Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

Dispatches on life, love and the human condition by a wanderer and hopeful romantic

Small joys and lessons


Every day brings a new little joy…or three. Today it was my post-surfing breakfast: scrambled eggs, fresh bread, ripe avocado and juicy tomato enjoyed at my kitchen table with the late-morning sun flooding my tiny living room.

This week I’ve been getting up relatively early so I can surf for at least an hour at Arrifana before I work at 11. Then I stop by the little market in Alejzur on my way back and pick up a few random things for my breakfast. Today it was fresh bread, one of the most luscious, ripe avocados I’ve ever had and vine-ripened tomatoes. I combined that with scrambled eggs and devoured a simple but sensually satisfying meal. For some reason there are no plates in my little house, so I’m eating everything mostly from wooden boards. It makes me feel very European, for some reason, and fits in with the countryside that surrounds me.

Another joy today was standing up on my surfboard two waves in a row, timing things just right and feeling like I was actually making some progress at this incredibly tough sport. I can’t ride where the big waves are and catch them as they’re breaking yet, so I sit out front and catch the best whitewash I can trying to get right the awkward yet somehow graceful physical mechanics of standing up on a board that’s hurtling forward on rushing water.

The best wave I caught was one I watched one of the best female surfers on the beach catch behind me, riding left away from me toward the north end of the beach. I watched her and knew it would be a good one for me, so I paddled as it approached caught the front of it and made sure I was moving forward with enough velocity that standing up would be no trouble. It was a pretty awesome feeling.

That’s the paradox of surfing right there. The more speed you have, the easier it is to stand up on the board. And yet, as quickly as you’re moving forward, you will have more success getting up and properly balanced if you take your time. I am not sure how to explain it but it’s almost as if time slows down for those few seconds the board shoots forward like a cannon and you are faced with the decision to ride it out on your belly or stand up, which is the goal, of course.

My best rides today were those times when instead of rushing to stand up when I felt the water carry me forward, I waited a few breaths and slowly, as if getting out of a comfortable chair, stood to my feet and rode the whitewater to the shore.

Patience has never been my strong point. I had a rough go of it for many years, battling depression, codependency and my own inability to believe I deserved happiness. There were times I felt like I had nothing to look forward to; times I felt like the darkness would never pass; times I sank so deeply into despair it would take an oil rig to get me out.

This experience here has so far been a blessing I could never have imagined in a million years. If you knew me and the way I was raised and the things I was told I wouldn’t be able to do my whole life, you would marvel at the fact that I find myself here, on the unspoiled southwest coast of Portugal, going to the beach every day on my own with a surfboard to learn how to ride waves. You would be amazed that I am out at restaurants speaking basic Portuguese and charming the locals; befriending English surfers who offer me wine and give me tips on traveling to Morocco; texting in Portuguese to my friend here to make plans that he has so far consistently broken, something that would have bothered me a few months ago but now I accept as part of the beautiful dance of this country.

But I would be a fool to think it was dumb luck that brought me to this beautiful place; this sense of serenity and comfort in my own skin; this joy that comes from inside me and not from the fact that someone else loves me; this acceptance with what has been and what will be and focus on the now; this state of accessing my inner wisdom as never before.

This is the culmination of years of self-awareness, striving for self-improvement, trying to make the right decisions and yes, even patience, that tricky devil. I did this and am proud of that, but never for a second will I forget how far I’ve come. I never want to take anything for granted; I will always remember the darkness that brought me to this glorious light. I always wanted to remember simple pleasures and small wonders–that first bite of ripe avocado, that first bom dia to greet me in the morning, that first wave to bring me to shore.

Author: elizabethmontalbano

I am a writer, photographer, lover, fighter, traveler and bon vivant currently residing in southwest Portugal.

3 thoughts on “Small joys and lessons

  1. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing some insights and victories on your journey through life-I am having a really down day, and hearing of your own self-acceptance is inspiring. Your posts are so honest, I can truly feel your own inner peace, and feel happy for you that you brought yourself to a setting that is encouraging. You have done great work for yourself, and you brought a little light to my day.

  2. Pingback: The next adventure « Isn't It Pretty To Think So?

  3. Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

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