This is the post I was going to share, written at midday Monday, after 8 days in Sanibel, with 3 more to go:
This is going to surprise you (it surprises me; I am actually pretty embarrassed to admit it, but I promised honesty): this trip – this time, this year – was not the right choice.
It’s just as lovely here. The arc of the blue sky just as beautiful. There are countless varieties of birds; lizards, turtles, bunnies – even a 5′ long snake that glided soundlessly across my path as I walked onto the beach last evening. And the shells! Such an amazing constellation! This vacation, in fact, has all the hallmarks of “success:” for a pasty white girl, I’ve got a decent, careful tan. I’m reading 2 books at the same time, and finished 2 others. I’ve taken long walks and bike rides. I am not insensitive to this privilege, to where I am.
But I did not NEED more solitude. Sometimes being alone with your thoughts – your unanswered questions, your currently-depression-leaning, menopausal state – is not what you need at all. (Or is it? Ack, I am so confused.) Anyhow: there were a couple of really, really bad days where I felt so completely…bereft. And so terribly alone. I wrote down my lamentations and then made myself get out of the condo to move my body under those translucent, spectacular skies, to breathe the air and feel the warm sunshine…but the teflon coating of sadness was in place.
Thank God for friends and relatives I can text – which I did a lot two days ago – to say “Help! Prayers!” They offered wisdom (“remember, last year you took a long time to settle in”) and permission (“this time doesn’t have to be the same as last! Go be a tourist!”). Steve’s cousin listened and agreed that perhaps this time is different because I am more grounded in reality, more aware of the magnitude – as the shock has worn off.
I went to church yesterday, which was a very good choice, and ended up next to a woman named Cindy, whose husband died fairly suddenly 4 years ago — she told me this after brushing off my apologies for being weepy as the hymn ended and we were asked to “turn and greet your neighbor!” (oh CRAP!) She was so lovely as I sniffled. “Honey, for TWO YEARS I sat in the back row here and just cried. Every single time.” It was so good to talk to someone who gets it. I wish I had had the courage to invite her to lunch.
So: yeah. That’s what I was GOING to share with you. I felt a bit stuck. Sanibel is certainly not a bad place to be stuck, but I can do that at home just as well, thanks.
And then I got to Monday afternoon.
That morning I had walked too far, on a right hip that decided to get all old-lady on me (“Ach! The Bursitis!”) – after getting almost 3 miles from the condo, I realized I had to walk an equal distance back! So when I ventured back out at 4:30, I needed to be kind to my body. So I ambled. And then I meandered. As I did, it was like something inside me loosened and I started breathing again; it was so good to just stand still (vs. Walking-With-Purpose-Gotta-Get-In-My-10,000-Steps!), with my feet in the ocean, and let the waves come and go, come and go. I recognized that the sound of waves washing over billions of shells and shell fragments sounds different than water moving across a sandier beach. I spent a while looking for digger clams, thinking of how they delight my sister. And then, poolside in a lounge chair (in between watching a crow rummage through someone’s unwatched beach bag and emerge – oh my! – with a bag of potato chips, with which he absconded), I read this, as I was nearing the end of a book my friend Susie left for me one day recently:
It’s called the hurting time…It’s a bog: it’s where your dreams and worries and forgotten plans gather. Your steps are heavier during that time. Don’t underestimate the transition…between farewell and new departure. Give yourself the time you need. Some thresholds are too wide to be taken in one stride. – “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George
Thank you, God. Thank you for my friends and family who have prayed for me and loved me so well. Thank you for Susie, who knew I needed to read that book. Thank you that I have a kind and generous husband who doesn’t mind that I did this, that I do this. Thank you for this time and space where I can face our raw reality and cry while also surrounded by so much of what is you, God; artistry, creativity, beauty, intentionality, power and love.