Every new year, my thoughts turn to my health. What I can do to improve it? How can I be more in tune with my body, heart and mind? This week, there will be a focus on health. Starting with what I consider the most important piece of the health puzzle: mental health.
It was late afternoon and the storm clouds had already begun to blow in. But I craved the sand and the sea, so I headed down to the beach with baby E. Just him and I, a towel and the baby carrier. Unencumbered by cameras or phones. No shoes, both dressed only in our swimmers. I waded into the ocean, him close on my hip and we bounced over the waves together, his baby giggles and soft breath against my neck.
I closed my eyes and committed the moment to memory. The clear water against our skin, the weight of my baby and the weightlessness of the ocean. The sounds of distant thunder rumbling and the waves gently crashing. The smell of salt and the promise of rain. We left the water and clambered over rocks, collected sea shells and watched a crab snatch at the air. I showed baby E anemones and sea snails and felt the simple joy of sharing our beautiful world with my child. And in all of this, I was grateful for the space. The pause in our life that allowed this week at the beach. A stretch of time to dedicate to restoration.
Like everyone I know, I am busy. But I make that busy. It is a choice. I know I spend too much of my time drowning in minutiae, becoming obsessed to the point of worry about trivial things. Things that have grown in my mind out of all proportion to their true impact on my, and everyone else’s, life. I think we are all guilty of this at times. Time away from these tiny things is important. Time to realise that letting go will not result in a catastrophe. Time to learn that things that loom large are not so scary when you step back. Time to reflect on priorities and whether time is given to the most important or just the most demanding. This coming year I will be launching my own consulting business. I have been hesitant to the point of paralysis – afraid of starting because I may fail. As I stood on the beach with my darling child, watching the waves and the sky, failure did not seem so scary. The world would keep turning. It has kept turning through much greater tragedies. I know from experience. This year, I will be more careful to carve out space – time away from the busy. The wheels won’t fall off, and I am likely to work with more purpose, direction and with greater perspective on what I truly value.
As the first splashes of rain began to fall, the sheet lightning flashing across the sky, I felt small and a part of something bigger. And I was grateful for the wild, untamed spaces that give us perspective and remind us of the true size of things. When my middle son died, I turned to the heavens and the stars and the infinite. There was some level of comfort to be found in the context. If I placed his life against the enormity of the universe, then his time didn’t seem so much shorter than my own. Compared to eternity our lives cast a similar length of shadow. When these big, life changing events occur, they cause us to pause and wonder at things larger than ourselves. But that perspective is lost over time. I had returned to worrying about the small stuff. This year I will seek out the wild spaces and the perspective they offer.
The beach is the place I feel the most calm, the most connected to the earth. I feel magic and healing in the waves. If I could start and end all my days on the beach, I would. But I do not live near the beach. This year I will create a space in my house that will honour that part of myself. A space that calms me, that feels entirely my own. A retreat: a place for renewal and inspiration. A place that will echo the calm I feel as soon as my bare feet touch the sand.
Space: placing distance between myself and the grind of life, creating beautiful places to rest, appreciating the wildness and the enormity of nature – these are my promises to myself this year.
What does space mean to you? How do you create it in your life?