I spent a few days at Hilton Head Island this past week with my three sons. We used to go there every spring break. My late husband would pack shovels and buckets for some serious sand castle building and hole digging, and he would mount our bikes on the bike rack while I’d pack tennis racquets, cute outfits, sunscreen and books to read. From my beach chair, while being completely still, I loved watching my husband and the boys play in the waves.
I knew this trip would be different this time. We still packed shovels and buckets and tennis gear, and I got a hitch installed on my little car so I could bring our bikes, but all I wanted was for us to be together and be present to each other. I brought my iron cast skillet, my crepe pan and my favorite knives so I could do what I do best – make delicious homemade meals and gather with my sons at a table.
We had no schedule, no plans other than to relax and soak up love in whatever form it showed up to each of us (yea, it can even be through a video game – it was so good to hear all three of them play a game together and laugh!)
When I was ready, I went to the Ocean. The cold wind felt good on my face – I was comfortably wrapped up in layers of winter clothing, and I was happy. A thought – “my healing place” – appeared in my mind. “My healing place,” I whispered audibly and breathed it all out as I wished to be healed right there.
Grief… stress… pressure… a sense of overwhelming responsibility… achiness and tiredness – I was feeling all this after a long winter… along with a sense that there was so much resting on my shoulders and a feeling that I alone can not deliver (whether it’s creating more beautiful spring break memories, booking paying gigs and running a business that can support my three sons and me, or doing my part in helping those on the margins of our society).
I walked in silence for a while listening to the Ocean breathe with me. Each wave sounded like a long cleansing exhale, and I realized: it’s not breathing with me… it’s breathing for me.
I sat down and let myself be… enjoying that moment of awareness that we are never alone. I immersed myself into knowing that the only times we feel disconnected and alone are those times when we get too busy, when we get in our own way, or when unprocessed trauma blocks the connection.
I calmed down my mind and let the Ocean comfort me. Here is what it taught me:
1. Life, like tides, is constantly changing. No use resisting it. Let yesterday’s sand castles be swept away, and don’t get discouraged from building new ones today.
2. The Ocean, like the human spirit, has no borders. No one can build a wall on the surface of the Ocean – the lines on the world map are drawn by humans. Like fears that keep our spirit within a ‘safe’ boundary or the boxes in front of lists to be accomplished and checked off, these lines aren’t real. Beyond the everyday responsibilities, there is a larger picture in which togetherness and oneness are a lot more important.
3. Listen, don’t talk. Don’t try to always find answers. Clarity comes when we take obstacles and clutter away. There is no clutter on the Ocean’s surface. When I remove it from my life (and my own mind), I can see farther out.
4. The Ocean and I, like everything else in the universe, are connected… My tears were at some point water that was crashing on the shore where I now sat. I couldn’t be both a part of something bigger and alone at the same time.I reflected on these lessons and felt gratitude sweep over me. I felt relieved, supported and loved (by Love and Life itself.)
Before I left the beach that day, I went a step further… yes, the Ocean was healing my spirit, but I also needed it to heal my body. (The Ocean air is rich with beneficial iodine, and the sun’s rays help us produce vitamin D.) I took a few deep breaths, braved the cold wind and took off some layers of clothing to expose my skin. I knew that healing could not happen without vulnerability, humility and letting go of my protective layers.
We left Hilton Head at sunrise and arrived in Tennessee at sunset – which I thought was just perfect (and a little bit of a miracle since we had a few meetings in between AND drove through Atlanta traffic 🙂 ).
As we pulled into our driveway, I smiled… no, our trip was not the same as the ones before… but none are ever the same… AND, the best part? We left in winter and we arrived home in spring. How renewing!
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