A Place to Heal

The beach. Some of my earliest memories are in the sand. The ocean breeze on my face. The taste of salt on my lips. I feel a yearning that roots itself deep inside my chest to be near the ocean.

The sun. Hot on my skin, sweat dripping slowly between my shoulder blades and pooling gently in the crevices of my collarbones. In French, they do not say to sunbathe or to lay in the sun. The phrase translates to "obtain the sun," - to get the sun. That is how I feel; the need to obtain the sun.

I like the weather hot. Hot enough to sweat without moving. I like how exhausted and weak a day at the beach can make me feel. I don't think there is a better shower in the world than the one after a day at the beach. A cool, clean, fresh feeling after obtaining the heat all day. I can't get enough of the whole experience. Before, during, and after.

The ocean. I have never been much for swimming in the ocean. I am a great swimmer, but the ocean has always scared me. Waves make me very nervous.

A year ago I visited Fort Lauderdale and swam in the ocean. Alone.

I was finally feeling like my heart was strengthening from the wounds of both my divorce and letting go of a love I was convinced was over. On that trip I received a clandestine message that a letter had been mailed to me. A letter of renewed love, a letter asking me desperately to come back, to believe, to wait, to love wholly again, to risk bigger than my heart ever had before.  A letter I so badly wanted and couldn't bring myself to believe would ever travel to me. But it did.

My heart was so frightened. And I walked into the ocean. 

It was warm and calm and felt like an ocean made only for me. I loved sinking into the water. The cooling effect. The salt that stung my eyes and jolted my tongue when I licked my lips. The water here seemed to make my heart lighter and softer, like the shore sand it smoothes.

And as I floated I made a decision to love despite all my fears. To pry my heart open wide enough for the most impossible love to crawl inside. In that moment I believed in destiny. I believed all the words and promises and hopes as the ocean held me afloat. The fear I felt behind my heart made my fear of the ocean seem so insignificant. The risk of breaking my own heart, again and bigger than ever, made the fear of this water seem like child's play.

The beach acts as a time warp for me. It's as if the clock's hands spin but I stand still. I swear each hour feels like minutes. I don't get bored or keep track of time.

The beach holds my body memories of a lifetime of love and heartbreak.

The sand. I love the grit of sand. The scratchy texture in between my toes and on my sweaty skin. In Malibu this January, I spent the day at the beach without beach towels or chairs. The sand wasn't too hot, and I laid in it for hours. It was glorious.

Sandy. Sweaty. Salty. The most perfect combination.

So I run to the beach because it is where I am honest with everything that swirls inside of my heart and head. My hands shake as I get close because I know the existential possibilities the beach holds for me. It is where I let my guard down with myself. It is where I sit quietly and patiently with myself. It is where I listen more carefully to what is true inside of me. It is where I judge myself a little less and am able to be a little gentler with myself. It is where I can allow myself to cry comfortably and smile without reason. It is where my soul feels full. It is where I am happy. It is where I exist in the full glory and horror of my own human condition.

And it is where I heal, and God knows we all need a place to heal.