I recently wrote a post about the fourteenth wedding anniversary excursion I went on with my husband. Many readers saw the sunset photos and inquired where one can find such surreal beauty.
The answer is Aruba.
And believe it or not, the sunsets are only a fraction of its appeal.
This island is very much in its natural state, void of expensive landscaping and “showy” sights. This island and its people are authentic, satisfied with simply showcasing their natural splendor without worry of living up to typical vacation destination standards or expectations.
I slowly realized the island had a motto when I began seeing the same three words everywhere. In fact, the slogan was affixed to every license plate on the island.
Aruba: One Happy Island.
At first, I was merely delighted and amused by the fitting phrase of this welcoming piece of paradise. But the more I thought about it, I realized it was a motto worth adopting.
What if I could be consistently happy in my own skin regardless of what the media claims as fit or beautiful?
What if I could be happy with my life pursuits regardless of what society deems as a worthy life goal or defines as success?
What if I could be happy with who I am without the affirmation or justification from others?
What if I could be a happy island?
As a sensitive, “people pleaser” all my life, it is sometimes difficult to be a happy island. Too often, I allow outside factors to determine my own happiness.
But on this Hands Free journey, I am working on grasping what matters. And something that matters is being happy with ME and not allowing outside forces to threaten or undermine that happiness.
I am fairly certain I have made progress in the area of self-validation during my past year of living Hands Free, but now I have a slogan to inspire me in those moments of insecurity and doubt.
One Happy Island.
Thank you, Aruba.
And as if fate knew about my determination to live up to my newfound motto, I was tested.
In fact, the test was waiting for me when I opened my computer upon arriving home from my trip.
Oh really, Rachel? One Happy Island? Let’s just see about that.
I debuted this blog eight months ago and never once had I received a mean comment. That is, until a few days ago. Granted, I have received a few comments that respectfully challenged my Hands Free concept or politely questioned a view I expressed in one of my posts, but those types of comments are quite different from a personal attack on me as a person and a mother.
The comment in question pertained to my blog entry, “Must You Go So Soon?” In that post, I describe the life lessons my family has gleaned in our efforts to stabilize the water in our new fish tank…a necessity to keeping the fish alive.
Without any editing, here is what “Tom” wrote:
“I think Your a little nuts, sorry to break the news to you but fish don't have feelings. This isn't finding Nemo. I really think your parenting skills suck. And your kids are going to grow up to be sheltered sissies. That have no clue how this big bad world really is.”
A year ago, I may have read this and gotten a bit offended. I may have had to seek affirmation from a few talented blog writers like Lori or Wendy who have posted glowing reviews of my writing and my parenting skills.
A year ago, I surely would have had to show this harsh response to my husband or best friend so they could tell me Tom’s comment was about as accurate as his grammar usage.
And I surely could not have gone to sleep without drafting a curt and disdainful rebuke to this man who clearly missed the entire point of the post.
Lastly, Pre-Hands Free Rachel may have actually considered his words and wondered if there was any truth to them…not once, but many times….unable to simply let it go.
Now things are different. Thank God, things are different.
Do you want to know what I did when I read Tom’s comment?
In fact, I laughed out loud.
I laughed the way I do when my daughters and I watch silly YouTube videos like “Charlie Bit My Finger,” or “Baby Dancing To Beyonce.”
And before I slid Tom’s comment into the deep, dark blogosphere “trash,” I had one more good laugh.
Then three words came to my mind: One Happy Island.
I’m getting closer. Yes, I am.
How often do we allow other people’s cruel words, negative comments or harsh criticisms threaten what we know is true about ourselves? Whether it is from a co-worker, neighbor, family member, friend, the media, or even our own inner voice, life can be littered with insults. But it’s up to us what we do with them.
Being joyful is a choice…letting other people sabotage it is, too.
So the next time someone tries to ruin your party, shrug it off; have a laugh.
Retreat to your island and be happy.
*I leave you with a photo of my ultimate One Happy Island role model wearing her new One Happy Island t-shirt. My four-year-old daughter loves life. Actually, she loves her life and nothing anyone can say or do will change her mind or her attitude about that.
Wendy D - Busy Mama says
Such an insensitive thoughtless remark.. but it is funny how it can make us so thoughtFUL instead. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, yes, but I surely believe that teaching my children as Thumper was taught, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”, is a good plan.
It is hard to deflect shots like those, especially when they seem to come from anywhere. Having great people who see the positive in you and your actions can outweigh the effects of those like “Tom”.
I’m glad I found you, all that matters is that you believe you are doing right and I believe I am doing right. Thank you for sharing! Love that laughter.
And thanks for mentioning me. I’m honored!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
I love your Thumper quote, Wendy. And you know your support and encouragement mean everything to me. I got your back, too, my friend!
I think laughter was the perfect response to that comment! Kudos on handling it with such grace and for maintaining status as One Happy Island. That’s a good goal and one I could benefit from as well. I also tend to be a people pleaser and I am way too hard on myself. Why am I harder on myself than I am on others? Why do I expect more from myself than I do from others? By the way, I’m glad you enjoyed Aruba. We’ve been researching Curacao as a possible destination for our next vacation. We may end up on a cruise though, but maybe one that stops in Curacao, Aruba, or both!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Hi Christi- if you discover the answers to those painfully honest questions, let me know. In the meanwhile, you know I am working on them, too. So glad we are on this journey together, my friend. Oh, and let me know where you end up going for your next vacation. You know my vote is for Aruba. 🙂
Indiana Lori says
Thanks for the shout out as well! I really struggle with negative comments, I won’t lie. Call me anytime. They feel like a kick in the gut when you are trying to spread love. But some people are hurt by the sunshine, and their comments are always a reflection of the hurt they are feeling inside. It’s always, always about them. Some days I want to scream on the blog, “I’m not Martha Stewart! Stop calling me that!”…no one ever leaves it as a compliment. I get the, “you make me feel like less of a parent and cook”, and “are you trying to make us feel like losers?”…really, I want to ask them to stop reading! But, then again, it’s not my job to walk in their shoes. It’s my job to use the talents God gave me, and hope that it encourages others to use theirs. Nothing more, nothing less. I tell the truth, and every night I sleep well knowing I’ve been honest, and I’ve shared out of love and the need to laugh. And hey Tom, the world is big and bad, it sure is. My kids don’t need to learn that from their Momma. The world will hand them that lesson all on their own. Their home is where they come for love and shelter: now, tomorrow, and always. Having a loving and attentive home does not a sissy make. Having a strong base actually makes for a brave kid. And it’s OK to love your pets…even fish. Naysayers means you are rocking the BOAT! YES! KEEP GOING!!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Lori, with you on my side, I could never go wrong. You have the gift, girl. You shine the light. Thank you for shining it directly on me.
I had a moment of realization similar to yours recently. I am striving to be more like my 5 year old son Kevin. He likes to play with dolls, and My Little Ponies and he takes dance class. Why shouldn’t he? Girls can play baseball and play with trucks. HE DOESN’T CARE what people think. He hasn’t been “taught” any stereotypes, I’m sure if he had gone to preschool he would have been made fun of. Thankfully I homeschool. I love him and will always love him, no matter what. And, I do think that fish have feelings! I think all animals do! Pets have been known to mope around when a household member dies-that shows it right there. Not that a fish would ever do that but I think they have feelings too.
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Tiffany, thank you for the comment! Your son Kevin sounds like a confident, not to mention, very well rounded little boy! I love to hear that he embraces who he is and does what he likes to do regardless of what anyone else thinks. I hope that he never loses that self-assurance and stays true to himself. With such a supportive and loving mom, I think he has a great chance. I really appreciate you sharing this thoughtful comment today!
That dude is WAAAY off the mark on that one. LOL
Glad you took it in stride!
Susie Mc Sellers says
Powerful post! Poor Tom …I pity him…glad you didn’t let it mess with you. I think you honor this specific Bible Verse with your life…and you do it so well…
Micah 6:8-10 (The Message)
But He’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself to seriously–Take GOD seriously.
Negative commenting is just wrong. What gets me is when people attack singers. I sometimes watch you tube videos of young singers who are just putting it out there and people have gone all out to dis them. I don’t get that. The mean commentors either have too much time on their hands or feel threatened IMHO.
Thanks for sharing this story.