Summer days were winding down, and there were storm clouds on the horizon. It was the last hurrah for a lot of people and a long-overdue one for me. How long had I talked about coming here? Months! All summer, in fact, but it turned out to be a no good, horrible three months so, this plan never came to fruition.
It didn’t matter how often I said, next week I’ll go. I even picked a day and a time. I charged my camera batteries, cleaned off my lenses, and dusted off my monopod/walking stick. Every week something else came up, and I pushed it back another week. That became two weeks, and before I knew it, the leaves were threatening to change colours, and all my best-laid plans had fallen into the gutter.
Until that moment, that is. Not only had I made a plan to go, but I recruited a good friend. It’s harder to back out of something if you have a cohort counting on you. I tricked myself into following through and doing something good for myself. Ha! Sucker. Fooled you, bwahaha.
Yeah, I know, my evil laugh needs some work. But there’s no room for evil when you’re in your happy place, and this was my happy place.
Why did I put it off for so long? Other than the obvious life stressors that were overwhelming. Some things can’t be avoided no matter how deep I stick my head into the dirt and hum loudly. Life is…Well, it’s life, and it’s unpredictable, messy and complicated.
That being said, I really should make more of an effort to get out, enjoy it. Enjoy what specifically? Life in general or anyplace located right next to the one thing that always, without fail, makes me smile. It also brings out a contented sigh, and I turn into a gooey gal. All mushy on the inside and squishy on the outside.
I don’t know what it is about large bodies of water that melt my ice cube of a heart. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work it out, and that moment was no different. I stood there, trying to rationalize the sensations, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Yeah, nothing enhances a peaceful, contented moment like intense introspection.
What’s wrong with me? Go on, I’ll wait.
While you compile a list of potential diagnoses, I’ll go back to my original query. Why do I dissolve the second I get near oceans, lakes, or rivers? Is it the sound of the seagulls circling overhead, the waves crashing into the shore, and the delighted squeal of a child splashing in the water? Is it the smell of saltwater, sunscreen, seaweed, and fish frying in a shop across the street? Or is it the sun glistening off calm water, the horizon that stretched on forever, and the smile on my dog’s face?
He’s never seen the ocean, smelt salt water, or rolled in sun-dried seaweed before. That last one was a little gross, but he smiled so wide he nearly swallowed his face. Like me, every one of his senses were tingling and tickling. Laughing, exhaling slowly, and sitting in the moment wasn’t a choice; it was an imperative.
I’m not someone who meditates all that much. Not because I think it’s silly, goofy, or too hippie-dippy. On the contrary, it’s incredibly beneficial, and it can help most people manage their mental health. As someone who’s gotten help for a mental illness (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder), it’s one of the first things I learnt to do. Control my breathing, bring my mind back into the present, and stay in the moment.
It has helped when I’m in a heightened state of anxiety, and I go back to it when I need it. It’s just not something I can do daily. For me, when I’m not in that panicked state, meditation triggers my anxiety. After three minutes of breathing, my hands ball up into fists and my jaw clenches. Five minutes in, and it feels like my brain is being eaten by microscopic zombies.
Meditation is something I avoid until I feel a panic attack coming on and, then it’s a helpful tool. If you can or have worked it into your daily to-do list? That’s brilliant. I’m a little jealous, and I wish I could make it work. Alas, nope, there are way too many zombies in my brain.
Is that weird? Am I’m doing it wrong, or am I built upside down and inside out? Do you know how to excise tiny zombies? Other than tilting my head to the side and giving it a vigorous shake. I tried that but I gave myself whiplash and a mild concussion.
Yeah, try explaining that to your doctor. I suggest leaving out the zombies. The looks of concern are unsettling. You have to laugh and say, Just kidding. Zombies? You thought I was serious? Nah, I’m just clumsy. Tripped and fell over a garden gnome. It was running away from a dragon and wasn’t watching where it was going. You know how it is. Outside is dangerous.
Despite my best efforts, traditional mediation doesn’t work for me. As much as I’d like to make it a daily habit, it’s never going to happen. I’ve given up. But what do I do now?
My mind is a caged rat running on a wheel. It’s sweaty, a little out of breath, and dehydrated. It needs a break, a rest, a complete system shut down. Someone take that damn wheel out of there and put it in storage. I know it’s kind of heavy, but you could ask the zombies to help. They’re not doing anything right now. Not since I stopped breathing with intent, that is. Quite frankly, they could use the exercise.
When I need to shut my brain up and drown out the noise with loud music. It’s so loud I can’t hear myself think. If it’s a great song? I get into the groove and pretend I’m a professional dancer on that show with those people. Believe me, I know I’m not a pro or a dancer. I look like a penguin slipping on the ice. There’s nothing graceful about me but in my head?
For a short while, I glide across an imaginary ballroom like a bejewelled butterfly. Ah, the grace, the style, the beauty. It’s unparalleled and better than that? The noise in my head is replaced by fictitious applause.
Tell me I’m not the only one who does this, please. Fine, go on, have a giggle at my expense. I’ll be over here with my headphones on, limping around my living room, jamming to a lively tune.
Or, I can go back to that beach and enjoy a moment of relaxation that’s grounded in reality. But that’s laughable, right? Like life, reality is often less than desirable. Have you turned on the news lately? It’s…damn. I think I prefer my groovy penguin routine.
Okay, no, not really because as I stood on that beach, staring out at the oncoming storm, I was grounded in reality. That reality, in that moment and at that location, was calm and tranquil. It was the first time I’d exhaled in months. I’d been holding my breath for too long. I forgot how to let it, but in that place, I got my breath back.
If we spend too much time focusing on the negatives, they become the foundations our version of reality is built on. The news is always awful. Social media makes it so much worse. Seriously, why do I read the comments? Even when it’s a happy ending news story, someone will find a dark spin to twirl. Heaven forbid we’re allowed one moment of happiness.
Arg, the people are people-ing again, and I just can’t.
As I stood on the rocky beach, my cheeks turning red in the sun, none of that mattered. Everything that happened over the summer sat in the past for the time being. My worries about the future were muted. I breathed in the salt air, listened to the kid squeal when they found a jellyfish and watched my dog try to make friends with a crab.
At that moment, life wasn’t as bad as it’s often made out to be. It wasn’t as bad as I usually assume it is. This was reality at its best. Uncomplicated, clean, simple, and innocent. What if— and I’m just spitballing here— life isn’t as bad as it seems?
When we declutter our eye line, mute the extraneous negativity, what’s left? Simplicity? Beauty? Calm?
I should leave it there, but the realist in me can’t let it go because we all know it sounds too good. Reality isn’t all roses and sunshine all the time. Those storm clouds on the horizon are moving closer. Life is still life, and it throws pies in our faces when we least expect it. Haha, so funny. Can someone get me a towel?
But there are these moments where I make a conscious effort to change my focus. I turn off the news, close down the apps on my phone, and I find a place that makes me happy. I exhale, the tension in my shoulders dissipates, my senses focus on the joyful aspects of my surroundings. I’m there, in that space, and nothing else matters.
Call it a mediative moment or a spiritual experience. You can call it self-care if the other two seem a little too hippie-dippy. Perhaps an existential realization is more in line with your philosophical views. Or we can simplify it and call it a chance to realize our need to disengage from the negatives.
For me, they’ve become too consuming. I forget that there are good, decent, brilliant things out there. The superlatives outweigh the toxic, so if I want to be happier? I need to shift my view. I need more moments like this one.
Now comes the tricky part: Actually doing it. What? Just because I have the realization doesn’t mean I have all the answers. Oo, I just got a news alert…Doh!