Last week, we went to Reid State Park in Georgetown and walked the beach. It reminded me of my time on the west coast of Ireland, where I lived in a cottage alone for 10 days right by the Atlantic. My whimsical self, fascinated with tiny things and little worlds, loved the tidal pools that formed amidst the rocks along that stretch of coast. If not for the extreme tides and craggy terrain, these pockets of wonder would not exist. At once they are just another section of the sea floor, but then the water recedes and they become something uniquely beautiful. A carpet of sand and iridescent shells and seaweed accents made me wish I was tiny and aquatic. And there they were at Reid, precious, unassuming gifts occurring simply because the earth changes. The moon tugs, the tides gradually shift, and the shorelines transition.
I find tides interesting, especially the more extreme tides like those at northern latitudes. Even though tides have a peak and a low point, they just keep cycling through a mostly in-between state – similarly to the moon. Us humans are very inpatient with transitions and ambiguity. We want to be clearly here or most definitely there; if we don’t understand something or someone, we fill in the blanks with a story that allows that thing or person to make sense. I’ve been very guilty of this. But I’m further north now, reflecting back on my life, and I see how it’s really just been a series of cycling through expansive tides. Parts of my story aren’t so pretty, but then if I hadn’t been in constant motion, I wouldn’t have happened upon my own tiny wonderfuls.
Through my personal interactions, I’ve noticed how people depend solely on their careers for their identity and self-worth. I admittedly find it difficult to trust family, friends, or new acquaintances who only relate to themselves through their work, because it means they tend to only relate to me through mine. I don’t fault these people; I’ve been one of them – constantly judging myself based on how impressive my job was – but we need to scratch “How’s your job?” or “What do you do for work?” and start asking each other better, more humanizing questions. I feel most definitely not the sum of what I do in exchange for money and I want other people to truly see me. And I think perhaps we all really want that.
I’m bringing this up because for a very, very long time, I hated myself for not being here, nor there, for not having an established career, for not earning a substantial amount of money. I totally evaluated my self-worth by how effectively I participated in the market. I didn’t know who I was because I didn’t have a set career to define me. I was constantly ebbing and flowing between ideas and decisions that led me to all different sorts of jobs and experiences. These shifts often felt as jagged and unforgiving as these rugged coastlines I love so much. But these weathered rocks also tell a story, and in much the same way my life tells a story. So far, it’s the story of someone who held high hopes for herself only to realize that prayer came easier than money, that all she really needed was a tiny, modest patch of beauty.
If I hadn’t left my job at the law firm to move to Long Island, I wouldn’t have realized how far I had to go in terms of demanding people respected my time, intelligence, and my body. Nor would I have fell in love with a version of God. If I hadn’t fled Long Island for the Hudson Valley, I wouldn’t have learned that my relationship to God is neither determined nor dependent on anyone else but me; my spiritual life is my responsibility. I also would not have met my life partner, the truest love and healthiest relationship I’ve ever had that both affirms who I am and keeps me curious about how much more I can grow. If I hadn’t tried to start a coaching practice, only to fail miserably, I wouldn’t have learned that it’s okay to trust people and then be disappointed by them. And from that point forward, I arrive here: patient, content, complete.
I had an important experience early on in my yoga practice. I was laying in śavāsana after a class. My body and mind were very relaxed, and my focus fell to a much deeper place. I felt certain that if everything in the world fell away, there would be so much left of me to explore. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Through yoga, I’ve discovered my heart, a wonder-drenched and mystical place, just like the edges of the sea.