Here I am at our get-away house. I LOVE being here near the ocean ~ I love looking out at the water and seeing blue herons and egrets. I wait all year for the pretty pink roseate spoonbills to arrive. Being here always makes me wonder, what is it about being near the water that soothes our souls and keeps us yearning to return? Have you been to the beach lately? People flock to the beaches! What is it about this most basic substance that we find so fascinating?
There is much about the ocean that we should fear… I know how dangerous water can be… we all do, and yet the fear never keeps me away. I find the ocean so humbling. When I stand and look out at the endless water, searching for where the sea and sky meet on the horizon, I feel small and insignificant in the big scheme of things. At the same time, I feel blessed to be part of this amazing Universe.
On a purely scientific basis, I get it… our human body cannot survive without water. W.H. Auden put it very clearly when he said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.” But it is more than that. People constantly write about the fascination we have for something as simple and fundamental as water. We can trace our connection to water all throughout human history in art, music, architecture, and literature; certainly wiser men than I have written astute words and poetic verses about it. Kurt Vonnegut is quoted as saying, “In the water, I am beautiful.”
So, what is it we are truly seeking at the water’s edge? Perhaps it is a mental “holiday” from the stress of our technology-driven lives. Perhaps we need to reconnect with nature in its original state. When I listen to the rhythmic sound of the waves rolling in, I feel my mind and my whole body take a sigh and relax. What I know for sure is that when the sea speaks, my soul is satisfied.
Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of the “holding pen” at the airport? When I was there a few weeks ago, I was struck by the level of noise…human noise. I tend to keep to myself. I’m one of those folks that follow the rules…you know, those unwritten rules like, “You don’t talk in elevators.”
However, that rule definitely does not apply at airports. Complete strangers all around me were striking up conversations, “Where are you headed?” “Where are you from?” “Who are you visiting?” “Have you been there before?” “Let me show you pictures of my ______(fill in the blank: grandbaby, dog, Halloween costume…).
Apparently the airport is a place where it is acceptable to talk nonstop to people you don’t know about stuff that nobody really cares about. What drives that behavior? Why do we have such a strong need to connect with those around us? Does the shared human experience reassure us that we’re “okay”? What is it about the temporary circumstance of waiting at an airport, sitting at the stadium, or standing in line at the theme park that makes us open up?
I believe that each of us value the comfort we feel when a common experience is shared and a connection is made. We were created to be social animals and as such, we rely on our five senses to let us know where we stand. When we feel another’s touch, hear a comforting voice, smell our mother’s favorite perfume, share a meal, or see people standing in line beside us, we are reassured that we fit in, we are safe, we are accepted. I am constantly reminded that, in spite of the sad and scary daily news reports, ~people are good…~people are caring…~people are kind. And therefore, I am blessed.
No one likes change but a wet baby…Why? Change is hard. However, in order to change ourselves, we have to change our thinking. We need to rescript our self-image. For many of us, when we hit record on our self-talk and then play back the recording, what do we hear? Too often it is negative: “My skin is bad”…”My thighs have cellulite”…”My feet are too wide for pretty shoes”…”I am plain…I am …I am…I am…”
The list of negative descriptors goes on and on. So, the first challenge is how to rewrite the messages we send ourselves. Why? Because everything that follows, ” I am…” is manifested in our lives. What are some positive statements? “I am capable”… “I am organized”… “I am trustworthy”… “I am kind”…”I am efficient”.
Hmmm…closer, but still not on target. These are more about what we do than who we are. Let’s try again. “I am lovable”…”I am smart”…”I am pretty”. Okay…those sound better. Problem is, we struggle to believe the positive about ourselves. So, what is the solution? Make these statements a mantra. Repeat them until they become part of our emotional “muscle memory”. Like an athlete, we must keep practicing until it becomes the norm. Cheers!
When I was a little girl I used to love Show and Tell; Show and Tell was on Friday and I couldn’t wait to see what everyone would bring. Meanwhile, I would worry all week about what I should pack up and lug off to school that day.
The kids in my class brought in lots of cool stuff…stuffed animals missing an ear, dolls with hideous hair sticking up or falling out, shiny new galoshes, a rhinestone necklace from the carnival, a gerbil that bit somebody, a hideous lime green sweater knitted by someone’s grandma…the list goes on and on.
In spite of all the ridiculous stuff, we just loved getting a sneak peak into the lives of our friends. And at the same time we loved deciding what little tidbit of our lives we would share each week.
Travel forward fifty years…here I am doing the same exact thing! Yup, Facebook is really just Show and Tell for adults. Admit it, you love looking at the pictures and videos of what’s going on in your friends’ lives. You love reading and commenting about what’s going on with everybody. And I bet I’m right…you like deciding what to share on Facebook.
We are social animals and our connections are so important. Those connections reassure us that we are “okay”. So, to all my friends on Facebook…keep sharing. I love feeling close to you even though so many of you are far away!
This is the post excerpt.
This was written several years ago. Since it was written, my mom has passed away. However, the sentiments still hold true. I continue to struggle with how to go about downsizing my stuff without downsizing my dreams.
I have decided that disassembling a person’s life is one of the most emotionally taxing things I’ve had to do. This week I am in New Mexico helping my sister move my mother out of her home and into my sister’s home. My mother’s condo is filled with a myriad of items collected and loved over a lifetime of 94 years.
We have to do considerable downsizing in order to make this move. The two of us are sitting side by side, pulling items out one at a time and passing judgement – Goodwill – Garbage – Keep – knowing that each item we discard is something that she has loved enough to hold on to.
So, how do we decide? I don’t know. Is the tattered teddy bear a treasure or is it trash? Is it something that she loved and was comforted by as a child or is it something she picked up on QVC a few years ago that was made to look old?
As the Goodwill and Garbage piles grow, so does my sense of sadness. This is a metaphor for life. As we age, we do downsize our lives. My mom has moved from a 4000 square foot house to a 1000 square foot condo, and now to a 120 square foot room.
I realize that I have downsized too. When I was twenty, I had grand visions of how I would change the world. Today, I pray to make a difference in one child’s life. I have downsized my dreams. So I’m sitting here wondering if this is a mistake… if I should continue to dream big, or if I’m setting myself up for failure by trying to achieve 20 year old dreams with a 60 year old body.
I’ve cried this week. I’m not sure if I’m crying over my mom’s stuff, or if I’m crying for myself as I face my own personal downsizing. I suspect it is a bit of both. What I am comforted by is the fact that as the volume of my mother’s “stuff” is reduced, the love she has from those of us around her is not. There is no downsizing there, and so she is still a very lucky 94 year old.