Practicing Wholeness by the Sea

Day 6.

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© A. L. McMichael

I went down to the water’s edge first thing this morning. The beach was delightfully void of people, and the water was begging me to go deeper with its warmth and persistent, rhythmic persuasion. Come.

I have to return home for good later today, and dread is knocking at the floorboards of my soul like the Tell-Tale Heart.

Don’t go. Don’t go. 

Too hard. Too hard. 

No peace. No peace. 

Hide here. Hide here.

The bliss of the water’s edge started to morph into pain, and fear.

What does practicing wholeness look like in this scenario – first, while still on the beach, and next, when staring down the barrel of a situation that continues to be a significant struggle for me? (And just to clarify: my husband and kids are amazing. What I’m referring to is not domestic, and I’m incredibly thankful for that!)

While still at the water, it looked like doing a mindfulness exercise (however brief). Focusing on my breath, listening to the crash of the waves, feeling the sand make way underneath me as the water first washed my feet and then begged them, “Come back with me.” It looked like realizing that looking for and picking up whole shells, no matter how plain, is healing and a helpful shift of energy and emotion. It looked like giving myself permission to stay there at the edge of the sea and the edge of myself for as long as I wanted to be there this morning.

When facing returning home, it looked (looks) like pulling out my papers on growth mindset and adding words like “yet” to the end of my thought sentences. It looks like writing down a few things I can tangibly do, as soon as I get home and/or in the near future, so I go home with a plan and goals. Shifting into survival mode serves a purpose, but it is not practicing or working towards being whole. And I really, really want to be whole.

So, I collected more shells without judgment. I seared the sounds and the feel of sand and water into my mind to return to in mindfulness exercises at home. I have some immediate de-cluttering tasks in mind for my house, and I’m going to Home Depot tomorrow to get paint for at least the upstairs hallway. (That hallway, by definite accident, was painted the color of Sadness and Disappointment years ago, and I bought new fresh paint to redo it at some point, and it sat – unopened – at the bottom of the steps until it turned into Silly Putty.)

I will go home and ask my husband about his dreams, and what we can do right now towards them. I will write some letters, the old way, to stick in the mail to my kids and others who’re scattered around the globe and love snail mail. I will get together with a friend or two, and practice authentic connection and vulnerability.

And I will choose to trust.

One of the pieces that came to me at the water’s edge was that my world at home is full of distrust – of people, of places, of financial “security,” of income potential, of goals, and of God. This trust erodes in every way the work I am trying and need to do in pursuit of wholeness. It’s like a pocketknife that slashes tire after tire, until my heart is just sitting on rims. Distrust happens for a lot of reasons, but staying there just breeds fear, pain, and disconnection. Trust is, ultimately, a choice, and I was reminded of that as I focused on the nature of the sea. This beach, this particular spot of the ocean, has been like a home in a way, because – in relative terms – it has remained the same. Consistent. Constant. Sure, shops and houses and trends have changed, but the most familiar aspects have stood the test of time. In this way, this place has been like a loving parent – consistent, steady, welcoming, safe ……  The water (almost) always stays within its boundaries set by the shore. The tide always comes in and goes out. The waves always rise and fall, run in and recede. The sand always holds, and gives way. The sun always rises and sets. There are things, and people, that by nature and consistency have proven again and again that they are trustworthy. And whatever occasional deviations there may be from the norm (like the ocean flooding the streets in a hurricane, or a person letting you down in a significant way amidst a critical need) are just that – occasional deviations, meaning that you can still count on them to be true to themselves and their true nature most of the time. It means that trust is a choice, and I can choose to trust things to work out, and for strength to build, and for answers to reveal themselves in time, and for courage to show up when I need it, and for a few choice people to be there in solid and loving support, and for healing to continue.

Trust is hard sometimes, but the life that builds itself around distrust is harder. Today, as I stand in the gap between the safety of the shoreline and the minefield of home, practicing wholeness looks like remembering that the One who made the ocean is my home, and so I am at home – and safe – wherever I go. And the trust I feel when I let that ocean envelop me as I play and contemplate is a trust I can choose to extend to the seas in my personal life that I’m currently unsure of.

To be whole is to trust, and to trust is to be vulnerable. So, in the same way I approach the morning shore with total vulnerability and complete trust, I will go home choosing to remain open.

P.S. There was an “alley” of zillions of pieces of broken shell in the sand – like six inches wide and maybe six feet long, and after watching the water wash over it a few times, I cupped my hands together and scooped up as much as I could hold of the broken pieces. They had something to say. There were a lot of little sand crabs, which alarmed and tickled me, causing me to drop most of what I held initially. But what remained revealed a piece of shell that is gold, something I’ve never seen from any shell on any beach before. It reminded me that gold is purified in fire, and that this process I am in is just burning the impurities to the top and purifying the rest of me.

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