by Catie Hayes of WomanLinks.com
I remember spending each summer, as a child, in a rented cottage in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. My dad arranged for a house to coincide with his plant shutdown, and my family feasted on lobster dinners as the sun pinkened our skin. At the time, I had no concept how long we were there, or of a starting or ending point. As a young girl, going to the beach was 'the summer'. I ran into, and was knocked over by, the cold Atlantic waves, loving every minute of it. I enviously watched my older brothers and sisters further out in the big waves, while enduring my father's lectures about under-tows and small children. I flew a black and white Stingray kite until the wind took it across the water where I was sure it would eventually reach France. In fact, if I squinted my eyes enough, I knew I could make out the European coast. I consumed gallons of Dairy Queen soft serves, collected sand dollars, and made best-friends-for-life with children I never saw again. I had the deepest of sleeps breathing in the ocean air, still feeling the waves' rocking movement as I closed my eyes.
It was one of the first exposures to bliss I can remember.
What made this time memorable, was that there was no sense of time as a priority. I assume we went up on a Saturday, but I can't be sure. The days blended into one long stretch of sand and sun and water. I wasn't keeping an eye on the clock. My mother let me know when I had waited an hour after eating, so I was free to fortify the walls of my sand castle while she dealt with the details of life. The priority, the point, and reason for me, was absolute enjoyment of the moment. As children, this ability comes naturally. Only as adults, trapped by our day planners, must we force ourselves out of time awareness and into enjoyment for enjoyment's sake.
This past weekend, my boys and I went to my sister's house for a sleep over. For the first time in days, I was relaxed enough to eat, to laugh and breath fully. I tried jambalaya for the first time, saw the Patriots win the Super Bowl, and watched my children sleep peacefully, unaware of the turmoil churning through my life. On Monday morning, I sat, drenched in sunlight sipping a mug of Earl Grey in my sister's breakfast room, watching the boys perfect their snow forts and prepare for battle. As my oldest added battlements, my youngest stockpiled more snowballs behind the walls of his icy edifice, glancing up at me and grinning conspiratorially. Watching them play, rather than my watch, or my planner, or my to-do list, I felt warm and peaceful. Only as I prepared to return home to my list of 'Things to Worry About' did the knot in my stomach and dull thud in my head return.
It was a clear message. Sure, I'm the grownup this time around, and I have to be mindful of bills that need paying, laundry that needs washing, work schedules that need to be followed. Nowhere is it written, though, that I can't periodically steal a few moments to return to my own private beach. My kids recognize me as one of their own and welcome me back.
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