As I walked down the misty beach, I was reminded of so many other days spent walking with my feet covered in sand, my hair blown back, and the worries of the world pushed away by the rolling surf and clear horizon. It wasn’t your traditional beach day, fog and mist held the temperatures down and the sun struggled to break free from the gray. But, for me, it was a perfect beach day. A day to reconnect me, to myself and the younger me who walked miles and miles on empty beaches letting the sharp edges of life be worn smooth by the effect of wind, sand, and sea.
On some of the worst days of my life, I’ve turned to the ocean. The pounding surf, the cry of the hovering gulls, and a brisk wind that can whisk away the everydayness of my life.
As a Navy Brat, we lived close to the water. The smell of salt, the moist wind, the sound of waves in the distance feels like home. When Keith and I met, I made sure he knew that I didn’t ever want to live more than an hour or two from the sea. He laughed at me after our first walk on the beach. He meticulously tried to get every piece of stray sand off his toes before he replaced his socks and shoes, while I shoved my sandy feet into my sneakers happy to take the remnants of our beach day home.
I don’t know when it happened, that I forgot how much I needed the shore. In the daily-ness of my life, in the raising of kids, and the long slow blur of time there seem to be a lot of things I forgot. In the week before my surgery, when I was thinking about what I needed to show up as healthy and whole as I possibly could… the ocean called to me. I knew I needed to walk the beach, feel the sand between my toes, and watch the slow unfurling of waves. As Keith and I sat and surveyed the far horizon, tears fell into the sand. I let the wind wipe them away as I gathered strength for the work ahead.
In the months since my recovery. I have been considering how clarifying that moment was in my life. With the surgery date before me, there were just a few things I was absolutely certain about. I knew what I needed to be strong body and soul. In order to do that, I needed time near the ocean.
Somehow, along the way, I forgot how much I love to walk by the sea. Not forgot really, but adjusted myself to new realities. I took my cues from the needs of my family, my husband, and the needs of the wider world. It just sort of fell off my list. I can’t remember the last time I walked the length of the beach.
I think there are a lot of things like this, in my life. Places where I just stop showing up for what I love. No one did this to me, life just got busy, and other priorities took precedence. It wasn’t a vast conspiracy, but a slow forgetting. A forgetfulness about the things that make me… me. In some ways, it feels like I fell off my list. As my life was overwhelmed with the needs of other humans, it became easy to put aside my own needs and desires. Not forever, just until things settled down. The problem was, things never really settled down.
Being diagnosed with cancer produced a shattering effect in my life. Not a large external shattering, but a soft pop as the pieces of my internal world quietly fell to the ground. Over the past few months, I’ve been wandering back and forth over the landscape searching for these broken shards. They’ve been worn by sand and tide, by life and time. They’ve been scattered, buried by sand, and lost for a time.
I find myself gathering up pieces, little slices of my life and offering them again as an offering. Thank you. For the chance to be this, do this thing, love this way. And then spending time praying about how these pieces might fight back together. I’m certain my life moving forward, will not look the same as it did before April.
I wonder what other things were lost under the long sweep of time as we raised our family and built a life together. What elemental pieces of my life were misplaced along the way? In this season of healing and discovery, I am open to finding out. As I move through my days I am looking for the glints under the surface of my life. I am moving slow and paying attention.
As I gather up the busted pieces of my life, I feel like my pockets are filling with fragments. Memories, ways of being, thoughts about the future are spilling over. I don’t yet know how it will look, there is still time to sort through it all and make decisions that will shape my days and the contours of my heart.
For now, I am just gathering. I’m paying attention to the tiny moments and epic events that brought joy, love, and hope to my life. I’m adding these to the pile with more difficult memories, emotions, and attitudes. It seems important that nothing is lost, even if some of the things I find no longer serve me. I am gathering the fragments I will use to rebuild my life from the inside out. There is room. There is time.