This past week I have been spending time cultivating my new practices in self-love.
The healing elixir is brewing in my cauldron and the ingredients I slowly mix into the pot are therapy, yoga, meditation, writing, the healing powers of food, and travel. I reached out to my best friend and we began making plans for travel. During this planning I learned some sad news about a place I hold dear in my heart: Tulum, Mexico. There are many reasons I treasure Tulum, one of them being that it holds magical memories of my husband and I. Memories created before the insidious disease of addiction burrowed its parasitic head into our marriage, sucking us dry and leaving us lifeless and paralyzed.
We traveled to Tulum a few years ago when we were not yet married on the recommendation of my best friend.
She told how us how Tulum was so much better than Cancun. And it was! A magical place off the beaten path and free from the monstrosity of sprawling resort hotels, no chemical green tundra golf courses, no option for all you can eat and drink specials, without the stale flavor of commercial tourism. I remember we arrived to Tulum at night followed by a day of long travel crossing the border from San Diego to Tijuana, delays in the Tijuana airport, a lay-over in Guadalajara, and a van ride from Cancun to Tulum. When we arrived it was dark, raining and the cabana we reserved on the beach was, to put it LIGHTLY, rustic. We went to sleep, surrounded by mosquito netting and darkness, me feeling unsettled. I awoke the next morning to my husband who urged me to come outside to the beach, and of course I obliged. There I stood with the most magnificent view of an endless sparkling white sand beach, swaying palm trees, sunlight glistening off of clear blue-green water. The beaches were practically empty. This paradise felt like ours. The rest of the trip was, to say the least, heavenly. The juicy flavor of freshly caught coconut shrimp on a remote fisherman’s beach, sweaty bike rides to the towering Mayan Ruins, the shocking bite of cold saltless water in the cenotes, floating in the rolling waves of the warm clear aquamarine waters of the Caribbean sea, salty hair and skin warmed over by the sun, the sweet cool water of coconuts on our lips, feet buried in the warm sand, swaying in hammocks under palm trees, steam rising from the fish wrapped in banana leaf, the majestic sea turtle who laid her eggs on the beach, and the man with the flashlight who came to protect her, spicy roasted chilies burning our tongues, washed down with smooth smoky mescal. No, the parasite of addiction was not on this trip with us. Just the buzzing of mosquitoes and their itchy, swollen, but tolerable bites, creating archipelago designs on our ankles akin to the Galapagos Islands.
But it is not just Tulum that I cherish. It is the man I visited Tulum with.
The man that I once knew, a man who I still gently cradle in my memory. During that time, he was so present. Present in the planning of the trip, present in the packing, present during our travels. Even the photos of him, his clear eyes gazing at the camera and his bright smile, show this presence. Our experiences were shared and our experiences were beautiful. We weren’t a million miles apart like we are now. I remember the feelings of assurance, trust, and safety. I could rely on that man when traveling to a foreign country. I could trust him in an unknown place. This is so essential in a relationship; I truly know that because I am presently suffering that loss.
On Friday June 17, 2016 500 self-proclaimed government officials, private security guards, and movers raided 16 hotels in Tulum as well as private property, seizing and shutting down the properties over apparent land disputes. The hotel owners were accused of failure to pay rent and claims of land ownership that go back decades. Despite individuals reporting lack of legal proceedings or documents to support legal eviction, hotel owners were left dispossessed and guests were forced to leave. Tulum was shrouded in violence and corruption with reported use of pepper spray and tear gas to deter any interference with the actions of wealthy businessmen and powerful politicians behind the seizures. The New York Times reported:“The 17 properties seized in June are now guarded by the same group of men who participated in the evictions, some of whom are armed with machetes. Business signs have been torn down, gates padlocked, entrances walled off with cinder blocks.”*
Hearing the news of Tulum felt like an ending, it felt like our ending.
A reflection bearing the image of our dispossessed relationship. Addiction has led to me to be evicted from my life, my heart an empty and abandoned building, my husband’s soul corrupted by the greed of opioids, his mind padlocked in a state of denial, machetes tearing at a fragile existence, the sounds of my distant past like waves crashing to shore, barely audible.
I suppose this is where that proverbial door comes in. Tulum, our past, is closed and so I must look for a new one. A new door. And then I must open it and finally, no matter the fear that takes hold, I must walk through that open door. Hopefully I will be hand in hand with my husband, or maybe I won’t. Maybe he will meet me on the other side. When he is ready to let go of the fear and open the door. I know I am ready and in my quest for reinvention and cultivation of self love I must embark on new roads for travel to new places, literally and figuratively. I know I cannot go back. I have no choice but to keep moving forward because there is nowhere else to go. How about Belize?
*Information and citation from:
The New York Times article Evictions by Armed Men Rattle a Mexican Tourist Paradise, by Kirk Semple, August 16, 2016.
Town&Country article The Situation Remains Bleak at One of Mexico’s Hottest Beach Destinations, by Sam Dangremond and Whitney Robinson, June 20, 2016, updated August 17 2016.
Travel + Leisure article In Tulum’s Hotel Scene, a Long History of Mysterious Government Seizures, by Megan Drillinger, July 18, 2016