Island-style Coping Mechanism: Disgust, Adjust, Delude

Sometimes in life, we obtain knowledge that is not always immediately applicable to us. Our wondrous brain manages to hoard it all in an organized fashion within its deep recesses (without even so much as an intervention by The Container Store), gifting us with useful tidbits of days gone by when they’re handy sometime in the future. It never fails to surprise and delight me when a random memory crops up, presenting itself as the perfect solution to a current day problem. Such is the case with a little lifestyle mantra I observed about 15+ years ago, one that is now remarkably apt in my now-adult island life.

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Growing up, one of my childhood friends lived in a way that was the complete antithesis to how things went down at our house. At our house, shoes were removed at the door, food was not eaten outside the kitchen, pets lived outdoors only, and the near-white carpet remained spot-free with its perpetual freshly vacuumed lines. Natalie’s house, on the other hand, was where overzealous cleanliness rules were not only disregarded, but blatantly mocked. While I realized I could never live in such squalor myself, Kid Me loved my brief stints into their world to revel in the rule free chaos. Their mom worked long hours and though I heard her frequently complain about the messy state of affairs when she returned home at night, apparently she never put her foot down, as no one ever did anything about it. They simply added to the detritus until it would reach a boiling point, then they’d give it a surface clean, and immediately go back to their slovenly ways. It was awesome.

One time, Natalie accidentally knocked over a liter bottle of Coke on her parent’s nightstand, and my memory of her reaction has conveniently popped up for usage in my rock life today. Instead of panicking and rushing to clean it up as it dripped all over the floor and bedding like I would have done (though it should be noted, we never had Coke anywhere in our house left out to be spilled in the first place), she just grabbed my arm and powered us away from the scene of the crime, too grossed out by its stickiness to even consider wiping it up, spouting what I came to know as her mess-maker’s mantra: “Just walk away, just walk away.” And so we did. Again and again.

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Witnessed the cat barfing all over the living room carpet? Just walk away, just walk away. Tried to make a layer cake but dropped it on its way out of the oven onto the floor in crumbles? Just walk away, just walk away. Forgot a lip gloss tube in your jeans and now the family’s laundry in the dryer in caked in sticky red goo? Just walk away, just walk away.

While not a practical lifestyle motto for those of us who do not wish to live in a pig pen, I have found this head-in-the-sand, not-my-problem, delusional sentiment to actually be a valuable island life coping strategy.

Whenever I recount some island life horror to someone, let’s say, the time I took a swig of my early morning coffee and a squirming cockroach washed into my mouth, the listener will often respond, aghast, with, “How can you even go on living? I’d die. I’d literally die. And move! And I’d never drink coffee again.” And while I understand the feeling – it was certainly my first line of thought in the moment as well – I do cherish the good parts of island life too much to allow these everyday abominations to put me on a plane running for less bug-y pastures. I needed a better management strategy than death – or worse, life without coffee. I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the rock win. And thus, I have adopted a version of Natalie’s childhood mantra as my own island-style coping mechanism that I call Disgust, Adjust, Delude. Here’s how it works:

ISLAND LIFE HORROR: You sip your coffee and a squirming cockroach washes into your mouth.
DISGUST: Immediately spit it out, spewing coffee all over your desk. Gag, and gag some more, and then barf if you need to.
ADJUST: Never drink a cup of coffee in the dark without a lid on it again.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, drinking coffee, never allowing yourself to think about that feeling in your mouth – ever. Just walk away, just walk away. 

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ISLAND LIFE HORROR: The restaurant/bar you’ve chosen for lunch is unapologetically out of: everything fried, anything salad, all fish, club soda, tonic, and tomatoes. That leaves the only food option for you as a hamburger bun with a slice of American cheese.
DISGUST: Shake your head with your dining mates. Mutter a disgruntled, “Seriously?!” to yourself.
ADJUST: Order the damn cheese sandwich – with an extra side of tequila.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, returning optimistically to the same restaurant a week later for lack of other options, never allowing yourself to go there craving anything specific – ever. Just walk away, just walk away. 

ISLAND LIFE HORROR: You step on a scorpion in the dark in your bedroom. Barefoot. Its guts are squished on your skin, and you have been stung.
DISGUST: Wave your girlish hands in the air whilst yelling, “Eeeeeeww!! Owww!!”
ADJUST: Start carrying a flashlight to shine in your path whenever you’re walking between your bed and the bathroom at night.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, walking with confidence, never allowing yourself to fret over where scorpions may lurk – ever. Just walk away, just walk away. 

ISLAND LIFE HORROR: You are picking up a shipment off the ferry dock on a heavy cruise ship day and are forced to make small talk with a sweaty, shirtless 300lb man who’s wearing only a Speedo.
DISGUST: Keep your sunglasses on and do your best to never glance downward. Eye contact is your only friend.
ADJUST: Next time, try your best to wait in the car until the last possible moment and when you do emerge, always be on your cell phone – even if you’re talking to no one.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, treading amongst the cruise shippers with confidence, never allowing yourself to think about the inappropriate things you have seen in Speedos – ever. Just walk away, just walk away.

ISLAND LIFE HORROR: You watch people lustily eating fried chicken with their fingers on the ferry. They lick the grease off their hands and proceed to touch the seats, the doors, and the railings that you have also already touched.
DISGUST: Hold your hands tightly in your lap, careful not to touch anything else unnecessarily. Purse your lips like a judgmental church lady and put in your earbuds to block out the lip-smacking sounds around you.
ADJUST: Carry baby wipes with you on all future ferry rides and refuse to be embarrassed by your meat juice remnants sanitation procedures.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, taking the ferries as you must, never allowing yourself to think about what people look like sucking on chicken bones again – ever. Just walk away, just walk away. 

ISLAND LIFE HORROR: You reach to grab onto a railing and grab onto a snake instead.
DISGUST: Recoil your hand and jump back as it slithers away.
ADJUST: Improve your balance through yoga so that your need for handrails decreases notably.
DELUDE: Pretend that it’s impossible that this could ever happen to you again. Go on with your merry island life, grabbing onto rails with confidence when needed with your eyes first, never allowing yourself to think about the icky snakeskin feeling on your fingertips again – ever. Just walk away, just walk away. 

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Feel free to use this little technique for whatever island horrors that may befall you. Have a recent humorous horror you’d like to share? Insert it in the form of “Disgust, Adjust, Delude” in the comments below!

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Chrissann Nickel

About Chrissann Nickel

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood's imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website,, or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

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24 thoughts on “Island-style Coping Mechanism: Disgust, Adjust, Delude

  1. Excellent attitude. And also, there are lots of disgustable moments in mainland life, too. It’s just that distance make those moments fade, like absence makes the heart grow fonder.

  2. Haha, love it! Disgust Adjust Delude~ DAD I have to share this on FB, Thank you, for the laugh but also truths!

  3. Greatly appreciated read, as I sit in the 6th snow storm of the year, missing home on st thomas….and thinking of the massive 7″ tarantula that kept me company on saturday night till the cavalry arrived, I can usually deal with anything, but that mother was just too big, too fluffy and shining with health….and fast.

  4. Thank you, Chrisann. I really needed that today on this rock. Until now, I’ve been struggling with the fact that I can’t “fix” every problem and have been trying to make do with the traditional polish saying “not my circus, not my monkies.” But I really must say “disgust, adjust, delude” is just SO much better and I really love “Oh, really? You know what that sounds like? Not my problem.” Yes, indeed, when it comes to life on a rock, sometimes ignorance is bliss 😉

  5. One of your great ones, Chrissann!( and there are many). You manage to teach us all about something important in life while at the same time making us laugh.
    Disgust:Going to an island bureaucrat who has a signed form I must have to prove I am a human being ( in order to get Residence Status in this example). Being told by this head honcho bureaucrat that he knows the signed, approved form is somewhere but has not been able to find it. Come back later.he says. Disgusted, I know , and am proven right in a few hours, that later will be a repeat.

    Adjust: Tell my equally important local friend about the smug bureaucrat. . She tells me to go back to said honcho and tell him that she, his cousin, will come to his office, herself, personally kick his ass to Hell and back if he doesn’t find my form. Guess what?It suddenly appears.

    Delude: Telling myself that this happened to me because ( at the time) I was new to life on a rock. That there will never be a repeat because , well, because, –I will just be too seasoned and too integral a part of island life. Ha again! ( and now it is ten years later)

    Better to just walk away, just walk away ( each time) –and find a friend OR
    walk away inside my head , telling myself how wallowing in disgust, worry and ,even plans and plots, might take me too far from where I really want to be.

    • Thanks so much, Mary! That’s a good one, looks like you’ve got the hang of it. Perhaps time to head back to the islands now that you’re such a master 😉

  6. Thank you for labeling this so neatly…..I’ve used pretty much the same methods and they are working…..With Cockroaches I have re-named them Coconut Bugs….No many of my friends and neighbors refer to them the same and we are doing fine by this……And yes we “just walk away” from the Coconut Bugs.

  7. I had a large rat drop from the rafters onto my face when I was growing up….it sent me running from my bedroom without said flashlight…stepping on a cockroach which popped and spewed its guts.

    I slept on my parents bed for a week before I recovered from the trauma!

    Thanks for the memory–I think!

  8. Love the attitude! I too just no longer notice the little gecko poop on the counters and bats flying in and out of my house at night. We all live happily together! However this week known as Semana Santa..Holy Week in Central America, they flock to our beautiful beaches on Roatan. They all seem to have the attitude of “just walk away” and leave behind all their trash on our once beautiful beaches. Yep the clean up begins when they all head back to the mainland.

    • Years ago I was disgusted when locals left all kinds of garbage on a beach on a ‘unnamed’ rock. One of the expats “defended” them saying until very recently, they never had anything that was covered in paper, plastic, etc. everything was wrapped and transported in biodegradable material like banana leaves so it would just decompose. Still didn’t like the litter and welcomed the litter campaign that later spouted up but it did provide an interesting context. Now, 30 years later, I’m less tolerant of discarded trash. Now if we can only find a great way to deal with the overabundant use of plastic bags ….. Upscale recycling, anyone?

  9. I frequently ‘walk away, just walk away’ from so many things. The most recent is the bugs in the spaghetti that float to the top when you boil them. I don’t even pick them out anymore.

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