I spent this past holiday weekend at my oldest daughter’s apartment two hours from home spending time with her and her fiancé, going over some last minute wedding details, and trying to add at least a little bit of color to this pathetically pale Floridian.
So one day, while my daughter was working and my son fished off the pier, I lay on the beach for awhile. It was while sitting there trying to contort myself into unnatural positions to apply sunscreen that I realized nothing spoke “widowed and alone at the beach” louder than that. I’m sure I looked rather ridiculous, and I know I felt ridiculous, but I was also able to find the humor in the situation.
I could only imagine what I must have looked like to anyone nearby – the pasty, chunky, middle-aged blonde rolling around on her blanket, twisting and stretching and trying to reach those parts of her back she hadn’t had to reach in years was probably a rather comical sight to see.
When it became too warm, I would splash in the waves for a bit and then be forced to return to my blanket for a repeat performance of the Mongolian contortionist who lacks true flexibility and grace. But while I was in the water, occasionally being tossed around by a wave and losing my footing, and one time being smacked in the face so hard, I inhaled water into my sinuses, I started thinking about the difference between support and a crutch.
See, my husband was always by my side at the beach. If I were going into the water, he was right there for me to hang onto. He was my anchor, both figuratively and literally. As we would stroll into the surf, I would grip his bicep and he would ensure that I stayed upright. As we jumped the waves, he would hold my hand. Often times, he would pick me up, my arms wrapped around his neck and head resting on his shoulder, as we just stood in the water. I didn’t have to be strong or alert because he was enough of each for both of us.
Without him, I was forced to pay attention or risk snorting salt water. On my own, it was necessary to stand firm and face whatever came my way. Without my tether, I chanced being swept away by the waves. But at the same time, I was free. I leaned back and floated through the crystal water, my face toward the sun. I giggled when I stood looking out toward the horizon, lost my footing and had to regain it again. And I laughed out loud (and probably looked more certifiable than ever) when I got hit in the backside by a wave as I was returning to the shore; I laughed, looked toward the sky, and said under my breath “you brat!” I just know it was A trying to be cute.
Much like a child who has to learn how to ride a bike without training wheels, though, I had to do the whole beach day on my own, and there was a sense of pure joy that I could.
Obviously, I wish it were possible to still have my husband’s support (at least in the physical sense, because I do feel his spirit with me often), but if I have to face this world on my own, there’s a certain sense of uninhibited lightheartedness in knowing that it’s possible. That I not only can do things alone that I never really had to before, but that I can actually enjoy them.
If nothing else, I’m being forced into learning more about myself and what I like and dislike. As odd as that sounds coming from a woman pushing 50, so much of what I have done in the past was filtered through a different lens. There was always another person to acknowledge, another opinion to take into consideration. While that is also one of the best parts of a relationship, not having to do so challenges me to really try to understand myself – my likes, my dislikes, my wants, desires, dreams…
As ridiculous as it may sound, I’m trying to relearn how to listen to my own instincts and tune out the outside distractions. I’ve long said that the world would be a better place if people spent more time trying to be childlike and less time being childish. Far too much effort is spent on throwing adult-sized temper tantrums when one doesn’t get their own way, and not enough effort into simply enjoying the little pleasures in life. I need more moments of running through the rain.
Remember when you were a kid and nothing beat an afternoon running barefoot through the grass playing Tag or running through the sprinklers, especially when it ended with a frozen ice pop that dripped down your elbows as you ate it because it was just so darned hot? You didn’t think about being tired. You didn’t think about how sweaty you were. You didn’t even worry about your dirty feet and sticky forearms.
You focused on the exhilaration of simply being with friends. You screeched with delight as the ice cold water hit your skin. You closed your eyes and tasted the “flavors” of red, purple, orange or blue. You simply enjoyed being in the moment.
That’s what I felt when I was being (mildly) tossed around by the waves this weekend. I felt free and in the moment and it hearkened back to my youth when I could spend hours climbing trees and catching frogs, riding my bike down to the patch of wild blueberries and eating my fill, or even wandering through the woods and making up stories in my head. I wasn’t thinking about bills that needed to be paid or how much I weighed or even what was for dinner. And it was pure bliss!
I understand we can’t be completely ignorant of our responsibilities as adults, but perhaps we can learn to sometimes just let some of that all go for a short period of time. Allow ourselves to be a kid again and temporarily put all those worries down because they may not seem as important or daunting when you’re done.
But even if they are, you may just find them easier to deal with with a lighter heart.
© 2017 Many Faces of Cheri G All Rights Reserved