When I was growing-up, my family spent memorable summers at the Jersey Shore building sandcastles to be washed away again and again by the thundering surf. Now that I live on the beach in Florida, I learned that in addition to all of the fun associated with a day at the beach, the event has many lessons to teach.
You see, what most people, who only go to the beach for the day or a week may not realize, is that the beach is not always a beautiful place. It's a completely unique beach every single day. One morning, you walk along the shoreline and your feet are warmed and massaged by smooth sand. The seashells you find are all perfect, whole treasures, and the waves are just big enough to tickle your soul as they carry you, giggling like a lover, safely back to shore.
Other mornings, the beach is littered with ghastly, stinging jellyfish. Your toes are stabbed and scratched by jagged shells. Your arms and legs get bound and tangled in webs of foul-smelling seaweed. Overpowering waves batter you and spit in your face, stinging your eyes, forcing tears, as you struggle find your balance.
Sometimes, you smell a rotting fish that sea gulls, which a day before appeared so graceful and beautiful, are fighting brutally amongst themselves to salvage. One flies away celebrating with a sinister laugh as it carries bloody chunks. You can't imagine that you were deceived into seeing it as a dove once.
Despite its cosmic beauty and its gloomy ugliness, its daily certainty and its growing mystery, the one thing that the ocean has taught me to remember in life is consistency. No matter what happens; no matter what my marital or income status; no matter what time of the year it is, the waves keep rolling into the shore and out to the sea--over and over, with nothing to stop it, forever and ever into all eternity.
As we move through “our times” often made bleaker by the media, we must realize that there are always going to be wonderful days of smooth sands that form perfect shells of memories. Likewise, there will also be days where the dull sky and murky water seem to meet to form endless grey. Like the surf rolling in and out, what you must keep in your mind and in your heart is what remains constant. Here is what I have learned:
First, you are never alone. Let the waves remind you of the support of your family; regardless of how your family is defined. If you don’t have a family in the traditional sense, know that you will always be part of the human family and someone is here for you. Take the risk and let someone know that you need help. I promise a pool of support will be captured by your openness.
Second, as you weigh the burdensome questions and decisions, stand firmly on the shores of the core values of honesty, trustworthiness, respect, fairness, and compassion. These will always keep you afloat, above the bottom feeders, who will eventually be consumed by larger scum.
Finally, if pressure seems so great that you think that you can't possibly make it another day, just close your eyes and remember the sounds of the ocean. Listen in on your soul for the greater than you waves rolling in and rolling out that have been there everyday since your birth. Your worrying will never change or impact that in any way. No problem in your life will ever be more significant than the tiny grains of sand. They are continuously stripped from the shore as the wave rolls out and redeposited in a completely different circumstances, as the tide rolls in. Nothing will ever interrupt that rhythm. Tomorrow will still come, and you will be able to face it.
This is the give and take of life. It reminds us to appreciate and celebrate our rightful place as children of the universe. ALL the rest is just some crazy sunscreen—colorless, meaningless, layers that we apply as humans. It's as if we think we actually have the power to combat forces as powerful as the sun. Put your hand up to stop the glare of electronic humanity and look within.
Surrender. Grab a beer. Sit in a beachy chair. Close your eyes. Remember what matters.