I have the good fortune to be nestled in a luxurious villa that hangs from the steep hillside of a rainforest, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The evening silence is a deafening cacophony of rolling waves, singing crickets, and a bird insistent on coming through the screened walls. I am being pampered with a housekeeping visit to freshen our towels and create a cocoon of bug netting around our bed. On my mind are my instructions for this holiday. Treat yourself as well as you treat others. Show up for yourself in the way that you have always shown up for family and friends. You don’t need someone to be “your person” – you are your person.

It’s all part of the project underway to accept my aging self. My flawed self. My critical and intolerant self. The one that I have nicknamed my evil twin Dale. She’s been a lifelong companion. And now I’m supposed to make friends with her. Let her in to sit beside me in the dark times. Hear her nattering and never-ending judgments. Yet, not attend to them. Shun my tendency to believe them.

The deep dive into this prickly and uncomfortable truth-saying is taking me through dark caves, murky waters, and clear and sunlit cresting waves. I am seeing myself with a lucidity that is at times overwhelming. While being thankful for the perspective and understanding. So that’s why I am how I am. So that’s how I got here. So that’s what is really going on. Yuck.

I am reminded that we can’t change the past. We can’t relive our childhood. There are things that can not be mended or fixed. Dead people don’t come back. The teacher lurks in our past – should we be brave enough to shine the light on it. Learning and healing happen only when I slow down, open up, and be courageous.

My teacher is telling me that my brother who lost his moral compass, was consumed with ego and money, and died alone from pickling his heart with alcohol, was trying to survive. And that was his best. Until it wasn’t. What was once frustration, anger, and a sense of abandonment is now a wave of sad compassion. And relief that he has found peace. Something impossible for him as a mortal.

Examining the project ahead for Dale and me, I am humbled in my attempts to access self-compassion. It’s so much easier to find it for others. What does it look like to show up for me? How do I manage to be my person? Dale shakes her head in the mirror. Whispers words of retribution. Casts her eyes to the flaws, in others, in me.

I am blessed to be sharing a remote and unique lodge with scarlet macaws who fly in pairs and settle into trees by the dining table, four species of brash monkeys swinging and snacking on the leaves by our deck, anteaters resting in the crotch of gnarly trees, and sloths who defecate once a week and are coated in moss.

Being in nature is a salve for me. My task is to let the immersion happen. Ask what my body needs, and then grant its wishes. Practice being as carefree and simple as the rainforest characters. Gently shush Dale and teach her the power of gratitude.

At least, that is my experience.