Discovery In The Cove

I say I’m not very good at once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I justify spending money to do something by saying, “I’m only going to do it once,” but I am rarely successful in limiting myself to one time if I enjoy an experience.

I proved this point yet again by visiting Discovery Cove, Sea World’s dolphin-centric sister park in Orlando. I visited the park for the first time last year. The experience blew my mind. I had such a great time, I actually wrote two separate blog posts about my playdate with the porpoises. You can catch a rerun of those posts by visiting:

My Date With The Dolphins

School Of Dolphins

Even though my dolphin day at Discovery Cove was beyond my wildest expectations, my initial thought was that I probably wouldn’t do it again. There is a steep discount on the admission for Florida residents. Still, I did suffer a bit of sticker shock when the ticket price showed up on my credit card. The amount just seemed ridiculous for a day at a theme park. On the other hand, the admission gets you a lot for your money and there is a pretty low limited daily entrance to the park. You never feel like you are fighting the marauding hordes for your entertainment or for any of the “free” (well…. let’s say “included in the price of admission”) goodies they hand out with wild abandon (meals, snacks of every ilk, soft drinks, frozen beverages, beer, wine, dolphin safe sunscreen, towels, snorkeling gear, showers, shampoo, conditioner, and other stuff that I’m probably forgetting). Also, the admission price includes unlimited admission for fourteen days to Sea World and the other sister park, Aquatica.

You can probably tell that I am still trying to justify my decision to pay the big bucks and return to the park this year. Since I went ahead and did it, it is probably time to let it go.

Once I made my reservation, I began to wonder if my second trip to Discovery Cove would be as magical as my previous visit. Was it possible to enjoy the experience as much once the serendipity factor no longer applied? I remember that, on my first trip, it seemed like some unexpected, delightful surprise lurked around every corner. Now that I knew the drill, would these encounters fail to enchant me? Also, last time, my Discovery Cove trip came at a particularly difficult and stressful time in my life. In fact, I’d cancelled my original reservation because it was scheduled when my mother’s stroke was still a new and stultifying situation. By the time I actually went, my mother and I had already been through most of our difficult journey together. She had been living in the skilled nursing facility for about five months. We were past the point of believing she was going to improve and not yet at the point where death prepared to pounce. We were both living in a shadow world and trying to light the way for each other. I’m sure the fact that my first trip to Discovery Cove propelled me totally away from Stroke World for one, beautiful, restful day enhanced my first experience.

When I packed up for my recent excursion, I was a little apprehensive. Maybe it was better to live with my perfect memory of my “once in a lifetime” Discovery Cove adventure rather than risk overlaying it with another trip that might not be as wonderful. Then, I considered that I am trying to broaden my horizons by being braver and less anxious. I am trying to embrace the now rather than living in the past or obsessing about the future. I am trying to stop automatically saying “no” to things simply because they make me a little uneasy. So I said “yes” to myself and went to Discovery Cove.

The activities I enjoyed at Discovery Cove were very similar to my prior visit. I swam with the dolphins, snorkeled in the salt water reef, waded past marmosets and otters, fed birds in the aviary, and lounged my way down a lazy river. I spent hours and hours in the water. I ambled aimlessly around the beautiful grounds, sliding my feet through the elegant sand beaches and splashing around the edges of the coves. I ate and drank and read my kindle. I shopped in the little stores. I stayed even longer than I stayed last year. And I enjoyed every moment of it.

On one of my numerous trips down the lazy river, I floated behind a family with two small children. As I passed them, I heard the little girl exclaim, “Mommy, this is the best day ever!” I closed my eyes, listened to the birds chattering around me, snuggled my shoulders deeper under the gently warm water, and felt the sun skip across my face. I smiled and thought to myself, “it sure is.”

That spontaneous reaction started me thinking. Was it the best day ever? How could it be better than my last trip? Was it better than my last trip? Wasn’t it the same experience?

In purely objective terms, I could argue that this visit might not have been quite as good as my first visit. The dolphin assigned to my pod was a bit of a maverick and wasn’t really in the mood to play host to a bunch of strangers that day. Her dolphin ADHD required some patience and creativity. It was a bit chaotic. Also, the sloth I went to visit at the animal encounter kiosk was not able to overcome his slothful DNA and rouse himself from his crate, so there was no small furry animal petting on this visit. Also, I forgot my credit card and worried that I would be unable to purchase merchandise to take home. I also lost my brand new sparkly prescription sunglasses somewhere in the depths of the snorkeling reef.

Still, I had a wonderful time and I am not even going to pretend that I don’t want to go back next year. So, what was different this time that made my visit a new, magical event despite the minor glitches I’ve mentioned?

It is true that the activities were basically the same as last year, but the difference is that I am not the same as last year. I am much further along in my journey to improve my capacity to enjoy life as it comes and embrace new adventures without mourning what they are not. I am more confident. My heart is more open. My brain is calmer. I even embraced the glitches. I didn’t just tolerate them; I leveraged them.

I may not have been able to pet a sloth this time around, but I had a new experience. I held a macaw on my arm. That was pretty cool. Instead of worrying about the scheduling short circuiting while my dolphin played keep away, I enjoyed the extra time in the cool saltwater surrounded by a whole navy of dolphins. When I realized that I had forgotten my credit card, I stopped to strategize about how I could overcome the problem. In the past, I know I would have panicked, mournfully declaring immediate defeat. I would have been all woebegone over my inability to buy stuff. This time, I remained calm and brainstormed some ways I might still be able to charge merchandise. In doing so, I figured out how to use Apple Pay. While the loss of my sunglasses was a little more difficult to push away from my overactive nervous system, I was able to do so. I remembered that these glasses were the same prescription as my old ones, which were in the glove compartment of my car. I didn’t love that I lost the glasses, but it was not a tragedy. As if to reward my determined Zen-ness, someone found my sunglasses and returned them to Lost and Found by the end of the day.

So even though my day’s activities were pretty much the same during both my visits, each visit was a very different experience. Both were the “best day ever” while I was living them. Maybe this most recent visit felt even more like the “best day ever” because I have changed enough to immerse myself more deeply in the present moment.

Nothing is ever exactly the same. The earth keeps turning and the soul keeps growing. I think every experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

What do you think?  Have you ever done something that seemed very different than a time when you did it before because you were different?  Please tell us about it!  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a one-of-a-kind day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

EXTRA, EXTRA, READ ALL ABOUT IT!  If you would like a second helping of Terri, I am guest posting on another retirement lifestyle blog this week. If you’d like to read my post, The Dream Is In The Doing,  please visit:

http://retirementandgoodliving.com/the-dream-is-in-the-doing/

 

Summerwhine… And The Living? Not So Easy!

It is time for my mandatory annual Florida summer weather rant.  I admit it’s a bit early, as summer officially started only a few weeks ago.  However, summer did not get the memo in central Florida.  Summer weather started early this year and visited our home in a particularly diabolical way.

It’s kind of ironic.  Just the other day, I mentioned to Max that I thought I had finally come to terms with summer in Florida.  After three summers in the Land-Where-You-Drink-The-Air, you would think I would have realized resistance is futile before now.  I am a slow learner.  I think the heat and humidity short circuits the synopses in my brain, impairing my ability to process information.

When we spent our first summer in Florida, we were concerned about protecting the nation’s resources.  Less altruistically, we were also concerned about the electric bill.  We ran the air conditioner only when the temperature in the house hit 84 degrees and we typically only brought it down to about 79 degrees.  Why those numbers?  I have no idea.  The next summer, I quietly reset the threshold to 80 degrees and would let the air conditioning run until we hit 74 degrees.

This year, Max apparently realized that I am a much nicer person with whom to live when the temperature is regularly below the boiling point.  He started turning the air conditioner on at 77 degrees.  I found myself able to sit comfortably watching television in shorts and a tank top.  Max put on a jacket and brought a blanket out from the bedroom.  I don’t know which of us has a faultier internal thermostat.  The bottom line is that he can keep putting clothes on, but there comes a point when there is nothing left for me to take off…. And nobody wants me to reach that point.

So, this year, when the temperatures climbed, the humidity soaked through the sky, and the thunderwowers surged, I felt slightly less tetchy than in past summers.  We had a very active month of May, filled with exciting events, including a trip to Texas to visit a cherished friend, the publication of my book (which you can order at https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076 hint, hint, nudge, nudge), and a visit from another cherished friend for my launch party.  By the time late May rolled around, and summer with it (no, don’t consult a calendar…. Believe me, summer started in late May this year!), I felt content to stick close to home in my comfortably cool house.

Then, all that changed.  The air conditioner died.

Max and I were watching television in the midst of a crackling storm.  There was wind, thunder, lightning, and enough rain to drown the cats and dogs.  All of a sudden, we heard a loud crack.  At first, we figured the noise was thunder, but it sounded different enough that we both noticed it.  The electricity went off for a second or two but came back on even before the clocks had time to stall.  We continued watching television until it was time for bed.  We noticed the house seemed a little warm and checked the thermostat.  The temperature was higher than it was before we started watching TV, even though we could hear the whirring of the air conditioner fan.  We soon realized that  the fan in the garage was still going, but the air conditioner unit outside was not.

I decided this catastrophe must have had something to do with the storm or a power surge when the electricity restarted.  I went googling around to figure out possible remedies.  Max spent many years working as a manager and dispatcher for a company that worked on commercial heating and cooling systems.  He is only marginally better than I am at home repairs, but he is very good at knowing what questions to ask and diagnosing probable issues.  Max believed that the cracking noise we heard was the death rattle of the air conditioner compressor. I, of course, gave a lot of weight to his opinion because of his experience.  On the other hand, Max is also a bit of a fatalist and tends to imagine the worst case scenario in every case.  In my heart of hearts, I knew that there was at least a 75% chance that Max was correct and the compressor was deceased.  However, I really tried to live in the other 25% of my brain- the part that was in denial.

The next morning, I went outside to look at the air conditioning unit.  I saw no charring or melting.  I tried a few tricks that I learned in my googling, to no avail.  Max also looked at the equipment and found nothing that would explain its sudden demise.  The 25% denial part of my brain in which I was living started to get more claustrophobic.

Of course, when the air conditioning people came to look at the unit, they announced that the compressor in our 12-year-old air conditioner was grounded (which I guess means “should be six feet under ground”).  We could fix it for $2000 or replace the whole system for $5700.  I opted to replace the system, which I believe was the right financial decision.  However, opting for replacement meant that we had to wait for reinvigorated air conditioning for nine days.

So much for coming to terms with Florida summer. I “slept” with two fans blowing on my bed.  I actually forgot what it felt like to be not sweaty. I rarely turned on the hot water in the shower.  I changed clothes several times a day.  We went to the beach so I could remember what it felt like to breathe.  I fell asleep in a movie theater, lulled into slumber by the novelty of air conditioning and recliner seats.  I actually enjoyed going to jury duty because the temperature in the jury assembly room was set below “par-boil.”

I think it is remarkable that I did not lose my mind during those nine days. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Leaving mine to soak in the pot of boiling water that was my home surely wasn’t good for it.   I think surviving this challenge qualifies me for honorary native Floridian status.

Now that we have a whole new air conditioning system, our house is more consistently comfortable and energy efficient.  It is kind of amazing how much better the new one is performing.  It is set at 75 degrees.  When we go out, we turn it off and the temperature does rise…. because it is freakin’ Florida and it is summer…but we are comfortable very soon after flipping the thermoset back to “cool.”  With the old system, once the house was warm it was probably going to stay warm until October.

It is still early days to declare victory over my summerwhine blues.  There is plenty of time for me to worry about another hurricane.  There is plenty of time for me to go stir-crazy because thunderstorms and torrential rain make it perilous to undertake leisure outings.  There is plenty of time for me to dissolve into a pile of goo while out doing errands.  There is plenty of time for my joints to stiffen from the humidity and inactivity necessitated by summer heat lethargy.

Still, for right now, I’m okay with summer.  Today, I am blissfully grateful because the only thing that is overheated in my house is my credit card from paying for the new air conditioner!

What do you like best and worst about summer?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Stay Cool!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

 

 

 

America The Beautiful (A Prayer)

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies,
(Help us to keep them clean and blue.)
For amber waves of grain,
(And remind us, when we reap the harvest, to nourish others, too.)
For purple mountain majesties
(Sometimes we struggle to the crest)
Above the fruited plain!
(But, with Your grace, we’ll reach Your banquet when at last we come to rest.)
America! America!
(Help us love our people, one and all)
God shed His grace on Thee,
(And heal us, Gracious Father, at the times when we will fall.)
And crown thy good with brotherhood
(Open our hearts to Love and Right)
From sea to shining sea
(So, as our nation changes, it changes towards the Light.)

What will you be doing to honor out country on Independence Day?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.  

Have a great 4th of July!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

REMEMBER: You can order your copy of Changing My Mind: Reinventing Myself In Retirement by visiting: https://secure.mybookorders.com/orderpage/2076

PS  How do you like the red, white, and blue action?