I heard about the working remote visas on a Sunday in late September. My friends thought it was to the Bahamas, I applied to Bermuda the next day, and eventually ended up in Barbados. [These islands are commonly confused for one another.] The time between hearing about the visa, applying, and selling my house to fund the endeavor was less than two weeks. It was the letting go and selling of my house that has allowed me to stay in Barbados.
It must be said, I loved that house in Ottawa. I had spent a great deal of blood, sweat and tears making it my home. I painted over every surface imaginable, including the open ceiling in the basement, the shower, and the bunny tiles in the kitchen. I laid a tile floor in the mudroom and redid the patio stones out front. I accumulated DIY and gardening tools, indoor and outdoor furniture, and kitchen utensils. It takes a lot of stuff to run a three-bedroom house and property in Canada, and a lot of things had to go.
There was approximately six weeks between the sale date and closing, and I began the task of selling my belongings, so what was left would fit into a 5 x 10 ft. storage unit. Turns out, the unit is smaller than the entrance way of the home I sold.
Packing is an art and since I am super organized, I really enjoy it. The stress comes from the decisions – Do I keep it? Will I be able to replace it? Will I come back and wonder why the hell I paid to store this? And the emotion – I love this, and I cannot believe that I am contemplating getting rid of it. Will someone love it as much and make use of it while I am gone?
It was fun at first, selling big items online, having a socially distanced garage sale, carting carloads off to the Salvation Army, and placing a table at the end of my drive with a sign that said “Free!” Then, I started to lose sleep as I said goodbye to items that I loved, including my grey couch and chair.
When I returned from living in London, England I did so with a full complement of luggage. In 2000, this meant a reasonable sized carry-on and two suitcases that I checked FREE of charge. I had shipped ahead two moving boxes of pictures and souvenirs that I had accumulated in my two years overseas. It was not much. I threw on a backpack and forgot about that stuff in my mom’s basement while I traveled for six months.
>When I returned from traveling, I settled in Toronto. In 2001, I purchased my first home, a condo along the waterfront. The owners were moving to Australia, and they sold me their grey couch and matching chair. Two decades later, it hurt to say goodbye. Their absence left a big open space in my living room and in my comfort zone.
Guess what?! I have not given the grey couch and chair a second thought since I moved to Barbados. In fact, I cannot remember half the things that are in my storage locker. As for what I can recall, I have dreams about raiding these and bringing them back to the island. However, my predominant thought is that I wish I had gotten rid of everything!
I have a friend from Sweden. He said that he never felt so free as when he sold his condo and all his furniture and jetted off to Thailand. As painful as it has become to get rid of the things that I love, I also feel that FREEDOM. That is part of the move to Barbados; being free of being trapped in a house by myself for the winter. Being free of the trappings of the house and everything I have surrounded myself with. I choose freedom over comfort.
I lived in Ottawa for 12 years. Now that I am in Barbados, I realize that this was about two years too long. The comfort of that beautiful home had me stuck. Mind you, there are worse places to be confined, and yet, my soul would have thrived if I had left a little earlier.
>The island continues to send me deep learning opportunities around letting go. To get here I had to sever my attachments to my house and many of my personal possessions. To stay present in Barbados I must let go of the people that come in and out of my life. This part is worse.
Jen, my yoga instructor who has been in Barbados for eight years, says that the island is like a revolving door. People from all over the world come here to escape their winters and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and warmth. And then they leave.
Many people that have come to the island during COVID keep extending their stay. First, they could not bear the thought of going home to lockdowns in winter, and then many of them could not say goodbye to paradise. Yet, there comes a time when they feel they must go. They have obligations in another country (mortgages, jobs, pets). Each time they leave, I am grateful that I am not in that position. I do not want to go, but I do not want to be left behind.
Nothing in life stays the same. I had spent a great deal of my energy planning and trying to lock down the future. I felt that it brought me comfort, and now I see that it is the one thing that continues to bring me anxiety. To be thinking ahead constantly was to protect myself from not knowing what would be. If I could be prepared for any eventuality, I could not be hurt. But it hurts every time a friend leaves the island. Holding onto the worry of them leaving was holding me back. The anxiety of that impending pain had me stuck.
The first goodbye was the worst. I met Keelan and James at yoga, and we took surf lessons and embarked in that obsession together. We spent a lot of time in active pursuits, exploring the island in their rental (that became my hire car), and talking about life over meals. They were the first people that I entertained after the COVID outbreak and since the Christmas gathering. The three of us spent enough time together that I gave them a code word (Blue Pineapple) to use if they got sick of me. If I did not hear the code word, I was going to spend as much time with them as I could because I loved it and I loved them.
Dani and her husband, Kevin, joined us surfing. The five of us would come back to my place afterwards to share a meal and talk about our conquests and wipeouts. Keelan had a guitar that he would strum, and we would sing-along in the warm open air of my veranda. All in our forties, we knew the classics and would belt out Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams (nod to Canada) and Nirvana. It was magic.
James was the first one to go because of work commitments back in Ireland. I had been working on Dani and Kev to stay longer, but when more restricted lockdowns were named, they left at the end of January with James. The only time that we could use the beaches was 6-9am and there was no point in them working here in UK time. [There are many on the island that wake up to begin their workday at 4am by joining meetings in London, which is five hours ahead. I can’t think of anything worse.]
I was upset the day that James, Dani and Kev boarded their flight to London. But it was each time I thought of Keelan leaving, tears sprung to my eyes. I had become quite close to Keelan and very fond of him. When James left, Keelan stayed with me for two weeks at the start of the lockdown. But then he too had to return home.
When I left Canada back in November, I did not get to see many of my friends and family because of COVID. Before Heather drove me to the airport, she gave me a beautiful card; inside, she wrote about the courage of what I was doing and the strength of our friendship. I finally cried after keeping it together all week, as I transferred the sale of my house and then drove to Toronto. I appreciated that kindness more than I could express.
Like Heather, it is important to me to send someone off in a way that they know that I care. I hope that they sense that already, but in case they don’t, I want it to be explicitly said. I almost feel silly doing this with people that I have known so briefly. Yet, my interactions with people here have been extraordinary. I feel as though I have found my tribe, then I say goodbye to them, and find other members. Our conversations have impacted me to think about new ways of being. The time we have spent doing yoga, surfing, and walking on the beach have filled me with joy. I take so many pictures; I think that it is to put these moments in a time capsule and hold them close to me.
Sometimes the social bonds in a group are fragile. The wonderful time I had in December, when I first arrived, was built on going out. When the curfews were imposed New Year’s Eve, my connection to that group fell away. January was an amazing time with Keelan, James, and Dani, and by the middle of February, they had all gone home to the UK. Throughout February and March, I loved surfing with Daniel and Richard and then going back to Daniel’s and hanging out on his porch. The lovely group of people that I surfed with at Freights did not socially survive the ash cloud, and more importantly, when Mike and Ryan left the island. They were the glue. My friend Daniel did not worry about people leaving. He accepted it as a part of the package of traveling.
Sarah has just received a new job in the States and so she is leaving at the end of the month. Jamie, although he has been putting it off as long as he possibly can, must go home for a couple of family events. I get tears in my eyes when I think of Jamie leaving. Who is going to give me a big hug and tell me how awesome I am? Whose laugh and smile are going to replace the shine cast upon us by Jamie’s?
I feel less sad today when I think of saying goodbye than I did the first time. Not because these friendships mean any less. It is more that I feel gratitude for all those times I felt less lonely having them as my friend. It is that I now know that new friends are headed my way full of curiosity, adventure, and conversation. It is time for me to transition again. This time I will trust that I am exactly where I need to be, and with this transition will come some beautiful new friendships.
>I am never alone here. I open my heart and mind to those that are meant to come into my life next AND remember my time with those who have left. Both are part of the art of letting go.