I’ve had this thing ever since I was little and I’d go to camp. I’d have fun for the first couple of days, but once I was past the midpoint of the trip I’d start to get anxiety. I knew in a few days I’d have to go home and there was a lot of stress at home and I felt so GOOD being away from home! This mindset has followed me into adulthood, and my trip to Australia was no exception. About halfway through I started to wonder how I could live in Australia, and not go back to Boston. Honestly. I started thinking how could I make money, and live right here in a little apartment right on Coogee beach? The truth is, home, no matter where I live has been a problem for me because HOME IS A MINDSET! The saying “Home is where your heart is” isn’t too far off actually. The problem was my heart had been hurt a lot at my home in Boston…and I knew very well I couldn’t live at Coogee beach…So I had to start thinking of what I could do to take some of what I was learning back home with me.
In this post, I’m going to be talking about the things you can bring back with you that are going to be more life-changing than anything you can fit into your suitcase!
Once I’d get down to the beach I started my ritual. I’d sit there on the steps and breath. I’d watch the waves crashing on the sand. I’d smell the air. I’d listen to the people and the birds. Then I’d walk down to the waves and I would feel the sand and the cool water splash against my feet. Then I’d sit down….I’d sit down and just watch all this. I’d take it into my soul. I’d think, today, this is your life you can make it whatever you want it to be. Then, I’d take a stick, or twig, one time it was the inside of a ballpoint pen that I had found, and I would start writing in the sand the things I wanted to release that day. Sometimes I’d write a word, sometimes several words like fear of the future, anxiety, depression, anger, self-hatred, and I’d watch as waves came up and washed those things away. I’d think, one wave to take them, and one wave to bring me back what I needed. So for self-hatred (because I hated where I was emotionally during this time), the wave would take it, and then the next wave would bring me back self-compassion. I’d give the ocean (and God) my anxiety and the next wave would be handing me peace. It helped me so much. For me it was spiritual. I pictured the waves as the visible hands of God and as I wrote these things I let my soul speak them out and be thankful for the gifts I got in return. Then I’d get up, and go into the ocean. I’d imagine it as washing off all that was from the day before, all my nightmares and doubts I had woken up with came off with every wave. Then when my soul felt ready, I’d leave. I’d walk up the sandy beach and get my stuff, and head to my little Airbnb. I’d shower as almost a final cleansing (I’m leaving what I gave to the ocean with the ocean), and I’d get dressed for the day.
You need to think of something similar. What do you find renewing? Is it walking in the city? Is it hiking? Swimming? Going to the beach? Going to the desert? and what can you do to bring your healing out into the open where you can see it, release it, and leave it, and finally can you bring something else that you actually want back home?
I brought a water bottle full of Coogee Sand with me Home and I like to still write things I want to receive for the day in it. In the winter it’s not pleasant at the beach in Massachusetts, so, instead of releasing my baggage to waves, I’d write it on a piece of paper, pray and ask God to take what’s bothering me and then burn it. You will have to make a ritual unique to you and your beliefs, but it’s so worth it to start your day off with intention.
So…I almost drowned while I was there! I’m laughing as I write this because it sounds so horrible, but once out of the situation I didn’t think it was that bad. On Coogee, they don’t have lifeguards as they do on the nearby (and world famous) Bondi beach. And I was swimming so early in the morning it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. I don’t know where you live, but I grew up in Florida, and my mother taught me not only how to swim and float but she told me a little about how to get out of a rip tide (not that I remember many happening on Clearwater Beach)…She told me to not fight it, save my energy, because when I’m swept out to sea, I’ll need that to paddle in, and to paddle adjacent to shore rather than straight toward it to get back.
So it was early in the morning, I went down to Coogee, and I did my ritual of writing what I wanted in the sand. I was having a particularly emotionally rough morning, and I just didn’t feel right. But I did my thing anyway, and I went to “wash off” my worries of the day. I wasn’t paying attention to where the waves were dragging me, and before I knew it I was barely touching the bottom with my feet and then the tide started coming in…which meant BIG waves. I’ve never in my life seen waves as big as these especially with our waves coming from the Gulf of Mexico, but people leave the US, to come to Australia for surfing competitions, so these waves while still pretty small in comparison to surfing waves were HUGE to me. I remember when the first one hit me. I had tried to go under it like I had seen the locals do, and rather than popping up on the other side, it was so powerful it had slung me on my side and rolled me. I could feel it pulling me out, away from shore as I tried to remember which way was up. Finally, it stopped and I bobbed to the surface only to have enough time to grab a gulp of air before the next wave hit, and rolling me again. From somewhere deep in my childhood memories my mother’s voice told me, “don’t fight it, remember you’ll need your strength to come to shore”, so I went limp, tried to stay calm. When I came to the surface this time I gasped, I had been under a while, and while my feet touched the ground I was so disoriented and I could feel the water and the sand getting sucked into yet another big wave which caught me again, as I tried to swim to shore. I remember thinking “I’m getting tired not from swimming, but from trying to hold my breath!” I could remember my lungs burning, as I was rolled again in the surf. This time I tried to focus on trying to get my feet under me as best as I could so when I did get air I could scramble for shore! That moment came and I half ran, swam and crawled onto the beach. I didn’t care that I was now gross burping with the amount of air I had tried to pack inside me, I didn’t care that I had sand in my hair and I was a mess, I felt solid land. I remember being so tired I did not go far up on shore…just where the waves every now and then touched my feet as if threatening to pull me back.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had such a bad hangover, that the thought “I will never drink again” has passed through your mind, but that’s what happened with me and this ocean. I had a moment of “I could have died. This is stupid, I love land and breathing too much, I’m never going back in there” I was also having a fairly angry mental conversation with my maker (whom I was in my opinion, very close to meeting) which sounded a lot like “Is that it? I come out here trying to make a good day and you want me to die?!?!”. Around that time, a kid came up to me he was around 3 or 4 years old…He asked me why I wasn’t in the water anymore. I decided not to traumatize him and just told him it was really cold. He was like “You’ll get use to that! You should get back in the water!”. I smiled and told him that I was kind of tired (leaving out the “Oh my god I almost drowned kid, and I’m happy to be on land bit”. He was so sweet and persistent and he had no idea that I almost drowned….also I realized he was going to be my motivational speaker for the next hour if I didn’t move, so that’s what I did….I was like “okay, fine. I’ll go back in the water. Thanks buddy (where the hell are your parents?)” and I dragged myself up and went back into the water…I was thinking about what had happened which was me angrily think- yelling at God to give me a sign of what was expected of me with my life, and then this kid had come up, saying very persistently for me to get up and get back in the water. The sign was, if life knocks you down, makes you cold and tries to kill you, you get back up and try again.
So the lesson I give to you is like that little kid. I don’t know what’s happened in your past. I don’t know what’s happened to try to drown you in this life, I don’t know what has brought you to need a vacation, but I do know that you can’t stop here. You have to get up, and no matter how big, or scary, or cold those waves of life look, you need to get back in there and embrace them. Maybe that means finding a therapist you love and having them help you. Maybe that means rethinking your life and being in a way baptized by your problems only to emerge from the troubles trying to drag you out to sea as a new and better person. The theme here is to NEVER, EVER, EVER GIVE UP ON YOURSELF, OR LIMIT YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU’VE BEEN HURT. Don’t lock yourself away. Don’t stay on the beach, or in your home and watch others live their lives…You have a fine life to live too!
No matter where you go, whether it is in your home, in another part of your country or state, or to the other side of the world, there is magic to be had if you’d only see it right in front of you. I’ve experienced this in Provincetown, which is on the tip of the hook part of Massachusetts (about two hours away from my home). If you make an effort to connect with your senses, see what your eyes are looking at, actually make an effort to smell what you smell in the air, feel what you feel, taste the food you eat, you will start to see how much of life we don’t actually live in. You don’t need to go to the other side of the planet for that. You can start that right now, right here. Take in the smells of the food you cook today, if you’re a parent, take in the feeling of a hug from your kids, pay attention to what you watch and ask yourself is it making you feel better or worse, and if it’s worse, then change it or leave the room and find something else to do that makes you happy, because when you’re happy, even if it’s just for a moment, you can pass that happiness on to someone else, like passing a candle flame to another candle.
Where ever you are and whatever you plan to do with yourself today, please know you’re worth it. You’re worth good things. You’re worth love. You’re worth living and you’re worth investing in.
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