My feet sink farther into the sand than what I would prefer, a consistency comparable to mud cakes as my legs struggle against the suction. I make my way down the beach, the waves coming in on the right of me as I scan the distance for a section deserted of potential human contact. This last session has really taken it out of me, my energy levels tapped. Cyclically, I move from extrovert to introvert, and consider how this might affect my final 10-day Beachside Service Adventure.
A collapsing star is the most accurate way to describe how this feels, my own sense of gravity pulling me inwards with a violent force, everything inside of me too heavy to continue carrying in the presence of others. In my many journeys, I’ve come to know all about the repercussions of imploding stars left to their demise. And so, I retreat to the end of this beach where black, sharp rocks make their way into smashing waves. I walk out in my bare feet, eager to see what creatures I might discover in the tide pools, finding only disappointment in barren crevices and the lingering distress that my feet may inevitably slice open against the dull blades beneath me.
My feet land on hot sand, unscathed, and probably a bit thicker. That’s the point after all, increasing the increments of my exposed footpads to varied levels of discomfort and precarious terrain. I take inspiration from the six-year-old who lives here at the Eco Resort, in the way she confidently stomps through everything with feet exposed, without a thought to it, while I slowly and begrudgingly wince my way behind her. I stretch out my toes and let the sand encourage their separation, thinking about the way hers naturally fall into place, wide and unmolded as opposed to the ways shoes tend to encourage them to do over time.
Feet left to shape themselves without a contained boundary, albeit casts designed to keep them safe from nature’s elements, look much different than those who have accepted the safe confinement of regular shoe wearing. Not a wrong path to step, or a lesser path by any means, just different, for squished feet are a much more common and familiar sight. Likewise, lives held by the container of our upbringings are often much more comfortable to take in than lives lived unfolding into the unknown. This is the way I hope my soul might develop, expansive with an unapologetic fortitude, unbound by the constructs designed by and recommended by others. Who knows what it might look like as it spreads out into its most natural form over time.
I trudge through burning sand and occasional strips of gleaming, tiny shells toward the shade of a mangrove tree. With a slight limbo motion I move under overhanging branches, noticing a pile of used coconuts tossed to the side, and settle down near them into an open patch nestled by this sturdy flowing tree. It moves around and outward, encouraged over time by ocean waves and winds to organically grow through various planes, rejecting mere horizontal and vertical growth patterns. Twenty feet away, the water curls up and breaks, roaring at me as each incoming wave makes its way toward high tide.
I close my eyes to meditate. It’s not easy and, I have to admit, I’ve been entirely negligent to my practice for the last few weeks; the fact I’m this drained is probably a testament to my failure to keep up with it. I go through my usual visualizations, observing how unstable my inner sight is and so I start over to drop a little deeper into the calm. My ADD is high and I find myself looking for excuses to escape awareness. Taking a deep, difficult breath in, I release it audibly with a forced, abrupt “aaah.” I do it again, noticing with it a thick wheeziness on the inhale at the back of my throat I’m not accustomed to. Over and over I draw air in, occasionally and with a child-like impatience asking my intuition if I can be done with it now. I receive a loud no and so I keep going. Continuing on for another couple of minutes, the strange noise of stifled inhalation slowly decreases, leaving in its place a more natural and powerful exchange of air flow.
I feel into my heart space where shards of painful memory still linger, although considerably lighter compared to a month ago. A small orb of green floats in front of me, increasing in size with each breath until in totally envelops me, momentarily lifting the feelings of collapse from my nervous system. In this space I give thanks for my aloneness, recognizing how necessary it is to make time for myself in this way. The sun comes out from behind a cloud and all is illuminated, giving me the cue it’s time to submerge myself in the ocean. I gather my belongings and stand up, hitting my head against a low hanging limb. Oi. I rub the spot where it made contact, laugh a little, and give thanks to the fact I’m on this gorgeous beach, by myself, with not a single place to be.
I wonder if extroverts struggle to empathize with this need for complete aloneness, how it feels to want to curl into oneself and not interact with anyone for extended amounts of time and how dire it is for personal sanity. Reflecting a little more, I recall it’s not a universal need and therefore not everyone is sensitive to what this is like for those who do. Some are fueled by their interactions with others, and some, like myself, are predominately drained by it. Over a month of constant stimulation, I feel like a cow who has been milked dry.
From an empty cup, there is nothing to give to others. I remind myself of this as I fill my cup from the iridescent glass vase sitting in front of me, giving myself permission to not feel so concerned about being an anti-social oddity right now. My coworkers chat to themselves around the nearby table I just excused myself from to come sit alone. And by excusing myself I mean I just got up and walked away, headphones in, laptop in hand. I don’t always have to explain myself and that’s also liberating to remember.
Freedom as a lifestyle has been an on-going, evolving idea for me, and I am working to feel my way into what this looks like for the long term- what total, complete freedom feels like to be experienced and lived on a daily basis. What does it mean for me to design a life where freedom is the norm, where the 9:00am-5:00pm doesn’t exist, where I’m not perpetually confined to a desk, or even a house? Am I seriously considering never settling into one home? What a thought coming from me. I’ve officially cracked, fleeing in totality from the idea from one permanent location. Home is no longer a physical place, because the only continuous home I really have is the one I find inside of myself.
Home takes many forms now in days, which probably influences why one home will never suffice. I recognize that as much as I do find home inside, I also find it in those around me. Transient this is though, for over the years bits and pieces of my heart have been taken by many, no single location containing them all. Thus, I can easily find home anywhere I go whether that is experienced in the comforts of going inward or by the strong connections I make with others.
I sit out beyond the confines of the earth, hovering in place as I watch her rotate beneath me. An asteroid passes nearby as I get comfortable with the boundlessness that comes from being amidst the stars. Bright lights dot the changing landscapes, spread out all over the planet. Each light is brilliant, varying in color and clarity, each one so special, beautiful and important. I know these lights so intimately, friends and family collected over my years here. Yet, thousands of other lights call out to me, reminding me of the many others in this world that I am bound to meet through my travels and who will resonate with me in similar ways. One thing I have learned with each new adventure I strike out on is that there is never a shortage of new, awe-inspiring people to meet, to know and to grow in relationship with.
The earth continues to rotate, and one section shines especially bright, with so many dots that you might think the whole area itself was on fire- The pacific NW. Vancouver and Portland will always be one of my homes. I will always return, but right now I don’t know how long that will be before I return for any indefinite amount of time. The thing with love is that as much as it can open you up and lift you into the ethers of joy, some love, like the collapsing star, is bound to explode, leaving a certain kind of supernova wreckage of the psyche. This can happen individually, by refraining from self-care, but it can also happen between two people. There’s something necessary about putting distance between yourself and the neutron star of what love once was but is not anymore, having crushed all of its atoms, all of those dreams of what the future might have been, in order for something better to one day be made from the remnants of such an implosion. For as much as I feel like my own collapsing star right now, I’m not a stranger to the universe’s natural processes of ending life in order to create itself anew. The collapsing memories of the past fuel me to keep moving forward, into a life of great adventure, expanding my own internal universe while traversing this one small planet we call home.
My naked feet, covered in dirt and sand, move gently across a graveled road as I make my way to an outdoor shower to rinse off. The shore here is rather turbulent, waves coming in like a damn train and tackling me into a scrambling mess of water, shells and rock. From this, a load of debris settles into my swimsuit. I’ve learned it is best to try and flush it out now before I dump a sandbar onto the floor of my bathroom when I go to pull my top over my head. It’s one of those things you pick up on after swimming in the ocean most days, but embarrassingly this is the very first time I’ve actually remembered to do so after living here for almost a month and a half. As I make this observation I barely notice the way I glide over the sharp grey stones and jagged sticks beneath me. I guess my callousing feet are finally becoming more resilient to the elements of life, after all.