I'm leaving for Costa Rica in a few hours. People ask me if I'm excited, but I haven't really been thinking about it. My head is still immersed in work. Still, I imagine that soon my body will be immersed in tropical blue waters, and relaxation will automatically set in, while thoughts of work fade away.
But that doesn't happen. Even though I'm going on vacation, which by definition is supposed to be a happy exodus to a land of tranquility, I'm anxious that it be the perfect vacation. I want to eat the perfect food, have the perfect dive and get the perfect tan. I'm aware that it is their rainy season, but I imagine, in my vision of the perfect beach vacation during rainy season, that it will only rain lightly and at the most for an hour, during a time when I'm not outside anyhow — like at night, or in the early morning. And the rest of the time the sun will smile down at me like Adonis upon his dearest Aphrodite.
Soon after I arrive, I find that my Adonis is a fickle and unfaithful lover. And Aphrodite (yes, that's me) is a clingy control freak. Even when my sun god does peek out from behind the thunderclouds, I cannot enjoy the time I spend in his rays because I know that the bastard is going to disappear sometime soon, and I'll be left lying out under heavy gray clouds that in a matter of minutes will unleash a torrential downpour.
And then I'll be stuck drinking coffee at the covered outside bar, watching everyone else not care about the weather because they're drunk.
And I care, oh do I care! Because we are staying on a beach-front resort, the dirty roads that run alongside it are washed into the ocean's shoreline, leaving the beautiful clear blue waters that I pictured a churning, muddy brown. The surfing lessons that I was going to take (which were going to elevate my status as beach goddess) are now out of the question. My perfect vacation water activities: kayaking, jet skiing and the shoreline snorkeling, are no longer appealing. The only activity that still seems plausible now is the scuba diving, only because that takes place off a boat, well away from the beach.
On the way out to the reef off of which we will dive, the sun is out, and the clouds seem to only cling to the land, leaving us plenty of blue sky above the beautiful blue waters I had been expecting all this time.
But I'm still not relaxed. We take our first dive and I'm swimming furiously all over the place, trying to see as much sea life as I can cram into one 45-minute dive. Before the time is up, I check my gauge and I'm almost out of oxygen. We have to surface.
Once we're at the top, the dive master turns to me. "Why are you kicking so much down there?" he asks. "You need to relax, just float and enjoy yourself. Go with the flow."
But I only have two dives today, and I leave tomorrow! So if this isn't the perfect dive and I don't see my manta rays and feel the magic of the ocean, then it will all be a waste and I won't have anything even close to the perfect vacation. This dive is my last chance for a really memorable experience; doesn't he understand that?
We climb aboard the boat and rest for the allotted time, to let the nitrogen clear out of our bloodstream.
"The next dive," our guide explains, "is going to be through a channel. There will be lots more sea life than what we've just seen. But you have to go with the current, as it will push you forward and backward. When it pushes you forward, kick so that you are propelled far enough that it will make up for how much you will be pushed back when the current surges toward you, head-on. But don't fight that head-on current, or you will get too tired and run out of air." From his pointed glance in my direction, it's obvious this last sentence is directed at me.
And he's right.
What's the point of a vacation if I can't relax? What's the point of an open-water dive if I am anxious the whole time? We enter the channel, and already at the first push of the current against me, I tense up. But I watch the fish around me, as they ebb and flow with the direction of the waves. I close my eyes: I am just another creature under the water, at the mercy of the ocean tide. Finally, I can let my body float as I open my eyes to the circus of color before me. Rainbow fish dart in and out of my path, and white-tip reef sharks circle before me, looking suspiciously at this bubbly, awkward creature that has entered their territory. I turn onto my back, and I see my manta ray. Silhouetted by the sun's rays, it glides above me, silent yet magnificent. The magic had finally come to me, but only once I stopped forcing it.
Back on the boat, we start off on our way home. I'm contemplating the connection between my aggressive swimming and my aggressive work ethic. Just then I spot a dolphin jump out of the water, directly in front of me. Suddenly there's an entire pod of dolphins following the boat, leaping in and out of its wake.
"Do you know why they do that?" a voice asks at my shoulder. I turn and our dive master is smiling down at me. "The boat generates forward energy waves that propel the dolphin along so they don't need to work as hard when they swim. In other words, they go with the flow."
I turn back to the ocean, but the dolphins are gone. And when land comes into sight, the clouds have already gathered, and I can tell it's going to rain. But that's OK, because I've had my magic today. Maybe I will get some lunch, and perhaps just read for the rest of the evening. Whatever it is, it will be indoors. But who cares? I'm going with the flow.