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.
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.