This was me staring off into the distance -- we were headed out on our journey to find the dolphins in our boat. I was probably saying in my head, "see you soon Flipper." For those who do not know, Flipper was the name of a dolphin back in the day, in a movie and also a TV series.
Going on a long extended vacation abroad in another land sounds perfect, doesn't it? Just the thought can leave one envisioning a blissful, carefree time. The interesting thing about vacations, though, is that they are still part of life and still involve humans, and thus – you can cross off the word "perfect." You can even tone down your imagination a bit to fit in with the human experience. Not because it won't be spine-tingling, jaw-dropping, and magnificent. It can be. It is because the pressure to achieve perfection with your vacation provides letdowns you weren't prepared for and weren't prepared to move on quickly from.
You can get caught up in the emotion of having a big break from the regular grind, and tensions can actually become higher and more challenging to work with. People want the trip to be perfect, and the word perfect does not exist in the human experience.
My daughter and son (son-in-law, who I will refer to as my son. His kindness toward me has placed him in my heart as a son) took me to Costa Rica, and that is where I am now.
This was not an overnight decision on their part. They planned, prepared, and prodded me along for this adventure I am currently on. My daughter is fond of telling people that this is my dream to be here in Costa Rica. Although I believe she believes it, it is not the truth. I never dreamed of coming here to Costa Rica. Instead, I dreamed Celestine and Brian would come home to me – to come home to the States.
Here is perhaps how my darling daughter got so mixed up in her idea of who was dreaming what.
She has ideas and desires for her mom to experience more and have more. She knows that despite taking a few big wallops in life here and there, I'm quite a happy and contented person – feeling grateful for my blessings in life.
So what is with the mix-up of dreams? Its roots are in the first sentence of the previous paragraph – "her desires for me." She seems to think I'm superwoman and supermom all rolled into one and that I deserve super experiences and more happiness to add to the happiness I often enjoy. She is an over-the-top, precious daughter who is always dreaming big for me – wanting the very best for me. And my dear son, to his credit and to his further endearment to my heart, jumped with both feet into the middle of my daughter's dream. Hence, here I am in Costa Rica.
Celestine and Brian -- I love you!
For all the loveliness of their intentions and for all their dreaming big for Mom, I fear their hearts hurt when in their estimation, they don't get perfection for me. With every little thing that goes wrong, they seem to wilt at times when their perfect plan goes askew and does not meet the standards they have set for themselves.
I think perhaps the only perfection attainable in this life is knowing life is perfectly imperfect, and I'm not quite sure that is even attainable.
Today was to be a "perfect day" watching dolphins jump out of the ocean. We were going on the OSA Institute's Dolphin Monitoring Tour. Our guide Sebastian had a 100% success rate in finding the dolphins within a particular area.
This was the goal -- watching the dolphins play in their home. We were ready for it. We had done our preparations and had the camera in our hands.
There was little question in our minds but what we would be watching hundreds of dolphins playing and jumping from the water. I was super excited about this as I had never experienced such a thing, and I find myself always getting giddy with excitement whenever I have the opportunity to see wild animals in their natural habitat. There is something so thrilling about being a part of something so – well, wild and free and seeing them in their home. There was even a tiny chance of seeing whales.
I was literally waiting for this part of the trip with huge anticipation.
I was even willing to get up early in the morning for this, which for me makes it a gigantic event, as my vacation's number-one rule was being able to sleep in.
When we arrived, it was the evening before the dolphin excursion. The owner of the OSA Institute greeted us as she is a good friend of my daughter. She was dancing with some students from a California University who were studying abroad. Music was playing, and there was a fun atmosphere. The mood of the day was promising, and I smiled and thought to myself, "Wow, this makes me want to dance a little jig," but I satisfied myself with a broad smile of appreciation for the scene before me. It could be it was just fear of what others would say if this older lady bust out dancing to the catchy music playing – my dance moves wouldn't have been anything they were used to.
I was definitely feeling good.
Lauren, Celestine's friend, stopped everything to greet us and welcome us, showing us around and providing us with dinner. I liked my daughter's friend. She worked hard to help us feel special and welcomed – no small thing in helping me feel comfortable.
We stayed at the dorms that night and woke up to an alarm bright and early the following day – about 5 AM, I believe. Sleepiness would have normally thrown me back down to my pillow for more Zzz's, but this was – du-dut du du – Dolphin Day!
Celestine's head was whirring ahead, planning perfection, and Brian was making sure things were in order.
Who in the world would be able to stop such a team as Brian and Celestine from achieving their goal of giving me a delightful and perfect experience with the dolphins?
For the first time, the dolphins decided to go elsewhere to play.
After hours of boating around, we called it a day.
I tried to put a good spin on things by looking at the good things I enjoyed: I got to snuggle with my daughter in the boat. We were both sleepy. She put her head on my shoulders, and I laid my head on hers.
The best part of that boat ride looking for dolphins was having my daughter next to me. We would intermittently wake up from trying to sleep on each others shoulders. We were sleepy from the early morning wakeup.
The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful. The jungle reached nearly to the shores and then the ocean, so awesome – although it was through sleepy eyes – I saw it.
And then the small, secluded beach we went to for a swim – the water was so warm and calm within the bay that it was nearly perfect – me floating around, feeling at peace and enjoying Celestine and Brian – what could be better?
This was so cute. On the secluded beach, the guide laid out the food he brought for us to eat on a log in a perfectly cute way.
Lastly, was a chance encounter with a lovely family out in the jungle when we were searching for a bathroom. They lived in a small lime-colored house. It was so adorable. If it would have had candy all over it, it would have been the perfect Hansel and Gretel house in the fairytale. However, there was no witch in this story. There was the cutest petite lady dressed in a darling red and white dress that accentuated her cuteness and added to the warmth and welcome she extended to us. And then, her son had a bright, warm – completely unforgettable smile. It was a small house with people with huge hearts and lots of happiness to share.
I had been feeling tired and a tad grumpy from a day that was wonderful in many ways but still left me feeling unhappy about my dolphins. I had visions of meeting Flipper, honestly.
Ten minutes into our bathroom stop with those people in the jungle, I felt better.
After we left, Celestine was feeling down as she was heartsick over her perfect day, turning a bit imperfect in her eyes. I told her the things I loved about the day, but she was pretty intuitive and could sense my disappointment, no matter what spin I put on the day.
But a bit of disappointment is really okay for both of us. She planned big and hoped big, and I wanted the big she planned.
Disappointment was an appropriate emotion.
When the dust settles, though, and I look back, this day would have evolved into something else in my memory, and I'm guessing in Celestine's mind as well. We will laugh together about falling asleep on each other's shoulders and nearly tipping the boat over because of it. We will remember the ocean reaching out to the horizon, surrounded on three sides by the jungle, and our swim together in the calm waters of the bay. We will even laugh about how we ruined our guide's 100% success record at finding dolphins and joke about how we must have scared them away. We will remember the Hansel and Gretel house that had a princess and a prince instead of a witch. We will have many laughs together about this unique and perfect day.
I suppose somehow perfection can be found in our memories. Even now, my less-than-perfect day is developing and changing into a gift. A gift of time with my loved ones – time in nature – and time to be grateful to God for it all.
It is becoming, with time – a perfect day.