A few weeks ago, I had my retreat day with the dolphins. Some of you who have been following along with my adventures for a few years know of my experiences at Discovery Cove, a limited entry day resort in Orlando. The admission price includes zillions of amenities- food, drink, dolphin-friendly sunscreen, nice showers with toiletries, snorkeling with sting rays, floating on a lazy river, random animal encounters, lounging on luxurious beaches, wading past otters and monkeys, and swimming with dolphins. They sell no more than 1400 tickets a day, so the park never feels crowded and you always feel like a special guest. After much debating with myself, I finally decided to go as a “once in a lifetime” experience several years ago. The thing is that I am absolutely terrible at “once in a lifetime” experiences. Typically, I enjoy them beyond even my unrealistically high expectations. Experiences that I deem “once in a lifetime” never disappoint me. I usually end up making “once in a lifetime” a “regular thing.” In the case of Discovery Cove, I quickly upgraded my “once in a lifetime” to “annually.” I shelled out the rather massive bankroll necessary to gain admittance for several years running. Besides being ridiculously fun and relaxing, I found that my dolphin day each year actually helped me grow spiritually. I am not kidding when I use the term “retreat day with the dolphins.” I go alone and leave the outside world outside the parking lot. I spend a substantial portion of these retreat days soul-searching, praying, strategizing with myself, and planning what spiritual improvement actions I will implement.
Although I always wrestle with myself when booking my dolphin retreat because of the price tag, I have NEVER been disappointed in my day at Discovery Cove. I am rarely so contented, relaxed, and hopeful as I am while I am floating along the river, reaching out to touch a sting ray while I snorkel, and giggling when my own personal outboard dolphin engine propels me towards the shore. Each time I go, I leave absolutely convinced that it was worth every dime. Last year, however, the price of admission went up substantially. It stuck in my throat, and I could not gulp it down. I kept telling myself that it was not like I had never experienced the park. I had experienced everything multiple times- even in the midst of the pandemic. How could I justify paying so much for the experience? For the first time in six years, I did not go. And I grieved. I really, really hated not going. Luckily, last November, the park had a Black Friday special which discounted the tickets to approximately the same (high) cost as I had paid in prior years. I jumped all over that deal. I booked my May dolphin retreat day in November.
As soon as I got to the park, the euphoric feeling I remember feeling every other time I’d been there flooded over my psyche. Everything was the same, but different. Every experience is actually a “once in a lifetime” experience because no two experiences are ever exactly the same. The fact that I’d been to Discovery Cove numerous times before did nothing to diminish my joy in my 2023 experience. Also, what if it was the same experience? What would make me want to deny myself the pleasure that I had every reason to expect the day would bring me? Yes, it is expensive, but all I have to do is clean out my closet to see that I frequently spend money frivolously on stuff that brings me way less satisfaction than a day with the dolphins does. I could create a rather mountainous pile of clothes that never really fit right or that don’t reflect my current taste or have no purpose in my wardrobe given that I am a retired woman living in Florida. What I spent on that pile of clothes would far exceed the price of a day with the dolphins.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I do not think it is just me. I balk at spending money or taking time or exerting energy on things that have the power to energize and enrich me. I tell myself I “should” not spend the money or that I “should” stop wasting time or that I “should” invest my energy on more profitable pursuits. A friend of mine once told me that I needed to stop “shoulding” all over myself. All of us have to live within some level of parameter, of course. We all have limited resources. The truth is, though, that there are likely many more possibilities than we believe we have. We probably needlessly deny ourselves much more than is good for us. We make choices about how to spend those limited resources. Would I rather buy 14 items of clothing that will never quite make me feel beautiful or spend a day feeling beautifully peaceful at Discovery Cove? Would I rather clean the kitchen for the second time this week or would I rather dance to upbeat music videos for 20 minutes? Would I rather get a part-time job making a few hundred dollars a month or would I rather write a blog that makes no money but gives me no end of satisfaction? I think these “would I rather” questions are much more productive than the “should” questions.
Most of the time, when people talk about living in “denial,” it means that they are hiding from the crueler realities of life. For my purposes in this blog post, I think of people living in “denial” refers to people who are needlessly denying the pleasure they could get from life if they could just open their eyes to what the potential positive realities are.
I always learn something from a day at Discovery Cove. This trip was no different.
What is something that you are denying yourself that you could make happen? What keeps you from pursuing it? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have an abundant day!