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  • Writer's pictureMo Reynolds

The Spines We Cannot See

We landed in Puerto Vallarta and hopped in a taxi with Adrian to the nearest grocery store, where we marvelled at the freshly made tortillas, new cereal names, and a freakish amount of limes for sale.

Then, it was an hour drive to Boca de Tamatlan where we waited for twenty minutes until Arturo arrived with his boat.

A forty-five minute boat ride brought us to our little slice of heaven, a secluded beach with our little palapa hut and about ten other like it---all abandoned because their owners are better at checking the weather than I am and so therefore knew that a hurricane was hitting the next day.

Arturo dropped us off on the beach and gave us an adios. And there we were.


In Mexico.

At the mercy of the weather and whatever cartel drug dealers saw me and my beautiful teenage daughters get into a boat and ride off into the middle of nowhere.

I was beginning to wonder what I had done to my family and why we were not on a cruise ship getting our towels folded into dolphin shapes and an extra serving of creme brulee by my plate because the waiter heard me say I liked them.

Luckily, I'm married to a therapist who is freakishly good at living in the present and taking life one day at a time. I saw this isolated beach and wondered, "What are we going to do for four days???" while he saw an isolated beach and wondered, "What are we not going to do?"

We survived the first night without a kidnapping--by either the drug cartels or the overwhelming amount of crabs that covered the jungle floor--and woke the next morning to a lovely day on the beach. I breathed. I swam. Not at the same time.

I love the ocean. I could simply be in the ocean for hours. We climbed on rocks and played in waves and I began to think that this was actually a wonderful life choice after all.

Then I met this guy

There I was, minding my own business, just trying to find the perfect rock to make this happen:

I slipped and fell. . .right into a lovely little colony of sea urchins. My right foot got the worst of it, but my left foot joined the part too. I did not exactly remain calm, but was able to swim to shore, ignoring my family's questions of what happened. I needed to concentrate.

I finally made it back and surveyed the damage--so many spines, so so many spines.

Not only did I not prepare for a hurricane, I also didn't bring tweezers or an adequate first aid kit. I was seriously mom of the year this trip. We pulled out as many as we could by hand and over the next few days, with vinegar and tweezers obtained by my husband and daughter's 45 minute hike to the nearest village, we doctored my foot as well as we could, my daughters watching my pain and asking if it was worth that childbirth. When I said no, Emma announced she was definitly not having children.

The pain got a little better, my hobbling skills improved, but as I traveled to Tennesee for the National Storytelling Festival, the pain got worse. And I walked more slowly. I wanted to shout to everyone, "I have sea urchin spines in my foot! That's why I am so slow."

It is honestly ridiculous how much I think other people are paying attention to me.

They have their own spines to deal with.

And there lies my sea urchin epiphany.

We all walk with pain.

Sometimes the pain is obvious to others, but so often the pain is deeply embedded, broken off at the surface, and invisible to the world.

But, it is still there. It stabs and aches and we wonder if we will ever really heal. Healing is a two step forward, one step back sort of thing. It is a pain unto itself, and is very rarely linear. And, like the injury that summoned it, the healing is often invisible as well.

While we want our privacy, we also sometimes wish we could wear a t-shirt that announced, "Hey, I know what I'm doing doesn't look like much, but trust me--I'm doing the best I can with what I'm dealing with."

Because we all are. We are all doing the best we can with what we carry. And we simply cannot see the pain others walk in every day. I wonder if, perhaps, we assumed each person was stumbling along with their own sets of spines, would then treat each other more gently? I think we would. And, perhaps, we could treat ourselves more gently as well.

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