the world. The memories you have made will have forever changed your life…just like mason did. Your words bring tears to my eyes but love to my heart. Xoxo

    • it's just me
      Posted at 12:38h, 29 August Reply

      love u, karrah. this truly has been an amazing, perspective changing experience.

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