Looking For Something That’s Right In Front Of You

On my recent travels, I was in Puerto Rico and was attempting to navigate my way around one of the cities using an app on my Iphone. The destination on this certain evening was a restaurant that for some reason was not coming up when I did a search for it in this GPS tool. I spent 30 minutes attempting and re-attempting to find the destination in the app several different ways and eventually marked a point on the map that I hoped would be closest to where I needed to go.

After clicking “Navigate”, I soon was off on a 4 mile drive being guided by my digitally based English speaking friend. About 10 minutes later the cheerful voice said I had arrived at my destination. Puerto Rico is interesting in that the streets, in the downtown cities, are a lot of one-ways. On top of that, everything is in Spanish which I don’t speak or read making it that much more difficult for me. And even worse, street signs aren’t on every corner. As the navigation ended, I noticed I had just passed an ice cream shop that I had seen online and wanted to check out. I made a mental note and took a left at the next street to look for a place to park and see if I could find any more information out on my phone’s internet. My pulse quickened slightly and I began to get frustrated. I told myself I should have just stayed at the hotel and had something to eat there. After about 10 minutes of causing myself anxiety and not finding any further help on the internet, I took a deep breath, told myself that God would help me find it and then looked straight ahead to figure out where to go next. There on the next corner was the sign for the entrance to the restaurant I was looking for. Even funnier, across the street was a church that I had also seen online and wanted to get a picture of while I had ventured out. I chuckled realizing that all three places I had planned on going to were within a block of where I was parked. I then thought how this has happened a lot in my life.

Have you ever been searching for anything so intently like a restaurant, some other destination, or maybe something that you lost in your house such as your keys and no matter how hard you try, it seems to evade you?

I realized the other day that sometimes by just slowing down or in my case pulling to the side of the road and pausing for a moment, that what I’m looking for is right in front of me. An even better realization is that for years I searched for happiness again and again through many different things around me and never did find it. When I stopped searching, started meditating and praying, and seeking to live a life that God would want me to be living, I began feeling the happiness within.

It’s so easy to get caught up in distress when looking for something so diligently in life. I have found that what we are looking for is usually right in front of us or within us. Sometimes all it takes to find it, is some slowing down and asking God for help.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever!!!”

Have you ever been on a vacation having an amazing time and caught yourself saying something along the lines of “I wish I could stay here forever!”?

The first time I mouthed those words was as a child when my family took an annual vacation for two weeks in Myrtle Beach, SC. We left the Saturday after the school year ended and were always there to the Saturday after the fourth of July. I have fond memories of being immensely excited for those vacations when they got closer. My sister does as well. In a family where being dysfunctional was the norm and verbal shouting matches with anger and control were an everyday commonplace, the vacation in Myrtle Beach seemed like a reprieve from it all. For whatever reason, my parents became happier during it. The fighting was minimal, if present at all. My sister and I received a lot more praise. And our parents spent time doing things with us that were fun and made us feel like we were one happy family. I lived for those two weeks. I can still remember building sandcastles with my Mom and Dad. I remember having ice cream sundaes at an all you can eat toppings location after a long walk to find it. I even remember eating too much hush puppies at our favorite restaurant that we always went to on our first night out. And that’s just a couple of things that I remember fondly as there are hundreds more.

So why did my parents act differently during these annual vacations?

The best answer that I’ve been able to come up with is really based upon one of my own life’s travel experiences.

I’ve been to quite a different number of places in the world for a vacation but I have to say that I’m partial to going to beach destinations. It’s ironic because I currently live about 10 minutes from the beach and yet when I travel I like to go to places where they are present. What can I say? I love the ocean, it’s vastness, and it’s tranquility. Maybe that’s because of those beach trips I did year after year as a kid. Either way, many years ago, I took my first trip to the Caribbean. I was on a cruise that left out of Florida and was at that time in a different relationship. One that was rapidly falling apart. I really loved this man who I was trying to spend my life with, but unfortunately, he had fallen out of love with me and fallen more in love with the bed and breakfast that we were trying to own and run. What’s fascinating is that I remember how my relationship had so much drama and fighting, and arguing and yelling, even right up until the day that vacation began. But when we arrived at our warm and tropical destination, my partner started to treat me so much better. He showed me affection again. He offered me the warmth our relationship had once shared. He paid me compliments and gave me the attention that had long since disappeared. And that’s when I caught myself saying those words again, “I wish I could stay here forever!” And that’s when it finally began to dawn on me why my family was so happy on each of our annual vacations and why it seemed to be happening again in totally different circumstances.

Life is distracting. Our self-will takes us down paths that change our focus from the things that truly mean something, to things that we think are supposed to mean something. We place all our attention on making money, building businesses, acquiring “things”, and being busy for long hours of the day, all the while losing interest and focus on one the most important things in this world. Love. Love for ourselves and love for another. The partner I had on that vacation back then had been with me at that point for about five years. In the first few years, he could have been the poster child for what unconditional love is. Then came the day that he began to pursue his dream to run a bed and breakfast. Over time, the burdens of achieving that dream shifted his interests and his love on every level from me to it. The same held true for my family. My father relentlessly pursued his IBM career with long work hours. My mother in turn gave up her dream of being a French Interpreter that she had originally gone to college for, and instead became a housewife. Neither seemed very happy with themselves or their day to day lives but being on vacation changed everything. There were no worries or concerns for either of them other than where to go for dinner or what putt-putt course to play that evening. I saw my mother and father hold hands, laugh, and be happy with each other. As soon as we would arrive back at our home upon completion of the vacation, it was as if all of what we had just experienced in the past two weeks had been an illusion. The fighting resumed. My sister and I got yelled at again for no reason. And we were left with another 50 weeks to look forward to our next reprieve.

Vacations are just that, a reprieve from life. They can be awesome and rekindle some elements that may have dwindled in connections between friends or partners. Unfortunately, the longer the vacation, the more apt the everyday aspects of life will return. I’ve experienced it having thought I could make the loving times last longer by extending more weeks onto the end of once shorter trips. In each and every case, those worries and concerns, and those things that shifted the focus away from the love in the first place, began to creep back in, along with the fights and the arguments.

Today I’m in a much healthier relationship where I’ve noticed something pretty special. We express love to each other all the time even with each of our own concerns of every day life. When we take one of these reprieves and go on vacation, it only gets better. I believe that’s the way it probably should have been in all of my dysfunctional relationships prior to this including even my family. I don’t wish anymore that I could stay forever at where I’m traveling to. I believe that’s because I’ve placed God today at the center of my life and in doing that, it seems that whether I’m sipping fruity drinks under the tropical sun or whether I’m home watching snow accumulate in feet, that I happy either way.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Traveling Experience

I recently went on air travel that brought out some thoughts on why it is that I both love to fly and loathe it at times as well.

Heading out to the airport is exciting isn’t? Unless one has a fear of flying, I’m guessing it’s an enjoyable feeling inside as the arrival at the airport happens. Unfortunately, there is so much that has changed at the airport these days because of security that has caused some of that enjoyment to be curbed for many.

First there are the lines that one must endure to wait to check a bag, change a seat, or speak to an agent for any other reason. Sometimes those lines are short and the the wait to see the agent is quick. But in other cases, waiting an hour or more could happen. For someone like me who has trouble standing for long periods because of my current ailments, I generally try to arrive at off times to avoid that, even if it means waiting several hours or more for a flight.

The next hurdle is the baggage weigh in. Please stay under 50 pounds. Please!!! That is what my thoughts generally are saying when I place my heavy suitcase on the scale. If one is lucky enough to fly JetBlue or a few other airlines that allow for the first bag free, staying under 50 pounds will not incur any extra costs. The downfall is when the suitcase is 51 or 52 pounds and the agent asks if you can remove something within it to bring it down to the maximum limit. If I’m lucky enough to have a carry on bag, sometimes that’s possible. Most of the time it’s not and a cost of $20 to $40 happens. Add in the cost for the “non free bag” airlines, and suddenly, one might pay $50 to $60 before they even leave on their trip.

The biggest hurdle for many is going through security. With heightened measures today, it just seems that every one is looked at like they are a potential terrorist and often I feel that those same measures have become invasive. I understand they are for our own security reasons but sometimes I see that it can go overboard and cause more fear. When I was a kid, I remember thinking it was exciting to go through the security. That was before one had to take off their shoes, their belts, their sweatshirts, everything in their pockets, be x-rayed, wanded, and scrutinized by several agents. In my last security screening, I was scanned twice because of my belt which then held up a vast number of people patiently waiting to go through the same process.

The last hurdle is the boarding process. Some airlines have people hoarded in like cattle and it’s a first come first serve basis to get a seat. And in the boarding process for most airlines there is a priority of who gets to get on the plane first. Some are even charging extra if one wants to board early. It seems like unless one is disabled, the more money one has to spend, the more they will get the privileges that used to come for everyone many years ago in the flying experience. What’s even more difficult, is that by the time some board, there is no storage left in the over head compartment because people bring as much as they can on the plane to avoid paying the fees for the baggage at the gate. Lately with the disabilities that I am going through with my sciatica and numbness, I pre board because I am unable to stand for long period of time.

And finally there’s takeoff, after everyone is boarded and seated, after watching the airline attendants show the safety procedures, and after any potential delays on the runaway. In worst case scenarios, there is also the potential of delays in the air to land, delays to get to the gate upon landing, and delays to pick up any checked bags at the carousel. Then, and only then, one can take a breath of fresh air and relax that they are at their destination (that is unless they are waiting for in a cab line, or have to get a car rental, or a friend is running late to pick them up, or they have to shuttle out to find their car in a sea of other cars parked in long term parking.)

In my new place in life, I try to look at the positive experiences with everything and focus on them instead. Upon arrival at the gate, I generally like to talk to the agent and smile and make them feel like they are important. Because they are as they do a lot of hard work and have to deal with unruly people quite often I’m sure. At the security, I usually get to talk to someone interesting while I’m waiting to go through the screening. This past trip I met a young woman on holiday travel from a journalism study program at her university in Vienna, Austria. Once the screening is done, I enjoy the wait for my flight because I get to watch people and see how their lives are playing out. I look forward to eating something and just relaxing while I watch the planes arrive and take off outside. And on the plane, I almost always get to know who is sitting next to me and in some cases, I’ve even make a long term connection and exchange contact information like I did a few trips ago with a former pastor and his wife who have been praying for me and my healing ever since.

I believe everything in life can be viewed from positive or negative perspectives. As much I can list out what I struggle with on the flying experience, I have to say that the good outweighs the bad, and I’m grateful to God that I’m even able to go on a trip and fly in the first place.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson