It began as a daydream. The idea of escaping to Florida got encouragement from my son and daughter-in-law. Then the New England winter strongly reinforced it. And suddenly it began to feel like it could become a reality. Despite all of the urging, there was a lot of resistance on my part. Could I afford it? Would my classes suffer? Would my clients feel as though I’d abandoned them? Would I be lonely or bored?
The main issue, though, was that I’d never thought of myself as a Snowbird. I had envisioned them as grey-haired, decrepit, old people escaping the harsh winter months because they couldn’t hack it. They were burned out and frail; they didn’t have the gumption or energy to make it through the colder months. That wasn’t me!
In retrospect, I have to admit that I was finding the ice, frigid temperatures, and shoveling of snow more onerous than in the past. In order to counteract the winters, I had been taking one-week vacations to beautiful scenic spots for several years – the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Belize. These vacations seemed to restore both my body and soul, and I returned to New England each time feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
Last February, I returned from a snorkeling trip where my hair, long-dyed, lost much of its color. Although I had contemplated letting my hair go gray for a couple of years, I always seemed to pull back from actually committing to the process. I knew it would take years for my natural gray to fully return, as my hair is long, and I balked at chopping it all off. After this particular trip, it just seemed to be the right time, and I am now a multi colored woman! Grey/silver hair for about 6 inches, then a mixture of browns with a couple of brightly colored green and blue streaks underneath.
So, I had now achieved 2 out of the 3 items in my list of what made up a snowbird: I had grey hair and admittedly I was getting older. But decrepit – never! This is when I realized that aging itself is a choice. If I didn’t limit myself in terms of physical activity and health, why did I need to limit myself in terms of how I thought about being a snowbird? In fact, there were many advantages to spending time in Florida in February!
Miami Beach – warm, humid, flowers and leafy trees, ocean, and family! My son and daughter-in-law had moved here over a year ago and my grandson was just 7 months old! One of my best friends and energy medicine colleagues lived in Miami. No snow, no cold outside temperatures or dry roasting hot rooms inside the house. No need to put on excessive layers of clothing. I could enjoy the beauty of a new place, discover new neighborhoods, meet new people, and push myself to explore what was unfamiliar. Being a snowbird no longer seemed to be about shortcomings but more about breaking limiting habits, thoughts, and boundaries.
In this first short week, I have moved into a small but perfect, for me, cottage in a neighborhood that I most likely would never have seen had I stayed in a South Beach hotel. The area is filled with extravagant new mansions that face the bay but also more modest homes that were built years ago. Walking around, I have discovered fantastic gardens, elaborate wrought-iron gates, and wildly varied styles of architecture. There are no high-rises here, and the trees are filled with birds and squirrels while little lizards scurry to get out of the way of my feet on the sidewalk.
I am walking everywhere here and sometimes think I know better than the maps I consult on my phone. That leads me to investigate places that I would never have been seen otherwise. The free trolley is a boon, though sometimes they don’t stop because they are full. This means I have to be patient and temper my expectations while I wait for the next trolley. Each day, I am reminded of how much I am driven by my schedule and routine at home.
Learning how to live in a new environment compels me to create new mental maps. How do I get the things I need when I don’t know where to get them? How do I get to those places without a car? What are the basics that I really need to survive and thrive? What can I live without that I never imagined? It begins to narrow down what is essential away from what is superfluous.
Perhaps what this experience is teaching me is to see more clearly without the filter of external expectations, imagined limitations, and unrealizable ambitions. To acknowledge all my attainable desires and wants and needs. To release what is not attainable or even realistic. As Joseph Campbell so succinctly noted, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”
After all, going on this journey to a new place and learning how to create a life here in Miami Beach isn’t the most difficult of challenges. I’m not completely alone and English is spoken here. But in a sense, it’s like going to a strange and unfamiliar country. I have to relearn myself and figure out where I fit into the new environment. I am evaluating who I am becoming at this stage in my life and looking at future possibilities.
My maternal grandparents visited San Miguel de Allende in Mexico when they were in their middle seventies for five months. Part of their motivation was my grandmother’s lifelong interest in painting. For me, they serve as an example of what is possible at an older age. We don’t have to stay home and wither away. We are fully capable of continuing to grow until our physical death, capable of rejuvenating who we are through new experiences and exposure to the unfamiliar, capable of finding new passions that fuel ongoing dreams.
It is important for each of us to try out new circumstances, to venture outside of our comfort zones, to reach for the unknown but often dreamt of. The novel experience doesn’t have to be extreme, and we don’t even have to travel away from home to encounter a fresh adventure. However, for me, this time my adventure was becoming a Snowbird.
Sheila Peters is a certified Eden Energy Medicine Clinical Practitioner, Reiki Practitioner, and shamanic practitioner. She also teaches classes and workshops in Stretch/Body Awareness, Energy Body Tune-up, and Jazz Dance. For more information, email Sheila at: email@example.com, call 781-354-0725, or visit Sheila’s website at: www.energymedicineanddance.com.
© 2020 by Sheila Peters. All rights reserved.