Waiving Good-bye To Weird

I think it is fair to say that 2020 has been a very strange time, not only in MY STORY, but also in HISTORY.  It seems that I have spent the past seven months constantly reinventing my idea of normal.  I spent some time just waiting for things to get better and, when that did not happen, I found myself continually jerry-rigging the routines of my life to make them work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  I have become the MacGyver of real life.  I embraced Zoom to keep people connected.  I ordered curbside dining and balanced Styrofoam boxes on my steering wheel in order to keep patronizing restaurants. I wear make-up and jewelry and do my hair even though I am only traveling from the bathroom to the living room.  I went to Disney parks masked and sanitized at every turn- staying so far away from other patrons, I needed a carrier pigeon to communicate with them.  I invest in a lot of postage stamps to periodically send little surprises to my absent loved ones. I re-defined getting a COVID-19 test as a date, for heaven’s sake. 

Some folks would say I have invested way too much time and energy trying to solve problems that don’t really exist; that the activities I am trying to recreate could easily wait until after the world starts rotating properly on its axis again. 

On the other hand, I know that I do a lot of these things not because I must do those specific activities, but because I am chasing some semblance of “feeling normal”.  I am a person who is extremely motivated by steadiness and routine.  I am pretty risk and change adverse.  Spending nine months in a world that feels different every day in every way absolutely wears away at my sense of security.  In retrospect, I feel like I have done remarkably well in coping with the situation.  I have been able to manage my anxiety and depression level effectively most of the time. 

I have certainly had my days when I have had to make a deliberate effort to push back an attack of negativity from my brain, but mostly I am good.  I credit that emotional survival with continuing to try to build some weird, mutated version of normal life.  In essence, it is not the doing of these activities like meetings on Zoom or calling a COVID-19 test a date that is important.  It is the process of creating normalcy that is important for me. It is also important for me that the essence of myself does not drown in the ocean of apathy that threatens to engulf my quarantine life.  When it gets too easy and too normal to not communicate, not socialize, not look my best, and not have fun, I know bad things are bound to happen to my psyche.

Still, despite my super-human efforts to create normalcy out of weirdness, I have not been completely successful.  Masks, social distancing, hug prohibitions-  all remind me that, no matter what I do, life is not normal.  I am getting really tired of it, so I thought about when I have felt most normal during these past months.  What can I do to maximize those times?

As I thought about it, I realized that the times I felt most normal were the times when I was at the beach.  A couple of friends and I took an overnight trip to Fernandina Beach this spring.  Max and I went to Daytona Beach a month or so ago.  Recently, a friend and I went to Clearwater Beach.  That is probably more beach activity than I have had in one year for as long as I can remember.  It has been remarkably helpful. 

At the beach, people can stay six feet away from each other easily.  In fact, even before COVID-19, I would not be closer than six feet away from any other beach visitor.  No one needs to wear a mask because we are outside and physically distant.  There is nothing less claustrophobic than looking out into the vastness of the ocean.  Hearing the sea birds and the waves, smelling the seaweed, tasting the salt in the air, feeling the cool water on my skin… all these things help me remember how big and beautiful the world is.  I remember looking out at the ocean as I walked through the waves on Daytona Beach and thinking it was like a treasure chest filled with emeralds and aquamarines and teal tourmalines… so many beautiful, sparkling blue and green gems twinkling at me. 

All three of my beach visits were this rejuvenating.  I bought a shirt in Fernandina Beach that says, “Salt Water Heals Everything.”  That may not be completely true, but, for me, salt water does seem to heal the COVID-19 blues.  At the beach, I can wave good-bye to weird. 

Is there a special place you go to “get back to basics” and feel at least a little normal? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a weird-free day!

Terri/Dorry 🙂

Finding My Way

I finally made it to the beach.

One of my critical deciding factors for where I would move in retirement was that I must be able to comfortably drive to the beach.  I grew up within a frisbee’s throw from Surf City, USA.  I spent a lot of time in my childhood playing on the beaches of Southern California.  As an adult, I lived about 10 miles from the beach.  Life got in the way and I never was the type to spend hours and hours sunbathing on a regular basis.  My father used to say I was whiter than a nun’s belly.  Still, the beach always held an allure for me.  I would usually spend a few hours there at least a couple of times a year.  It was the place I felt most relaxed.  It was the place I did my clearest thinking.  There is absolutely nothing in this world like walking on the beach, feeling the sun on my shoulders, wet sand under my feet, and ocean breeze against my bare legs.  Next to the ocean, I was always somehow lighter, freer, and happier.  I even felt closer to God.

Before I bought the house in Florida, I evaluated the distance to the beach.  Once I got over the whole “the ocean is to the east” instead of “the ocean is to the west” thing, I realized that it was, theoretically, about a 90-minute drive to the Atlantic coast and a 90-minute drive to the Gulf of Mexico coast.  That was acceptable to me.  The beach criterion was met and so I was contented.

I moved to Florida seventeen months ago.  With beaches in two different directions, you would have thought I would have made it there before now, wouldn’t you?

When I first began making “I want to go to the beach” noises, it was too rainy.  Then, it was too cold.  Then, it was spring break.  Then, there was a confluence of motorcycle aficionado clubs from all over the country scheduled to be zooming around the beach communities when I finally made a specific plan to go to the beach.  Then, there was a total eclipse of the sun.  Well, maybe not that one.  Still, it began to feel like there was ALWAYS something in the way between me and the sea.  I was sure I was never going to get to the shore.

I began to wonder what was really stopping me from just getting in the car and driving the 80 miles or so to the beach.  In thinking it through, it seemed to me that the big obstacle was fear of getting lost.  As I have crafted my new life in my new state, I have had to find my way across new geography many given times.  After a lifetime of living in the same general vicinity and visiting the same places time and time again, it is kind of stressful to face the fact that every time I get into the car, I am running the very real risk of getting lost.  Even with MapQuest, GPS, and local signage pointing the way to popular tourist destinations (like, say, THE BEACH!), I feel the juices in my stomach start to churn in a rather unpleasant way when I embark on a new journey. 

I guess the same can be said for just about everything I have done in the past year and a half. I have had to find my way in all kinds of contexts- dealing with house and yard issues, taking care of my mother, living far away from the friends who are dear to me, and learning how to be active and satisfied without a job telling me I am.  I guess I could deduce that my internal compass is a bit over-used and worn from all this “way-finding” and that is the reason that going to the beach seemed more like a burden than an adventure.  On the other hand, I think the truth is actually that my internal compass is more sound and more finely-tuned from all the practice I have had.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine from my old state was visiting her father who winters in a small beach town about 100 miles from where I live.  When she contacted me about meeting her for a visit somewhere halfway between her father’s beach home and my place, the planets seemed to be aligned.  I decided to carpe diem and told her I would meet her at her father’s condominium… which just happens to be situated on a beautiful stretch of beach.

I found the beach with zero trouble.  I loved seeing my friend.  I also loved walking along the beach, sliding my bare feet through the tide, and gobbling salt air.  All the reasons I love the beach came flooding back to me in an instant.  I found myself wondering why on earth I denied myself this pure pleasure just because of the fear of not finding my way. 

It was a lesson learned.  I think it is likely that, as I continue to go through life, I am often going to face situations where I need to find my way.  I can go with life’s adventure and be content with where I go.  I am likely to find my way.  If I don’t, that’s okay, too.  I’m sure to end up someplace.  Yes, something truly bad could happen if I get lost trying to find my way, but the odds are against it.  Realistically, the worst thing that is likely to happen is that I’ll just waste some time and energy getting back on track.  In those wanderings, I may even encounter some of life’s mini-miracles… beautiful places to see, fun things to do, and lovely people to know.  Who knows, I may just find a way that is better than the way I thought I wanted.

They say God draws straight, but with crooked lines.  I don’t know why I worry so much about finding my way.  I have a feeling that, no matter what crooked paths I take, I am going straight to wherever He wants me to be.

How are you finding your way?  Are you enjoying the journey?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Have a wonderful, wandering day!

Terri 🙂