Life Lessons at the Beach
No matter how much you love your mum, it’s still a bit of a shock when you find yourself becoming her. A staple of my childhood beach trips was the sight of my mum, waist deep in the water, mincing about on her tip toes and hugging herself while the rest of us splashed and swam and gamboled, seal like, through the waves. Unkindly, her attempts to ease herself into the sea were always viewed as hilarious, and each fresh wave of water was accompanied by a similarly sized increase in laughter as it encroached further outside her pre-chilled comfort zone. With the arrogance of youth I always considered my method of instant immersion to be best, and her careful approach to be the worst, most painful possible way to get beneath the surface. I still believe that to be true – but that doesn’t stop me taking my own tiny, tottering steps like a ballerina en pointe (and lets face it, that’s the ONLY time that’s ever going to happen). This summer, my own son didn’t hold back when observing me doing this and painfully, but rightfully, dragged me further in and jumped on me, frog like in both pose and sensation, to “help me” commit. He was right to do so. But you’d have to put me on the rack to make me admit it, and even then, I would be a lot taller by the time I capitulated.
It seems this is now the way I live my life. What was once an enthusiastic “Yes! I’d love to come hiking/partying/zip lining/kite flying/eye brow plucking/yak brushing/otter bothering with you!” slowly became “Mmm.. maybe? I’ll have to check my calendar” before evolving into a simple “No thank you” and then pretending not to hear any further questions.
When did this happen, and why? I’ve heard that people who are seriously ill or very old tend to disengage from society and the company of others and it’s a natural and normal thing. But I’m 45! What if I live another 45 years, I’ll end up hiding in a well on some remote island, fashioning artifacts from sheep dung and banging rocks together for entertainment. An insane, feral thing spoken about on dark nights as “old Kaka, the bulging eyed hermit” and my name used as a threat to children who won’t eat their vegetables. “You’d better eat those peas, or Old Kaka will come and get you in the night”.
Obviously, as retreating to the safe, warm shallows slowly erodes my earthly relationships, my connection with God is suffering too. I think if God had a Facebook page I would probably be reduced to the occasional “like” on a photo and a “we must get together soon!” comment. I suspect I’d even immediately archive his e-mails without even opening them.
None of these things are ok. And I need to stop the rot. But it seems overwhelming, the equivalent of being dropped from a helicopter into the middle of the Atlantic. So I guess we’re back to the mincing, teetering steps. One tiny act of acquiescence at a time, at least I’ll be moving in the right direction, and eventually I’ll remember the joy of being surrounded and supported, submerged in the thing that makes life alive.