• Lara Flanagan

Costa Rican time and doing nothing

Updated: Feb 28, 2020


I struggle with doing nothing, always have.  Something my mum would often say to me is, “do you ever relax or sit still?” The honest answer to that is probably no.   The thing is I didn’t used to be that way.  I used to be the Queen of Indulgence.  I thought nothing of sleeping in until lunchtime.  Of eating massive breakfasts whilst pretending to read the paper and then returning to bed for more snooze time.  But things change as they do and at same stage I become someone who found it hard to sit still.  It fucking irks me sometimes. 

When I became a mum there arrived in my head the constant thought that there was always something to do.  How could I relax when there was washing to be done, work to be done, babies to play with, nappies to change, mouths to feed.  I think that thought became worse when I became a single mum.  Then there was always money to be worried about, more jobs to be done, a house to be cleaned, dogs to be walked, a garden to look after.  Those who know me well will laugh at that fact I obsessed about my garden as I was gifted with a rather lovely garden that I am probably not really capable of looking after.  Luckily Phil mows the lawns for me and on occasion I remember to prune the roses.     

When I was diagnosed with MS I also developed a new, rather irrational fear that if I stop there is a chance I will never start again.   So doing nothing is an issue for me.  Which is why I am working on it.

Right now I am working on ‘doing nothing’ and developing an understanding of Costa Rican time.  It is funny, the question I get asked most by friends at the moment is “What are you doing?”  I am doing nothing.  Nothing.  I am struggling with doing nothing, but in a way I am starting to enjoy it.  The kids and I were wandering up to our little local shop yesterday and I had a running dialogue in my head, “You are not fucking doing anything Lara, what are you doing?  Nothing.  How can you do nothing.  Surely there is a Dream World around here, a statue to see, a waterfall?  A bus to catch, a town to visit, a different beach to go to? How can you do nothing?”  But I am seriously working on doing nothing.

We are not actually doing nothing but for me it feels like it and I am battling with the whole concept of “what are you doing” that my head constantly is asking myself. Sometimes I feel like fucking Sybil. Every morning we wake with the call of the Howler Monkeys – this can be anywhere from between 4.30am and 6am.  The Howler Monkeys are like the call of a rabid demon who is coming to possess your soul.   I am actually up now and it is 4.34am and I have just heard my first Howler Monkey.  I beat the bastard this morning.  Also on cue, rains that have been threatening to fall all night have started to fall in a heavy torrential downpour that is unlike any I have ever experienced before.  So with the sounds of the possessed demon monkeys howling in the background and the heavy rain falling on the Terracotta tiles I do not currently feel like I am in Kansas anymore Toto.

Since we have gotten to Cabuya, somewhere near Montezuma, our days start early.  I suspect the kids could sleep for longer, though as it is sunrise at around 5.46 am, if the tides aren’t too high we walk on the beach for an hour.  High tide is going to coincide with my morning walk this morning so when the rains stop we might try the road and see where it takes us.   After our morning walk, the kids have a swim or talk to the dogs or chase frogs or do whatever it is that takes their fancy for a little while.  I tend to then spend about half an hour on the computer.  Then it is breakfast time and the kids swing on the hammock, do their emails, sit on the beach with the dogs or bicker mindlessly whilst I set up their schoolwork for the day.  From 8.30/9am we do schoolwork and I work and I aim to finish by 1pm.

After 1pm it is anything goes, yesterday I fell asleep in the hammock where I had intended to read.  At some stage I need to think about lunch, though we eat lunch late and it is morphed into a sort of linner.  We had a big plan to walk up to the little café yesterday that Rissie has fallen in love with because of its rather amazing Iced Chocolate but we got there too late.  It does have a sign out the front for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and we got up there about 4.30pm but it was closed. 

The lady in the café shrugged at me with a smile – Pura Vida I guess.   So we wandered to the shop.  I was armed with some new Spanish words and phrases and I was happy to get some salt and olive oil, though pissed off when we got home to find out that my can of chickpeas had chicken in it (I know now what Pollo means) and my almond milk cost the equivalent of a small car so no more Banana smoothies for me.

Then it was time for a swim.  Our swim involved rescuing a rather large toad and floating on my back for half an hour and listening to the owner of the place where we are staying tell us stories of the world’s largest square toad.  I kid you not.  He is an Irish man living in Costa Rica for some 30 years and I find his Irish accent combined with his version of Spanish almost as difficult to comprehend as normal Spanish.  I am sure there is a story to tell there, but it is not mine to tell.

After our swim I realised I had to get the kids some dinner so we had new baby potatoes with salt and oil, beans from the market and avocado.  Then we were going to watch an episode of Once Upon a Time which is our favourite TV series for the three of us, but we were alerted to the fact that a massive storm was on its way and to batten down the hatches.  Nothing like being alerted to the fact that there is a need to batten down the hatches, when you are staying on a remote tropical coastline in a cabina only metres from the beach to make you fucking soil yourself.  

The computer was unplugged as was phone and ipads.  All lights were turned off and we were given candles just in case.  We sat on the steps of our cabina watching the light show on the horizon and the fire flies in the trees.  The kids were asleep by about 7 and I read for half an hour or so by the light of Luci, our little solar blow up lamp lent to us by Strach and Robert.   I had about two hours work I needed to do but it was lovely to have the computer switched off and to be forced to do nothing but read.

The massive storm never eventuated though the rain finally arrived this morning.  That was our day.  We did nothing.  Nothing to report but it was a day that was filled with the gentle rhythm of Costa Rican Life.  One that I have challenged myself to learn. Pura Vida.

I wanted to travel slow for a reason.  I wanted to live like a local for a little while.  At home we don’t go to Bald Rock every day, on the Gold Coast we don’t do the theme parks once a week and in Sydney we don’t visit the Opera House once a month.  We live, we go about our daily lives and live.  It doesn’t make our lives any less special, that we are not doing the big ticket items regularly, because when you are living normally you don’t even contemplate them.  Life does not have to be a rollercoaster or a circus.  I like seeing the kids chase frogs and swinging on the hammock.

My desire to travel slow was that for a while the kids and I can get to know a different way of life and as much as I struggle sometimes, at present I think we are doing ok.  We go to our beach shack on Sunday, to be honest, I quite literally, have no idea how to get there.  But instead of worrying and obsessing I will address it later in the week.  I don’t want to look ahead and not enjoy the time we have now.  We do it all our lives.  When our kids are in preschool we worry about what school they will go to.  They have to work and get good grades so they can go to university.  At university you must work hard to get a good job.  Once you start working you are told about superannuation so you can prepare for your retirement.  When you are 15 your look ahead to your formal, when you are 21 your look ahead to your wedding, once you get married you are asked when will you have kids.  I don’t want to look ahead right now, which is a little bit why I learnt no Spanish before I got here, nor will I learn any Italian before we head that way and I have literally nothing planned for Thailand.   I just want to focus on what I am doing right now.  Even if it is nothing.

As much of a wanker as it makes me sound, I just want to be.  Right now I am in Costa Rica, with the rains pouring and the monkeys howling.  Little bastards seem to like the rain.  I have so much to do today.  I have to buy some chick peas without the chicken.  When it is low tide the kids and I want to walk to the island of the dead.  When the rains stop I want to walk for a long time.  I have promised Rissie an ice-chocolate.  After work I want to crawl back into the hammock and read my book.

I have just realised how busy I am. My life at present, is about the simple things.   I am doing nothing and I am not looking ahead.   It is a challenge but challenge has been accepted.

Pura Vida.


#Journey #CostaRica #Motherhood #Worrying #Travel #Travelingwithkids

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