Blogger: Cherry Maggiore – “The Freak of Nurture”
Chapter 24: Finding true love at the Border
The bright, Caribbean sun beats down on my red shoulders as I hear the snap of my flip flop over the roar of the waves at Mermaid’s Chair.
During my vacation, this is the fifth time I’ve hiked down to this beautiful tiny slice of beach called Mermaid’s Chair in St. Thomas. Yet this is the first time I wore flip-flops.
I’m with nine of my good friends (all who wore proper water shoes or sneakers), and we are hiking toward a massive boulder that overlooks the entire beach. The terrain is extremely rocky with small patches of sand and beach (I learned during the trip the entire beach is comprised of Metaconglomerate rock), so it was an absolute necessity to don appropriate footwear.
SIDEBAR: What I learned from one of our tour guides (and Sciencing.com) is that conglomerate rock is made of smaller particles of rock and sand collected in the sediment of streams, rivers or oceans. If this rock experiences metamorphism caused by geological events such as tectonic plate collision or subduction, the rock becomes metaconglomerate. Apparently, when there was a tectonic shift in this region, the metaconglomerate rock created one of the most magical natural places on earth.
Let’s get back to my flip flop fiasco…
Immediate regret washes over me as I navigate the slippery rocks and continuous waves. With complete frustration, I yell out, “Fuck! My flip-flop broke! What an idiot!!!”
I look out at my friends all happily climbing the rocks, easily traipsing through waves to get to the main boulder. And I’m red hot pissed off…
Luckily my friend Jason Rodriguez (aka Jay) was behind me, and he helped me regain my footing. Jay checks to see if my flip flop is salvageable. Of course, it is not. So, I do what I do best, beat myself up for not making a wiser choice.
I say to him, “I’ve come here five times already, what would possess me to wear these stupid shoes?”
Jay says to me, “Cherry, stop! Stop beating yourself up! You can get through this, and I’m gonna guide you. I’ll teach you how to get back to the beach in one piece. All you have to do is look for the friendlies.”
I turn to him with a smirk and ask in a snarky tone, “Jay, what the fuck is a friendly?”
He continues unaffected by my pouty attitude, “At an Anthony Robbins convention, I learned a fundamental lesson as I faced a path filled with broken glass that I had to cross. He taught us, that when you are faced with treacherous terrain, you need to look for the friendlies. In your case, the friendlies are the rocks that are flat and smooth, just take this one step at a time and look for the friendlies; like this one right here. Friendlies are all around you, you just have to relax, be present and take one step at a time.”
I’m listening intently trying to process how his advice is going to help when I’m facing another 15 minutes of climbing boulders, rocks, and waves BAREFOOT!
Jay takes my hand and walks with me as he points out the friendlies. They are everywhere and then as my panic subsides I start to see them. It clicks finally and I gratefully say to Jay, “Thank you…I get it. I’d like to walk the rest of the way by myself.”
With Jay’s voice in my head, I kept repeating, “be present, one step at a time, look for the friendlies.” There were moments I would gaze up at the long stretch ahead of me and get overwhelmed, but Jay’s voice popped up again and said, “be present, one step at a time, look for the friendlies.” It became a chant that I said out loud, as I carefully walked along the jagged shoreline.
Before I knew it, I crossed the final boulder landing safely on the sandy beach, with no cuts or bruises. I turn to Jay as he arrived in the same spot and dramatically declared, “Jay, today, YOU were my friendly.”
At that moment, Jay wasn’t just a friend he was my guide who led me to safe passage with sage advice and patience. How lucky was I to have such a friend?
But then after the gratitude wore off, I put on my analytical hat and recognized that in my own time of need, I cruelly beat myself up for a poor choice.
The irony was not lost on me. Clearly, I was not MY “friendly”, I was my enemy.
As I reflected on this a bit more…it was clear to me that this was meant to be. I was supposed to wear the flip flops, Jay was supposed to be there with me to guide me through it, and all my hope for this trip came to fruition because of this experience.
If you are a reader of The Daily Feels and my blog, you would know that I’ve candidly shared my journey of discovery and healing. I’ve told sordid tales about my divorce from the Chupacabra to the visitation battles, then there’s the hideous online dating life and finally all my Daddy issues.
Even as I’ve exposed my innards to a broad audience of friends, family, and strangers, I understood the blessing and the opportunity. This experience has far exceeded my expectations. The fact that people show up to read and support me as I process my life, as I’ve publicly peeled the onion (and yes, it often made me cry and smelled really fucking bad), still surprises and delights me.
And all the while, I knew it was leading me to an important transition in my life. I knew I was on the right path, but I didn’t know where it was going or what I would find at the end of the journey… I just opened my heart and went full force down the rabbit hole of my life (yes, lots of metaphors today).
After a year of pouring my heart out, I was totally pumped for this time off in St. Thomas with my good friends. Hopeful in fact. I felt that I was on the brink of a transformative moment. Something big awaiting at the end of the runway where the sun was shining. Maybe, just maybe, love was waiting for me on the sandy shores of this beautiful Caribbean island.
And I had big plans for my vacation…what I find so interesting is that most people (including me!) will starve themselves, stop drinking, exercise like crazy and have themselves on a strict regimen, then do the EXACT opposite while on vacation and feel like crap half the time.
With my newfound commitment to eliminating ALL external abusers and my own self-abuse (that’s right Benjamin P, I will never allow myself to be a victim again!), I walked into this vacation with a new mindset and an aggressive set of goals.
After SUBTRACTING many negative things from my life over the past two years…it was time to ADD in the good stuff. To bring on the self-care and self-respect… to fill my life and body with the “friendlies.”
My nine ADDITIONS for St. Thomas were as follows:
- Stay Smoke-Free! After just quitting 12 days before the trip (through hypnosis which was INCREDIBLE. If you are interested PM me and I will get you the name of the hypnotist), I was truly committed to going smoke-free. Mind you, I never smoked in front of my kid, but who’s fooling who, she was old enough to smell it on me…this was my pledge to her and to me.
- Exercise every single day for at least 45 minutes. Right now, I attend two hours of Ballroom dancing per week and do 15 minutes of calisthenics every day. Then two other days a week, I work-out with my daughter, MSP. I’m committed to being active, and I didn’t want to lose momentum on vacation. In fact, I wanted to up the ante; no freakin’ excuses.
- Read and finish a book. I used to LOVE to read and would devour a book on every plane ride. For whatever reason, I stopped (maybe lack of time and patience, Social Media ADD,etc.). Luckily another friendly in my life (Lauren Hammer of Hammer Leadership) introduced me to Brené Brown…I decided to read Braving the Wilderness her latest book.
- Make healthy choices. And even attempt to lose 5 lbs! I know, I know this is an aggressive goal…losing weight on vacation is a ridiculous goal. It’s lofty but possible…
- Write! Write for my blog or just what inspires me. Nourish this passion while my mind was clear and open.
- Be comfortable with silence and do something alone. I’m a total scaredy cat, especially with noises and the dark (snicker all you want) on top of that being alone was never comfortable for me. Silence, for me, is louder than New Year’s Eve smack in the middle of Times Square. I wanted to challenge this issue and face my fears so I can be more at ease with going solo.
- Be present and Social Media free. Shut it down and do NOT post. Typically, I post most of my adventures on FB…but I wanted this time away to be mine so I could focus on healing my mind and my heart.
- Get a good night’s sleep. I was NOT going to stay up late and get up late. I wanted to enjoy the morning…even if it’s a lazy morning. The goal was to get at least 7-8 hours sleep each evening and go to bed before Midnight.
- Do something new! Try a new sport or adventure. Something I never did before or was afraid to try.
- Find love. I didn’t know who, so I just left that to fate.
Drum roll, please……
I’m happy to report that eight out of the 10 “St. Thomas Additions” were completed successfully!
The two I failed were #1 and #4. I tripped up on the smoking two different nights (I cracked after a few too many drinks and great convo around some of the smokers on the trip). However, I was smoke-free most days; the better news is that I got right back on the bandwagon…smoke-free again and committed to staying that way!
While I did do my best to eat healthily, there were lots of late-night meals and hard to resist rice and beans and pasta. I didn’t lose five lbs, I gained three (FUCK!!!) even with all the working out. But I am confident I’ll get that off in no time and then some…
I finished Braving the Wilderness and it couldn’t have been more appropriate as a catalyst for what was to come later in the trip (I highly recommend it! Thank you, Lauren!). While sitting on the outdoor deck overlooking Mermaid’s Chair I wrote most of this blog. I totally shut down social media to live in each moment and have deep talks with my friends. I tried paddle boarding at Maho Beach in St. John’s; it was cool but nothing earth-shattering.
And every single day of the trip, I brought a new “friendly” with me and hiked down to Mermaid’s Chair to work out and just breath in the beauty of that magical place.
There was one day when I hiked there on my own, and it was by far the best day I had! That was the day, I fell in love. With me.
This was nothing I have ever felt before…I wasn’t ashamed of loving myself, it actually felt like a warm embrace and my heart was full.
Like the Metaconglomerate rock we discovered on Mermaid’s Chair, I had my own tectonic shift during this week; my own volcanic eruption that exposed all the pain I’ve kept in my life. The abuse that I welcomed was totally unearthed, especially the cruelty to the person I should love the most (besides my daughter)…ME. It was time to fucking let it go.
At dusk on our last full day on the island, I went to say good-bye to Mermaid’s Chair and watch the sunset with two of my “friendlies” from the trip, Anthony and Angelo (my best friend June’s son and nephew). They promised to climb that boulder I missed on the last outing (cause of the flip flop fiasco), and we could watch the sun sink into the horizon from the top of the rock.
As I looked out at the unbelievably beautiful, sparkling blue sky that was swiftly turning orange and pink, I said to myself…
“Enough. I surrender. I have no more room in my life for the pain to wallow in. No more reason to feel sorry for myself because I am not a victim. There is no one I can love, without first loving myself wholly and completely. This is not a game, and this is no longer acceptable. I am shutting down the hallways of the memories and abuse that reside in my mind and refilling them with new memories and friendlies. I move forward to love. To joy. To learning. To fill the holes with goodness, with life.”
I inhaled sharply, the air sweet from the sun and salty from the ocean, then exhaled long and hard…and with this last breath I released my past and my pain into the Caribbean Sea (insert dramatic movie soundtrack).
As I climbed down that big freakin’ boulder with Anthony and Angelo, we laughed the entire way. Once we landed on the beach, I freely, contentedly and gratefully walked over the Metaconglomerate rocks in my sneakers, “present, one-step at a time, with my freaky friendlies by my side.”
P.S. I hope today, on International Women’s Day, you are inspired to wholly love the amazing woman you are and that you will continue to become!
Cherry Maggiore is the proud single mom of her 9-year-old super-sassy daughter (aka Miss Sassy Pants or MSP) and 15-year-old pug baby (Tiki Barber); in addition to being an award-winning senior marketing executive at NBCUniversal.
Beside her side hustle as the Freak of Nurture, she also started a home design company after being inspired by renovating and designing her 1880’s home in NJ.
This insanely curious and passionate “multi-potentialite” can be found dancing the Argentinan tango, swing and Hustle every Saturday, cooking her family an Italian Sunday dinner, singing and air drumming at concerts or searching for her next adventure.