Dither Me This #14: Sleepless in Hawaii

Dither Me This is a publication that presents current, old, spontaneous, or nonsensical musings for the reader to use as a writing prompt, discuss with a friend, lover, or to read and move on. Authors may present questions, creative processes, or thoughtful means to end the week; and while you may still be left staring at the walls, it is not without a new thought mulling the paint into iterative transformation. Thus we send waves into the electronic ether and see what is returned – extending a baton to the world, only a little afraid to let go. 



14 – Sleepless in Hawaii

by Emma Murray

On my third morning in Maui, my first steps were spaced along the worn, 150-meter stretch that lead from my plush, bleach-white hotel sheets down to the ocean. At 5:30 a.m., well before the troves of tourists even considered waking up, I was greeted by nothing, save the rolling, hypnotic waves and the archetypal sunrise: a pallet of hazy purples, calming blue-gray water, soft rose-colored clouds with baby starburst highlights.

I was gazing west, so though no sun graced my horizon, I waded into the bathtub-warm Pacific and watched the sky illuminate as though a slow-release spotlight was panning vertically from a stage behind me.

I know people who have dreamed their whole lives of going to Hawaii, but in my case, Hawaii lured me towards an unexpected depression. I fell right in. For fear of sounding like a privileged prick, let me add, as my mother reminded us hourly: “This is a once in a lifetime vacation!” Thanks to Great Uncle Charlie—who died about four years ago after turning 108—my family had, by a large stroke of surprise, inherited the means to take all five of us, plus my boyfriend Jordan, on a week-long resort vacation.

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My Mom had not only been planning this vacation for what felt like years, but she’d pulled every string in her motherly power to orchestrate our stay and manifest one of her personal dreams: lounging on the beach, her family within arm’s reach, complete with a giant excuse to do nothing but exist.

The problem is, my “nothing’ is not the same as hers. While she relaxed and recharged by reading her book under the large-brimmed umbrella, I couldn’t focus on the words I held in my own hands for more than a few minutes at a time.

My Mom works tremendously hard in everyday life, commanding our widespread family from her outpost in D.C., working full-time in what seems to be an exhausting job, doggedly loving us, keeping in contact with extended family and friends across the globe. And most likely, she’s knee-deep in a host of other side-projects that I don’t even realize. The difference in our lives starts here: it’s not that I don’t work hard like her, but that the complexity of my life is a mere fraction of hers.


For her, vacation is spending time with the people she loves at a beach resort, removed from the stress that’s induced by simply being at home. Though I know her “To Do” lists and the responsibility of managing a family don’t completely fade while she’s on vacation, being at a beach resort and absorbing the convenience that it provides is, at the very least, calming and can offer brief respite.

But my vacation? It’s not lounging and sun tanning. The way I escape the demands of my daily life is waking up early for no reason other than my desire to take Jordan’s hand and walk around our neighborhood, gazing at the Rocky Mountains. My “nothing” is hiking up the backside of a peak to sit on the summit and gaze across jagged territory I could never humanly traverse. My recharge comes from putting in my headphones, getting stoned, and bicycling Boulder’s smooth pathways as the sun sets behind South Boulder Peak. I find refuge in slow solitude and in wild spaces.


By 10 a.m. on the beach at the resort, I see the onslaught of people crowding the beach, ordering drinks from their reclining chairs, re-lathering protective sunblock, yelling and squealing so that the ocean’s hum becomes the awkward background interruption that a song producer would edit out. By 11 a.m., I am sad. I am anxious. I am at a resort that I can’t easily leave. I’m torn between spending time with my family and running from this confusing claustrophobia. I don’t feel like I’m in paradise. I’m in a box, sitting in a plastic chair with windows facing palm trees and distant volcanoes.

This happens every day—my kinship to Bill Murray (finally) realized as I entered my own Groundhog Day on Kahekili Beach. I don’t yet know how to remove myself from these scenes and focus on what’s important: the ten square feet surrounding me, a box that includes people that I love so dearly. I’m still adding these tricks to my vocabulary, trying to make sense of how I could possibly be so negatively affected in paradise. So in the meantime, I did what I always do when I get stressed, anxious, or otherwise upset: find my solitude and run with it to.

In the latter half of the week, I scouted out areas with the fewest people. I woke up before any other souls to soak in the sunrise solitude. I snuck out to the beach at night, after the barbecues died down, where no one but me, Jordan and the stars bore witness to the dark, silvery sea.


But still, the depression remained. This kind of beachy nature couldn’t elate me in the way I’ve come to rely on at home in Boulder. Even alone, I’d stare out beyond the gray vastness and open up my heart so as to let the water harmonize with my soul. I’d receive a little charge, a little hug from the sea that would sustain me for the next bout of hours. Yet I couldn’t help but think of the mountains and how every time I’d glance at them from home, how a spark would immediately ride through me. This has only proven that I am not a beach person. The mountains are my home and my soul.

And how do I know this so definitively? In those seven days, I didn’t write a thing.

How does your environment influence or affect you, especially when it’s new or when it constantly changes? Do you feel inspired by what surrounds you? What are your coping mechanisms for those time you are not motivated?

With mountain love,


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Emma Murray is a Colorado-based lover, yoga teacher, and journalist. Her work has appeared in Rock & Ice Magazine, College Outside, Boulder Weekly, and Misadventures Magazine. You can see what she is up to at emmaathenamurray.com

Inspired to respond? Leave thoughts below, in an email, or via Instagram with #dithermethis and tag @bivytales.

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dither me this is a collaborative effort between Sara Aranda, Birch Malotky, and Emma Murray



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