When I was 24, I was a single mother living in ‘Section 8 project housing in Honolulu Hawaii. I was in college, lucky to have a cheap place to live, and luckier still to have a huge Samoan neighbor known as ‘The Enforcer’, who looked out for us.
The first day my son and I moved into our little apartment, I called to order a pizza. When I gave our address, the man on the phone apologized and said that they didn’t deliver to my neighborhood. He said too many of their delivery drivers had been robbed.
I remember when my mother first came to visit. She was scared. She was shocked. She said, “Tiff, how do people live like this? When people think of Hawaii they think of Paradise. They think of Palm trees and sandy beaches, not this!!!!”
I tried to prepare my father when he came to visit. But he wasn’t prepared for the police blockade blocking off access to my entire street.
I always joked that I was going to make a calendar with images of the Hawaii I lived in. I was going to name my calendar “The Other Side Of Paradise.” There would be photos of swat teams with guns drawn, children playing in a nasty brown puddle with garbage floating in it, a freaky ice cream truck that only came around late at night and did not cater to children, rats larger than cats, and of course there would be photos of my next door neighbors, a giant Samoan family of 12, who shared a tiny apartment, the same size as mine, and everyone slept on the floor.
We lived in these “projects” for over two years.. There was crime and poverty in my neighborhood. But there was also laughter, birthday parties, kids playing, dance parties, dinner parties, and neighbors singing opera-style in the shower. There was struggle. There was joy. There were lessons learned. I look back on that time with more fond memories than bad ones. I have so much gratitude.
Here I am several years and many lessons later. Living on a tiny beautiful island in the Azores. Different ocean, different island chain, different set of problems. But, surprise, surprise, there is ‘another side of paradise here’ too. I recently saw someone throwing bags of garbage in the river. Financial difficulties are very real for many people here. Honestly, I am not sure how I will make money here. My dream of making money as a writer, is slowly fading. There is not a large yoga culture here. Classes are small. My portuguese vocabulary is also small. It is difficult. There is struggle. There are times when I miss my old life so completely that I feel angry with my partner. I glare and think “You are the reason we are here!!” (I love my sweetheart very much, he is the most amazing person).. BUT, there are times when every cell in my body longs desperately for yoga studios, raw and vegetarian cafes, health food stores, theater, my old friends, my old life..which 5 months ago was in Florida.
Well, in life “the only constant is change.”
I can either embrace my new life, or focus my energy on longing for days of the past. I can choose to live with gratitude this life I have now, or I can choose to focus on what I don’t have, what I used to have. (Perhaps this is the curse of the gypsy, moving around all the time and missing old friends)
Our thoughts and our behavior have a tremendous impact on our quality of life. Knowing this, I have painted and posted affirmations and positive words all over my house. Joy, love, magic, peace, gratitude, believe, faith, trust… These words are powerful reminders. Seeing these words help lift my spirits when I start to feel down.
Sometimes I really love being here. And my life seems very much like a magical fairy tale. I look around in awe that an island this beautiful exists. Honestly, my feelings about my new life bounce all over the place. I know part of this is postpartum hormones, part of this is transition, and part of this is simply that feelings change all the time..
When I close my eyes and take deep breaths, my breath helps anchor me to a deep inner wisdom and I feel peace. I recharge.
Refreshed, I open my eyes and I feel opportunity. I feel love. I feel gratitude. Gratitude for my past, present, and future.
“May I be given the appropriate difficulties so that my heart can truly open with compassion.” –Buddhist Prayer
Whatever side of paradise~ Yogini Tiff