Ain't no city in the world like this/if you ask how I know, I gots to plead the fifth...
Miami, Will Smith
This year, my birthday present to myself was five days and four nights in the paradise known as Miami. I'm not going to lie: at first, I was scared to death. I have never been anywhere by myself, especially a place as hip and metropolitan as Miami. I even considered exchanging my ticket for a much safer destination....like North Dakota.
Something in my spirit told me I needed to take this trip, and I'm glad I did. Here's what I learned while I was 1500 miles from home:
1. Nobody cares about your imperfections.
The first day I went to the beach, I had on my typical swimming ensemble: bathing suit, long-sleeve coverup, shorts and flip-flops. When my feet touched the sand and I looked around, I realized I was severely overdressed.
No one was checking to see who had hail damage on their thighs or a less than perfect stomach; everyone was just soaking up the sunshine and splashing in the waves. How could I fully explain the way the ocean feels unless I let it touch every part of me?
So, I did it. I took off everything but my swimsuit and jumped in.
Scratch that: jumped in would imply that there was a time when I was fully submerged in the water. I waded in. Sorry, but I've seen too many movies about sharks and people who can't swim well.
2. Silence is golden.
I was in my hotel room, getting ready to hit the city. I bent over to put lotion on my toes when it happened: my beloved Crackberry jumped out of my pocket and straight into the toilet.
I got weak in the knees and had to sit down before I passed out. This phone was my lifeline! How in the world could I survive without my precious phone?
Well, I could and I did. For the next twelve hours, I was forced to live in the moment. I couldn't hide behind a text or a Facebook message when I felt nervous or insecure; I just had to deal with those emotions. I stepped out of my comfort zone and took that time to really talk to people....and enjoy life without constant vibrations.
A few weeks ago, I asked my FB friends how long they could survive without a cell phone. Now, I know I can make it at least half a day. After that, I'm scouring the city for the nearest T-Mobile store.
3. When you're nice, people will be nice to you.
When I arrived at my hotel, there were three travelers in front of me. Every one of them went out of their way to be rude to the front desk clerk; demanding special privileges, interrupting her conversations, raising their voices for the most minor inconveniences. I was tired and ready to take a shower, but I just sat on my suitcase and patiently waited. After all, she was doing the best job she could do.
When it was my turn, I smiled. She apologized for the wait; I told her that I understood this was a busy time and I was in no hurry. She asked me if I had any special requests; I told her it didn't matter to me. She smiled and said I was the easiest customer she'd had all day, so she was going to hook me up. I shrugged it off....I mean, it wasn't exactly the Ritz-Carlton, so what could she really do?
She hooked me UP.
When I got to my room, my jaw dropped as I looked out of the window and realized I had the most perfect view of the ocean in the entire hotel. During my stay, she made sure I had everything I needed, from a taxi to a new toothbrush (did I mention THAT fell in the toilet too)?
Just by showing a little kindness, my whole experience went from decent to amazing. Remember that the next time you want to take out your frustrations on the next person. Choose wisely.
4. EVERYBODY has ties to Oklahoma.
On Sunday, I decided to take a tour. The guide asked everyone where they were from, and I told her Oklahoma. Her face lit up, and she spent the next ten minutes explaining how her daughter lived in Norman and she had just come back from visiting her. I also ran into a woman on the beach who told me the most hilarious story about spending Christmas at the prison in McAlester.
You know, maybe I don't give this place enough credit. A lot of people got their start right here in the Sooner State, and I can appreciate that.
Still, the first opportunity I get....I'm outta here!
5. Missed chances...
Errrrrr....I don't think I'm ready to write about that one yet. Moving on!
6. When necessary, I can run in a halter dress and sandals.
I'm no Flo-Jo, but I can get out of harm's way.
7. Traveling is my new coping mechanism.
Before I left, I spent some time talking to my dad about the grieving process. Even though I have been through it before, something about this time seems so foreign and brand-new. He told me that I need to think about how I coped with previous losses and try to implement those same strategies in my current situation.
I thought about it. The truth of the matter is, the way I coped in the past was not healthy at all. I used food, alcohol and even affection to help me escape from the harsh realities of life; in this season, I could not allow myself to go back to such destructive behaviors. This time, I needed something different.
When I booked this trip at the end of August, I had no idea how tumultuous the next few weeks would become. Only God Himself could have known just how much I needed to get away, relax and rest. My first night in Florida was the first night in a month that I slept for more than four hours. As I stared at the water for as far as my eyes could see, I literally felt the stress and frustration leaving my body. I needed that.
Really, I needed everything: the adventures, the mishaps, the food, the laughter, the solitude, the companionship and the beach. ESPECIALLY the beach.
This is how I'm going to make it--by not limiting myself to the same surroundings and the same experiences. I am determined to see as much of the world as possible. And every time I get on a plane or put Appalonia on the highway, I'll think about how much my time in Florida changed me and I will expect the great during future trips. Above all, I'll reflect on the most important lesson I learned while in Miami:
The same God who keeps me on a cul-de-sac in Del City can keep me anywhere in the world.
Be Encouraged, y'all.