Should I bring floats or a book? What did that article say about sunscreen possibly being cancerous?
Should I take my purse on the beach, or should I leave it? How will I have a picture of the sunset for instagram if I turn off my phone?
I would love a pina colada, but who wants to be sunburnt AND hungover?
Oh, come on, relax a little more... Hmmm...I can’t tell if I’m hungry enough to eat BEFORE heading out or wait until...
Does this inner dialogue consume anyone else’s mind? It’s pretty predictable if you are a planning addict like me that you’ll likely leave a beach trip more drained than when you get there.
But I went to the beach on Labor Day Weekend, and something completely unexpected happened...
The context: I drove down to the Rio Grande Valley from Austin, Texas early on Thursday morning.
A family emergency pulled me south, and along with it tears and worry. A family member had been kidnapped by notorious people, and the only way we know this happened is because he/she was released (thank goodness).
The day I found this out, something grabbed my heart and squeezed it like I’d clench Play-Doh in my fist, letting the pieces spill out between my fingers.
It hurt to inhale, and the thought of not knowing how my family member’s last few moments could have gone haunted my waking moments.
But once my car made it south I realized there wasn’t anything to do but wait for things to settle and given my suffocating heart I knew I - along with my anxiety - was actually adding stress by being there rather than alleviating it.
So, I took the road to South Padre Island and hoped to somehow decompress before the weather chilled.
Maybe it was my new love for Oprah + Deepak’s meditations that did it, or I maybe had actually given up giving a fuck (sorry, Aunty Pat! I left it in), but I found myself practicing a few new beach exercises that trip that blew my mind.
Here they are, for you.
How to Beach with 3 Easy Beach Exercises + (Raw) Life Lessons.
Easy Beach Exercise 1: Use the current rather than fight it.
Instead of fighting the ocean current like I usually do, trying to stay near my beach bag I can barely see as the waves test my ability to stand on two feet - I walked down the beach against the current, ran into the waves, and then floated and hopped with the current back towards my stuff.
When I got far enough down, I strutted out of the waves (channeling my inner Ariel/The Little Mermaid), walked back down the beach, and started the whole process again.
Raw Life Lesson 1: The flow is real, and *you* get to pick when you’re riding the waves and when you want to be on land.
“Go with the flow” isn’t new advice. But the idea that I can choose to jump into the current and let momentum take me AND that I can hop out and chill on the beach till I’m ready to get back in again was as eye-opening as learning the child in the mirror was me.
As a personal growth junkie, I’m always feeling for the flow and some piece of me believes pushing my boundaries is better than not pushing them.
Other times I freak out worrying I’ll get carried away by a new experience that isn’t “natural” for me. Will I go too far one day and not recognize where I am?
Knowing I can stand up and walk out of the current at any time gives me peace even as I write this. I know I won’t ever turn into someone I don’t want to and won’t end up anywhere I don’t want to go.
Easy Beach Exercise 2: Give the ocean back what it dishes out.
I was experiencing a lot of anger and resignation this trip.
At one point I planted my feet and squarely faced thigh-high water and chest-height waves. I assumed a sumo squat, clenched my fists, and even started growling at each wave that came towards me. I wouldn’t be moved.
“Bring it!” I yelled to the curve of the earth each time water rose up to slap me. When I got knocked over, I wiped my face, opened my eyes, and planted my feet again. And again.
Raw Life Lesson 2: Show yourself what you’re made of.
Something shifted while physically experiencing my own determination and strength in the water.
At one point I realized the waves will never stop. Ever. They’ll still crash long after I call it a day, call off that project, and even long after I pass away. Life’s challenges can feel equally impersonal and eroding.
If I already learned I have the choice to go with the flow or walk back on land at any time, with the sumo squat I learned I can stay unwavering in my stance for the next project, for love, for what I see possible as long as I want to.
It’s up to me how many times I want to face the waves head on.
Easy Beach Exercise 3: Under-plan and under-prepare on purpose.
I woke up one morning wanting to play in the waves, but thoughts of whether I should eat breakfast before or after, or whether I should take my journal with me, or whether I needed sunglasses that early (and one thousand other details) consumed and almost killed my passion for getting outside.
I could feel myself deflate as the possibility of an early morning swim dissolve in my to-do list. “That’s it!” I decided, as I shimmied into my suit and started walking barefoot out the door.
Raw Life Lesson 3: You already have everything you need.
Luckily, our condo had a keypad lock so I didn’t even need keys, but I want you to consider where you put planning or getting ready for something as a roadblock in front of fulfilling your own passions.
Yes, “life is a journey, not a destination” (another thing for me to practice), but when I walked out the door barefoot, in a bikini, AND without my purse (aaack!) I experienced the thrill of realizing I needed a lot less than I thought to not only survive but also to fulfill a deep desire.
What other dreams of mine are a few steps away? Where am I over-planning or over-preparing when all it takes is to make a phone call, drive to the meetup, or walk outside? Where am I willing to “risk it all” be a little vulnerable to have what I want right now?
Update: One Month Later
I’ve been running on adrenaline for the last 30 days and it’s finally taken it’s toll. The peace I found in those three days arises in fleeting moments, but mostly I feel like I’m facing death - of my ego, of my business, of my self, of a loved one - every few hours.
I’m trying to squeeze out every last ounce of life from each now, and although achingly beautiful it is also exhausting.
I don’t know that I have found real access to lasting peace. I feel a little fraudulent making this public (I’m no guru), but it’s almost like I’m posting this to remind myself of these lessons. To remind myself to be real. That it’s ok to get off the ride every once in a while.
In the comments below, I want to know…
What’s one moment you felt completely raw? What did you do to ease those feelings?
What did you think about how I handled my grief (including sharing it with you)? What else would you do?