Which means that I can’t escape the way my brain works even when I’m in ‘Paradise’. So I had a few challenging thoughts along the way.
I’m never that comfortable when I’m surrounded by people who are very different from me, in terms of their conversation, both content and method; those who speak really loudly and talk non-stop not letting me get a word in edgeways, or who don’t ever ask my opinion, or who bore me so much that when I do get a chance to speak my brain has gone numb and I can’t think of anything to say! Or who just want to tell everyone how amazing they are! Or who can’t be bothered to talk clearly and make any kind of effort to converse with me.
I recognise that it’s important to say that it’s not their problem that I don’t feel comfortable. I can’t expect them to change, that’s who they are, so instead I have to try to find ways to be ok with it or remove myself from the situation.
So it’s fair to say that although there were some very lovely people in the galapagos who I would love to stay in touch with, there were also plenty who were not my kind of people. I started to feel insecure. Which annoys me because I don’t know why I care what those people think! But it’s where my brain takes me.
It started when four of us were digging the big hole. A simple no-nonsense job right? But my involuntary thought patterns went the same way as they would have back in the office, something like this: what if I’m not using this post-digger properly? What if they’re thinking I’m not working hard enough? I’m not as fit/young/active as they are, but I don’t want them to think I’m slacking. What if I’m not covering as much ground as the other person is? What if the bits I’m digging are more difficult than the other side to shovel up afterwards?
I recognised this as I was thinking it, and the whole time I was trying to be mindful of my thoughts. I couldn’t stop this stream, but almost all the time I consciously thought of an alternative scenario: So what? I’m here voluntarily, I can work as hard or as little as I like, I’m still contributing. They have no right to judge me just as I have no right to judge them. I should TRY to not work so hard, I could do with learning that skill! They’re probably thinking absolutely no such thing, just about their own muscles and what they’re doing, they don’t really care what I’m doing, same as I don’t care what they’re doing, as long as I’m contributing. I had been judging myself on their behalf, but I tried to intercept those thoughts as they came in. This is a kind of mindfulness, not necessarily stopping the self-critical thoughts, but being aware of them and not unquestioningly accepting them as fact. It helps!
I’d love to say this was the last of it, but as anyone who knows me will know, it’s not as easy as that! I felt like I wasn’t good enough the next day; didn’t know all the stuff to do to prepare the breakfast (subsequent contradicting thought = how could I have known, and really it needs 2 people to help with breakfast, and other new people don’t know either…), didn’t have any energy to dig holes to plant the cocoa plants, didn’t feel prepared for the weekend trip to the other islands. Felt really uncomfortable/upset about having my photo taken. The day after that we went to the beach, which everyone else was delighted with, but I just had a sense of dread! I’ve never felt comfortable on a beach, in amongst all the beautiful people who all seem so much more confident than me. I don’t understand it either – it really wasn’t very warm, why do people want to stand in the cold sea?! It’s annoying to have these thoughts, because the beach was starkly beautiful, and had I been there alone, I would’ve been on a real high! I just tried to sleep for a bit (trying not to get burned) and finally walked back up the path fighting back the tears.
Then four of us set off on a weekend trip to the other islands and I didn’t really shake off those grumpy feelings for the whole weekend, apart from the odd highlight. I realised I needed to do something different to be able to enjoy this privileged experience I was having. So I started to spend a bit of time away from the others (I’m very very used to having time alone, after all!), walking on my own for a long time when we went for a hike, listening to some positive music to allow my thoughts to wander onto easier subjects. On Santa Cruz I didn’t do a couple of the tourist attractions; instead I went to a little art gallery and a cafe to have some nice pancakes and a latte to treat myself :-)
I find that I’m calm in circumstances where others would get grumpy, but I let little things like the above affect me. To get back from Isabela, we were at the port very early with our pre-paid ticket, but found that our names weren’t on the list and the boats were at capacity. I just thought: never mind, we’ll just be late back, I can have another day to appreciate the beautiful beaches on this island! (In the end we got a boat and it was fine!). On the next boat, too many people had got on somehow and there was a delay while everyone tried to decide what to do. I didn’t care, I just thought what will be will be, the coastguard won’t let us sail with too many passengers, so just let me know when it’s decided!
On that last boat ride of the trip, which started off as very pleasant once we got going and I could actually look around, it suddenly turned really rough and windy, and Edna and I got absolutely soaked! I knew I would have no hot shower that night, and I knew Bekki was leaving that day. Luckily I had decided to put my earphones in, and my playlist (from the away day) absolutely got me through that boat journey, I focussed like crazy on the lyrics and even managed to smile! The others said if we’d looked behind us we’d have been more worried as the waves were way above our heads!