I'm always amazed how at the end of the year so many with disheartened hearts post about how ready they are for the coming year. Something about the end of December gives us renewed hope in the reset button which, with the dropping of the shiny ball in NYC, will assure us of a fresh start for the year ahead.
As I strolled along the sunny California seashore over the holidays, I realized that I too needed a fresh start. The last few months of this year I felt as if I was swimming, frantically, just to keep my head above water in churning, turbulent ocean, and by mid-December, caught a wave that dumped me into the sand like a discarded, broken shell. There I lay, exhausted and discouraged, on a lonely beach, thinking someone, something would scoop me up as their prized treasure, with the same delight a beachcomber has when he eagerly retrieves that perfect shell half-buried in the sand. Instead, I felt as though the sea had disappeared and in its place a hot, dry desert, barren of the refreshing waters of life I so enjoy, spitefully appeared. And ever since I have been wandering. My mouth is dry and my feet are burning and I am tired. Tired, of walking, walking, walking and getting nowhere, not finding that oasis I so long for. And I know many of you are feeling the same.
What I noticed at the beach this week is that at the end each day, as the sun sinks low on the horizon, the used-up, trampled-upon sand is littered with imprints of all shapes and sizes: bare feet footprints and dog footprints and shoe footprints, a stripe from a beach chair leg being dragged along, a flattened swath where a beach towel lay. Seaweed strewn across water-logged driftwood with a million bugs swarming the dark green mass. A forgotten plastic shovel and an abandoned sandal. A seagull pecking at a dead, rotting fish. Discarded sand castles, their towering walls dismantled and washed away by the relentless waves. And broken shells. Lots of them. It's a summary of the day’s happenings, the highs and lows, the ups and downs, the wins and losses. Each of us has a colorful backstory and I reflected upon how we spend most of our life trying to hide it from others, some of us doing a rather good job in the facade. But the beach tells all. You can’t take a step there without leaving a trail.
We got up early on Christmas morning and walked along the gentle surf. The sun was new and bright as its clear light cast its first rays across the sparkling waters. And the beach! I was awed by the transformation that had taken place in the night. The once-littered sand was washed smooth by the powerful waves of the high tide. Yesterday was gone. As far as I could see, a clean slate lay before me, eagerly awaiting today’s adventures to leave their mark. I felt alive and giddy and full of hope and wonder for what the new day would bring. I found a tiny perfect sand dollar in the sand.
It’s beautiful how the beach gets a redo each morning. A fresh start.
A few days later, we arrived back home after a long, tiring car ride. The kids left to go to their dad’s, and as I sat here alone in my little apartment, I again felt the dark tug of this year’s disappointments, disillusionment and discouragement grasping at my sun-kissed heart, wanting to pull me back down into the dark waters. Something about it was familiar, and I realized how easy it would be to slip right back. For some reason it is easy to hang on to our hurts, and return to that familiar place of pain, even though it's so far from the brightness of where we really want to be.
But I don’t want to go back there. I can't. I refuse to look at last year’s beach littered with disappointments, discarded dreams, and discouragement another moment. Let's resolve, together, to let the night's waves work their magic and gift us with a clean canvas, eagerly awaiting our first strokes of paint. Let's let the past be past and look ahead with anticipation and hope and wonder. Let's revel in the beauty of the unknown that each new day holds and not get caught up in the fear of what may be. Let's start walking, boldly, letting our tender feet feel the inviting warmth of the soft white sand spread before us, and let the adventure of a new year unfold. I'm stepping forward. And I hope to see your footprints in the sand next to mine.
May your 2018 be rewarding and joy-filled. Happy New Year!