The first thing I wanted to do when I got down here was something small: I wanted to go to the beach, and walk until I didn’t feel like walking anymore. I’ve lived in three coastal states, including this one, and have never taken the opportunity to walk the beach until I was finished. I’ve taken long walks on the beach, and short walks on the beach, but my return has always been a matter of external circumstance. Either I had a child waiting, or a companion who was ready to go, or an appointment, or dinner was waiting, or something else. This time, I wanted the end of my walk to happen when I became inclined to be somewhere else as a matter of my own pleasure.
And so, yesterday, I set out by myself on a wildly windy day that sandblasted my calves. I left my favorite sandals near a rock next to the boardwalk, reasoning that they were only sandals and I could replace them if lost. (They were there when I returned hours later, of course, and the wind had half filled them with sand.) I walked in the water, and out of the water, and alongside terns and oystercatchers. The beach was almost completely empty, both because it was so windy and because this beach is rarely crowded even during the best weather.
This was a pretty powerful thing for me, probably because it symbolized all of the things I’ve long felt were off limits to me, and my conscious decision to remove those limits. I think people need to do the things that are powerful for them. Most of the things we say we’ve “never been able to do” are actually things we’ve never felt able to do for one reason or another. When you decide to do something you’ve never felt able to do, but have always wanted to do, something happens: you figure out very quickly how you really want to live your life, because the energy and effort it takes to do that has a way of forcing priorities. Envying the lives of others takes less energy, but there’s not much joy to it. So I think I’ll make my own instead.