Happy Independence Day, and welcome to my new year-long quest for fresh inspiration, perspectives, sources of sanity and reasons to laugh or cheer, all drawn from my favorite country on Earth. The Costa Rica Daily Boost, which I hope to share each weekday from now through Independence Day 2020, is designed to be short and sweet. On some days, it will be as simple as a beautiful image or a great quotation. On others, like today, I’ll need to do a little more explaining.
I’m a writer who’s been living in San Jose, Costa Rica for the past 15 years. For many of those years, I gained things: jobs, friends, a husband, a daughter. Then it was time for a season of loss. The death of my father knocked the wind out of my sails just as the biggest challenges of my professional life got me working around the clock in a state of perpetual exhaustion. A Series of Unfortunate Events out of my control, improbably dramatic and devastating, resulted in my losing two jobs I dearly loved, along with fantastic colleagues and mentors I’d expected to work with for years to come. Misogyny seemed to unmask itself everywhere I looked, and the flames of hate roared ever higher in my home country. Depression, anxiety and a series of physical issues eventually devoured any remaining confidence and eroded my biggest remaining source of pride by affecting my ability to show up for my little girl the way I want to.
I’m still dealing with all of that, but I managed to remember two things amidst the muck. First, that I’m a writer. And second, that when the shit hits the fan, writers write. Or should try, at least. So even though I haven’t emerged from the dark clouds – or rather, because I haven’t – I decided to launch a lifeline for myself, a daily search for hope. I’m not talking sugary sweetness. I’m talking artists and community leaders and journalists who are right in the thick of it with the rest of us, grappling with grief and fear and injustice and coming up with something beautiful as a result. I’m talking about the simple wellness ideas that have surrounded me for 15 years now but which I’ve often failed to embrace: a cup of tea, a strange new fruit, curiosity about the trees and birds just outside the window. Throughout the year, I’ll be challenging myself – not to grueling tasks, but to small new adventures or ways of being that can help me, or maybe anyone, prepare a little bit better to deal with the madness of today’s world. Trust me, I’m not sipping green juice while doing yoga on a woodland balcony. Neither is anyone I know, to be honest. I’m talking baby steps. The best of Costa Rican wellness is immensely practical, cheap and basic, and that’s what I’m searching for here.
Why Costa Rica, besides of course the fact that this is my adopted home? Because I believe this country has something special to give those of us who are walking that line between light and dark, no matter where on the globe we are doing it. Costa Rica is beleaguered, though no less spectacular for it. Costa Rica is struggling, and it is phenomenal. It has plenty of problems, and plenty of answers to those problems. It is packed with cars and red tape and inequalities, and with innovative, committed people designing solutions. It is full of sexism, and it has birthed a disproportionate number of the most incredible women leaders on the planet. It is awash in apathy and absolutely teeming with creative minds.
I dedicated my first project to my daughter. I dedicate this one to all those who, like me, are veering daily between joy and despair and back again. I dedicate it to all those of us who need a little daily boost to help us keep going: a little calm or beauty or deliciousness, or just something that makes us laugh or think or pause and breathe. I don’t have those things within myself. But I do think Costa Rica has them, and I’m going to try to find them. Maybe it will even get us talking along the way.
Join me. Tell a friend who might want to come along, and then slide on your rubber boots – it’s raining out. No umbrella required. Let’s wander off through the mud in search of pretty things. Let’s muse and marvel and allow one tiny country to remind us that the world is wide and full of wonders. Still. Always.