This year in springtime, I enjoyed a two-week writer’s sojourn in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a quaint, seaside village located on Florida’s southeast coast. The sea shored up her bounty of gifts for me. In turn, I gift you my stories. Visit the story map to navigate this travel memoir.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Time Stood Still
“I can’t remember when I last spent a day at the beach,” she said.
“Come on over! Play hooky over here in the goddess cave or on the shore,” I insisted. “The sun is out, the breeze is blowing. Oh, come on! It’s a perfect day.”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
Soon enough, my friend Kayla knocked on the sliding glass door at the Windjammer with white wine, oranges, grapes, chocolate, cheese and crackers in tow. Her long, curly blond hair blew wildly in the wind.
“That’s my girl,” I said. “You read my mind!”
The kitchen in my suite -- or as I liked to think of it, my galley -- was perfect for preparing light meals and assembling snacks for a delightful picnic of delicious goodies. It was going to be, no, it already was, the perfect girl’s day out on the beach.
“Kayla,” I said. “I’ve been meditating and getting inspired by the ocean, but today I just want to shoot the shit and relax. Tell me to shut up if I start into deep thoughts.”
We high-fived and laughed.
It was easy to get into the groove for a girl’s day. Just out the door, lay out towels, plunk down. Sip.
I was worried, though, about getting a sunburn. ‘To hell with it,” I said. “I don’t care if I look ridiculous. I’m just going to wear this towel over my head.”
And so we whiled away the time. I’m not even sure for how long. That was the whole point: to do nothing and catch-up, without being yoked back into the fiction of time we create to define our lives.
I thought about how no one has any time to see friends anymore, because life gets busy and in the way. But no, we get in the way of our own happiness.
Was there ever a time, then, some mystic, fabled time of yore, when our ancestors, whom we consider more primitive and less evolved -- oh, how arrogant of us to think we are so civilized! -- was there ever a time, long before the days of big pharma curing depression and anxiety with pills -- when people just gathered, mindful of themselves instead of time?
There we were, two sea-loving goddesses, one with flowing hair -- had she been standing on a shell, I’d say she was Botticelli’s inspiration for The Birth of Venus -- and the other a pale flower, hiding from the sun under a towel. What a quirky pair of misfits.
But why fit in, anyway? That’s so boring and conventional.
Here in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, there was a glaring and most refreshing absence of what turns otherwise natural beaches into sick places. We couldn’t find cigarette butts in the sand and were hard pressed to witness a single air of pretension from anyone else around us enjoying the beach. This beach was free of bullshit attitude.
I shared an anecdote with my friend. A few years ago, I had worked as a community manager for an online travel and tourism forum dedicated to Miami Beach. One concerned visitor had crowdsourced the answer to a question about what kind of bikini bottom cut was deemed acceptable by the fashion police. The answers, offered up by other members, became a fascinating study on the absurd vanity of first world problems: each section of the beach was designated to a particular cut of swimwear: classic bikini, string bikini, thong bikini, microkini, monokini -- heck, there were cuts I hadn’t even heard of!
“For pete’s sake,” I said. “Kayla, I’m so glad we can lay out in the sun like a pair of old salts not worried about how much or how little fabric covers our tooshies!”
Kayla laughed. “That’s what I like about this beach. I didn’t even think twice about feeling self-conscious.”
We rambled on about how wonderful it was to be over 40, comfortable in your own skin and fully present in self-acceptance.
I settled back into thoughts about this Mayberry of my mind. Here at Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, we had a day to make time for everything, including the most precious commodity: nothing. Here, we could respect mother ocean and not care about what other people think what we look like in a bikini. Nobody cared. Or rather, they cared only about the things that really matter. It was about honoring ourselves exactly the way we were at that moment.
I played with the sand, letting it slip through my fingers, and shared my mantra with Kayla. “Can you hold a drop of water or a grain of sand in your hand?”
“You’re getting deep again,” she said. “Shut up.”
“OK, I will,” I said. “But you know, it’s great we can just sit here. Damn, I’d rather hold on to moments like these than all the bullshit we carry in our lives.”
My friend was dealing with some crushing problems in her life. I could see it in her eyes, despite her jovial disposition. I was so glad she took time for herself today. She needed to care for herself.
She texted me when she got home. “I look like a lobster! Had a blast. Thank you.”
Not Just a Room, The Whole Day
Later that evening, lying in my cozy bed in the goddess cave, surrounded by quiet, I took out my notebook and brought pen to paper once again.
I mused about this room of my own, the simplicity of it bounded by enormous meaning.
For a woman who is always giving to others, a room isn’t enough. She needs a whole day to herself -- no, more like a series of days -- where moments aren’t measured by loads of laundry, school lunches and diaper changes.
As a caregiver, my days had consisted of hours defined by medical protocols: loads of laundry, soft mechanical diets and yes, even diaper changes. I got so caught up in the routine, I couldn’t be fully present for my myself, let alone my parents. I became a drone and I paid dearly for it with my health.
A girl’s day out with nothing to measure or define is just what the doctor should order. If we could only capture that in a bottle: a day at the beach, cell phones turned off, talking about nothing and everything under the sun, sipping some wine, savoring some chocolate, wearing whatever the heck we please, showing off our beautiful tooshies, cellulite and all, covered by anything from a line of floss to a hide of bison. Who cares? We were just two friends alive and laughing. And that was enough.
Like that drop of water or grain of sand, a girl’s day is light enough to carry. I’ll take it.
Ah, the freedom of all this. Another gift from the sea.
Next story: Windjammer Resort and Beach Club, Day 4
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Disclosure: this travel experience was supported by The Lodging Association of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. All opinions my own.