I earnestly believed that somewhere in the midst of the chaos that had become my life, I had misplaced myself. It had been gradual, almost insidious, so that by the time I realized I was gone, I had no idea where to begin to look. Things were hard and life had become little more than a hamster wheel of an existence – sleep, work, cry, pick up the kids, repeat. Eating was optional. The voices of my two children had to navigate their way through the fog in my mind. Often, my responses were vague, monosyllabic and severely delayed.
One day as my mind, dulled by sorrow, registered the lines etched into my face by my troubled thoughts, something shifted. In hindsight, it was as though my spirit, which had been free-falling into an endless night, suddenly decided to turn over and fly. Now merely a shadow of my best self, the initial flights were clumsy and pretty terrifying. My spirit knew the way but my body was having a difficult time catching up.
Because I was no longer my authentic self, my spirit struggled to regain mastery of my thoughts and habits. It resorted to, what can best be described as…pushing.
The pushing was weak and uncertain at first, resulting in impromptu trips to the beach all alone after the kids had been dropped off at school. The wind playing in my hair was romantic; the abrasion of the sand under the soles of my feet reminded me I could feel something other than sadness. The waves soothed my mind with their regularity and like beach glass, gently rounded the edges of my jagged, haphazard thoughts. With no one around to disturb me, I was free to be – to merely exist and be a quiet observer of my heart’s pain. The sand, the sea, the intense blaze of the morning sun had become very necessary therapists and nature became my new colleague.
Over time the ‘push’ became stronger, more insistent. It demanded the discarding of extraneous belongings, emotional clutter and even a few toxic relationships. Because nature abhors a vacuum, happiness rippled in to fill the empty spaces and with it returned an awareness of my little ones, whose faces I now realised were pinched and anxious. So soon, they came along with me for the ride too.
There became something addictive about their squeals of absolute delight as I, on occasion, drove straight past their school with them, fully decked in regulation garb. Watching their classmates whiz by was euphoric for them; watching them race barefoot across wet sand in their undies, their uniforms in a messy pile on the backseat, was pretty close to bliss for me.
To be able to escape the confines of routine and the pedantic nature of our days was now a goal. And instead of worried expressions, when they turned their faces toward me, there was joy radiating from them in pulsing waves.
The water was the new mother at our place and we were always happy to visit. The waves would pummel at my stressed muscles on some days, gently wash away my tears on others, but would always, always, always send us home rejuvenated and closer to each other. As our shenanigans continued, we became less like a parent with dependents and more like co-conspirators. I carefully washed their hair so there was no tell-tale sand the next day at school; I provided hastily written excuses that apologized for absences without stating reasons; and now there were loud groans of despair whenever I stopped the car at the school gates. I became at last their mama and they became my ravens.
Through our sometimes harrowing adventures, we have learnt the freedom of a simple life and through trial and error, we have come to understand what and who matter most. We have grown up together and while the beach trips are fewer and more appropriately scheduled, our place is just the hub where we wait in transit to our next happy adventure.
We don’t always have the luxury of taking ourselves apart on our own terms – most often life crashes and burns around us when we least expect it. But we do have control over how we put ourselves together again and the meaning we infuse into our lives. Whether it’s a trip to the beach with family, a hike with strangers or some adrenalin-pumping adventure, pick yourself up and reintroduce fun and the outdoors into your life – Nature has a way of healing all wounds.
Our life’s experiences ought to serve our spirits. Pain doesn’t, so thank life for the lesson then let it go in love.