Showing Up for the Journey

We drove to the beach on Sunday and for the first time in a long time, I went into a total bikini-envy funk. Northern California beaches are pretty cold for most of the year, but through the late summer and early fall when the water is warmer, the beach starts crawling with beautiful people.

It was like a beer commercial: people laughing, throwing footballs, rolling with their loved ones in the surf. Some days I just can’t access that kind of happiness. On this day in particular, I wanted to be the kind of person who frolicked in the water with my loved ones, but the water was totally freezing. Seriously, I couldn’t make it past my ankles without going into the early stages of hypothermia. I bought a wetsuit last Christmas to combat my unnatural aversion to cold. Unfortunately, I also have an unnatural aversion to heat, and while the water was cold enough for a polar bear, the beach was boiling hot.

So there I was in the middle of the beer commercial trying to squeeze my ass into a wetsuit, which had apparently shrunk a few sizes since the last time I wore it. The combination of sand, sweat, and the laws of physics were sending me over the edge. Have you ever tried to put on a pair of Spanx but they were so tight you couldn’t get them all the way on, but then you couldn’t get them off either so you end up wrestling your sweaty, pretzeled self in the fitting room like a bad I Love Lucy rerun? That’s how I was, but out on the sand, next to the water in front of a big group of beautiful horrible beautiful six-packed bikini wearing beer commercial extras. If I could have heaved my sweaty chubby self into the ocean to die of embarrassment, I would have.

Part of my brain realized that I was being ridiculous and melodramatic, that everyone was enjoying themselves and probably didn’t even hear the panting and swearing happening nearby while I was getting dressed. But the other part of my brain, the reptilian, cranky, crazy part wasn’t looking at it that way. It was in survival mode and it wanted to pack up the family and get the heck out of there. Maybe stop for some nice fattening, processed, pre-packaged food-like product to down on the way home.

Instead of binging and leaving, I let myself pout for a while. Then I talked myself off the cliff and eventually went into the water. It would have been a much better story if I met a pod of dolphins or mermaids who befriended me and gave me magical wishes. Instead, I just splashed around a little then watched my husband bury our kids in the sand.

Writing’s kind of like that sometimes. You show up to the page and splash around. You try to trust that like Martin Buber says, all journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. Maybe after the first terrible five pages, we will find a secret destination on page six. We keep writing even when it seems like nothing magical is happening. We show up in our sweaty wetsuits and with our ill-fitting metaphors. We keep the pen moving and we just splash around.

Don't Forget: On October 15th, our Mornings with Moms group is road tripping to the beach! (No wetsuits necessary.) Join us at 10:00 am at the Parkside Café at Stinson Beach. Contact Nicki if you want to carpool or just drop by for a great morning of writing with moms.

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