It was ten years before I realized why I hated going to the beach.
I couldn’t put my finger on it. The beach had always been a great place to go to relax. The beach was always a place of adventure. The beach was always a place to forget stuff.
Only I wasn’t forgetting one Big problem… a grief.
The Beach as Destination
Beaches are important destinations for a whole lot of us. We pick the one closest to us and call it “the beach.” Doesn’t matter what beach it actually is; we are on holiday, walkabout, or en vacance. The going there and the getting there are what’s important!
The first weekend after I got my license, I took my girl to Rhode Island for a day at the beach.
We played volleyball on the beach. We danced on the beach to “our song” and I gave her a going steady ring. I got my first speeding ticket at the beach. Despite the ticket, we still had a great time!
The Beach as Escape
Sometimes you have to leave yourself behind in order to see yourself in a newer, fresher light. Going to the beach always did that for me – it was my touchstone.
There was a period when I needed to leave the country for a host of reasons. Things had gotten crazy in our culture: the politics were hateful, the economy was in the tank, and people were getting restless and doing stupid, violent things.
I was curious about other places and how people lived elsewhere. I needed another perspective on how to live life and be happy and productive and sane and all the things I was brought up to be.
I wanted to do right, but I needed to escape and think things out a bit. My wife felt this too. We both needed to escape for a while.
The beach always seemed like a good escape from everyday worries and cares. So we packed up our things and got jobs in a far-off island paradise surrounded by beaches.
We created careers and prospered. We sailed and dived, and climbed trees to harvest coconuts. We lived among strangers who would soon become friends.
We experienced life in another culture and learned a fresh perspective on ours. Escaping made all the difference: we found our spiritual centers, recharged our souls, and returned to the states better people. Escaping to an island of beaches had made this all possible.
The Beach as Pain
There was a time when I avoided the beach as if it were The Plague. Sure, I took my kids and watched them play with the gulls, the sand, and other children. And I took them to the rides and other attractions that parents take their kids to when at the beach.
And I packed picnic lunches and slathered sun protection on them and lifeguarded their forays into the water and drove them home while they slept. I was their dad.
I was alone. Their mom, my life companion, was dead. There was no time to reflect on this, only the vast wasteland of Time and what seemed like an eternity of pain and grief. I did the steadfast tin soldier act for my children’s sake.
I had become unplugged from my touchstone, the beach.
The Beach As Therapy
I needed time to heal, but no one in this eternal frozen moment knows that at that point. One needs to pass through it and then look back to realize the power of unrelenting Time.
A special place helps catalyze the process. For me, that was the beach.
The beach became a source of painful memory, and then, a place of reflection. I gave it permission to heal me, and over time its waves cleansed my pain.
The Inner Beach
We cannot fully credit a place with our success any more than we can completely blame it for our failure. A location serves only as a catalyst for our inner spark to flame up and burn brightly.
For me as a child, the beach was my catalyst. All things wonderful happened at the beach. Mysteries existed at the beach. Tremendous energies were unleashed at the beach. I released my inner child because of the beach, and I grew from that.
For me, as an adult, the beach became my therapist. All things nagging, painful, potentially toxic washed away in its unrelenting waves. Even that one big, big hurt. But I first had to give it permission to enter and heal.
And one day I realized that the beach wasn’t the key; it was the feeling I got from being there. I didn’t have to be there anymore if I could just remember how I felt when I was.
I realized I had tapped into an eternal truth; I had discovered my inner beach, a place I could visit without having to travel. The words from an old song by the group Boston ran through my mind:
I close my eyes, and I slip away.
The Beach is my special place, my back to ground point. I arrive at the beach, walk on the sand, smell the salt air, and I am instantly renewed.
And, if I haven’t found the time to go there, I can just look at the beach picture hanging on my office wall. Even if only for a moment, I close my eyes, and I slip away…