The Sea

We’re currently in a state park on the Atlantic side of Florida.  We came home for the holidays, cleaned our sheets, took lots of long hot showers with endless water then packed up Gertie and headed for warmer weather.

We’ve spent January and February chasing the sun down the Gulf of Florida.  I almost missed the flu that was attacking the country but it eventually caught up with me.  I spent the greater part of a week passed out in my chair outside, covered up in blankets and soaking in the sun.  I really think I was able to get over it so thoroughly because I spent so much time outside.  Is it all in my head that nature heals everything?  Haha, I don’t know.

The flu passed and soon I busted out my bikini and played in the ocean.  Oh… the sea.  How it soothes my soul and makes me feel alive.  At night when I can’t sleep, I imagine myself walking up to the shore and waiting for the water to meet my feet.  The foamy, clear water washes over me and my feet sink heavy in the wet sand.  I stare out into the shiny blue horizon and watch pelicans dive bomb for fish.

Sombrero Beach in the Florida Keys

It’s powerful how aspects of nature can rip deep into your soul.  When I stare at the ocean I feel such a flurry of intense emotions.  Fear, overwhelmed, stillness, peace.  All fluctuate and move within me like the water on the shore, ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

Life is full of seasons.  As you know, this summer and fall was pretty difficult for us.  Then we jumped straight into the hustle of the holidays.  I don’t realize how tense the city makes me until I get away from it.  The ocean called me sweetly by name and soothed my restless heart.  I breathed in the moist air, salt gathered on skin and in my hair and over time I was brought back to balance.

I think we all need this: to get away, or more so, to return to what makes us alive.  It’s so easy to get caught into busyness and expectations.  It takes work and planning to allow yourself to rest.  Whether it’s a yoga class, watching the sun set, or sitting quietly while your kids play in the next room.  Rest is essential to the soul and I believe, is highly underrated in our culture.

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Andrew and I made the conscious decision to carve out time for exploration and rest.  We might be poor, but we’re rich on time.  It’s been hitting me lately, that even in the midst of struggle, I am thoroughly satisfied.  There is so much power in perspective.  The most helpful tool I’ve nurtured over this past difficult time is thankfulness.  When I start to struggle, I list out the things I’m grateful for.  My health, Andrew’s health, my dogs that make me so happy, I’m living free and untethered, mental clarity, good food and the ability to do yoga daily.  After listing out things I’m thankful for, I find that I easily forget what I was so stressed about.

Nature has a way of putting things in perspective.  I stare at the power of the ocean and realize that this element was here from the very beginning of time.  This same sea, this same body of water, full of life and wonderment.  And it will be here long after I’m gone. How easily I get caught up in what is immediate and fleeting.

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We made our way down the Gulf and the sun took us to the balmy Keys where the locals are chill and relaxed and the water is turquoise and clear.  Every day I brought my book to the beach but ended up never reading, only staring at the movement of the waves, the birds fishing and calling, the sun moving across the water.

I realize that our way of life is not for everyone.  But there have been wanderers and nomads long before Instagram.  There is a whole subset of restless spirits that find balance living outside.  New places, new faces, always another sunset to explore.  I feel like we’ve been let in on a secret, that you can be happy living on barely anything.  You can be rich and own very little.

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If you’re in a difficult season right now, what are your tools to get you through?  I have found that putting my phone down more, stepping away from comparison, and instead filling my days with moments of stillness is magically therapeutic.  I understand that many can’t afford to chase the sun down the Gulf, but you have more power than you realize to create your own stillness.  Even if it’s just 5 minutes of quiet while you’re on the way to pick up the kids.  Or listening to some jazz while you clean dishes.  Stillness can be found.  But we have to work at it.  It’s easy to fill our moments of the day and before you know it the sun is setting and it’s time for bed, just to start all over the next day.

I encourage you to prioritize moments of quiet.  Even if it’s just a moment.  Rest is not laziness, and I have seen the power of making this a priority in my life.  What holds you back from moments of stillness?  Do you find yourself on your phone to fill the silence?  Watching tv?  I find that busyness is addictive.  The more you move, the harder it is to be still.  I experience this every time I come back to the city.  Before we know it our calendar is full, I’ve stopped noticing the sunset and I’m living on a higher energy wavelength.

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We decided to travel to cure (or encourage) our wanderlust and most of all, for my mental health.  I at times feel so disconnected from the crazy bipolar girl that controlled most of my life.  By the water, hiking through the mountains, or exploring the desert, I feel alive and balanced.

I’m sitting outside as I write this.  The girls are with me, playing and chasing each other.  I’m surrounded by short, thick palmettos and tall trees with meandering branches covered in Spanish moss.  It’s warm with a cool breeze.  I reflect back on how far I’ve come.  Just getting through the day used to be an intense struggle.  I rarely slept and ran myself ragged.  It hit me one day that I have the power to choose my life.  I do not have to accept other’s expectations or fit some mold.  I can prioritize what I want to spend my energy on.

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It was a long process to get to where we are now.  But I can see the power in that process.  There’s power in reflection and quiet and journaling and prayer.  Over time, I felt the unnecessary layers of life fall off and I started seeking more.  If I could share one thing from our experience on the road it’s this: you have the power to drastically change.  You do not have to accept what has been handed to you.  You are not stuck.  You can truly create and fulfill your wildest dreams.  It won’t always be easy, but deep down, past the shame and comparison and guilt and busyness is a powerful force that enables you to live greater.

Last night when all was quiet except for Andrew’s steady breathing, when I closed my eyes and laid still, I could hear the ebb and flow of the ocean.  I feel like my soul is connected to that movement.  Deep down, I feel the stir of the water, the dark underbelly and the light shallows.  Holding space for huge mysterious creatures and delicate coral.

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What do you see when you close your eyes?  How do you view yourself?  Where do you find solace?  What energizes you?

I wish I could come along side each one of you, touch your hand and whisper gently in your ear, “You are magnificent, you are capable, you have the power for much more.  Let go of what is holding you back, take a deep breath, and dive in, full force, fully submerged, to this life.”

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3 thoughts on “The Sea

  1. Ellen, I loved all you wrote. Your honesty about yourself and descriptions are so real and true. I’ll follow you. I’m new at this blog thing, but I think I’ll get it eventually. Life is a wonderful journey and we all have more strength than we give ourselves credit.

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