This past weekend, in typical Maryland fashion, we had one spring-like day followed by a wintery mix the next. The end of the work week was warming up, and I noticed that there was only one warm day left, Saturday. I decided to take a trip to the beach. During online teaching I would visit Assateague Beach often, and so I picked a day at the beach over a day in the mountains. It was more eco-therapy for sake of eco-therapy: no mileage, no weight vests, no set plans. Our walk along the beach was leisurely and I got to sit in the sand, write and turn my face towards the sun like a sunflower. The culmination were tasty beers at Burley Oak Brewery. The spirit animal of the trip was an oyster – a shell with an intricate design of browns, grays and whites caught my eye. “… through the oyster we have access to becoming more peaceful and one with our environment. Though the waters around us may be turbulent, we do not become part of the stress but hang on and remain calm. We are also in balance with the environment that surrounds us.” In the few weeks since my divorce was finalized, my ex has said things in front of and to the children that are hurtful and confusing to them. It is difficult to remain calm and not respond to them that their dad is a fucking asshole, but I bite my lip, take a minute to have the second and third thoughts – he is sad and hurt – and then I am able to respond calmly and appropriately.
The end of January brought the close of the first semester, and with the new semester came a new schedule. I have been able to attend a CrossFit class in the mornings now before going to work. Working out at a consistent time with a fun, supportive group of people has brightened my overall mood. Although I haven’t hiked recently, I get the same kind of high from putting in the hard work at the gym. I haven’t been able to workout at the gym in the mornings since prior to my separation, and seeing some people again has evoked fleeting feelings of guilt about some of the things that I did a few years ago. The other morning I walked out to my car and noticed my front windows. Three years ago my windows were heavily tinted, and similarly, I was very emotionally closed off from many people. I kept a lot of secrets and did things that I am not proud of. A few people knew what was going on in my life, and those were friends for the season. I kept my secrets from my closest friends, family and the people I really loved. “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.” – Horus Fe-Nix
The temperature was in the mid-sixties on Saturday and the sun was welcomed on my pale skin. I knew I wanted to talk to Ken about something that bothered me, just slightly, but I was anxious about it. “Old Liz” would have just buried it, or pushed Ken away. Being truthful, and open with my emotions and thoughts is difficult. As my brother-in-law Chris Colbert writes in his book This Is It, “The truth stings. Acknowledging the truth about our past and our present, our maybe not great choices and decisions. But you simply cannot move forward without doing this work. You have to inventory you, the good and the bad, the clear and the confused, before you have a chance to chart a path to move forward. In business terms it’s sometimes called a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The challenges in the personal version of this exercise are how stark the reveal is, and the fact that it’s not always a pleasant, something to be proud of, picture. The truth really does sting. But it also sets you free.” I echoed his feelings in my journal entry from the beach. I wrote that it is very challenging to be transparent in my (relatively new) romantic relationship, friendships, as a teacher and as a parent. Part of it ties into extreme ownership – the fact that you have to own your shit – good and bad. You also have to have the confidence to allow others to see your mistakes, and accept vulnerability and transparency from someone else. Chris Rock has a great stand-up about relationships. I have written several times about friendships and finding reciprocity. His line about how relationships aren’t hard when two people are trying is fantastic, but applies to any significant relationships, romantic or not. “Two people can move a couch real easy. One person can’t move it at all.” It is important to me to make sure that I am “helping to move the couch” in relationships with others. As Ken and I talked the wind shifted and blew in from off the ocean. The temperature dropped significantly, but with the shift in direction came the smell of the ocean and the ability to almost feel like I was back in it. It was a gentle reminder that like with most things, what comes with a little discomfort comes a more soul-satisfying joy. The uneasiness of vulnerability/transparency is minor compared to the reward of living freely, openly and genuine. I would rather be a little chilly next to the ocean and smell the ocean air than be warm, but not smell a thing.
Maria gave me these beautiful cards for my birthday called Nature’s Whispers. I decided to do a reading before writing this post to see if it helped me out at all. I asked myself this question, will I betray myself again? The card I drew was Assurance : “Remain steady and be assured you are doing exactly what you are supposed to do. You might be seeing small signs that things, situations and desires are just beginning to fall into place … as a result, your life will move towards harmony and balance. Trust yourself. You have everything you need.” I take this to mean that I am meant to be transparent, continue my ecotherapy adventures and know that I have that tough oyster shell, but only for when I am in turbulent waters.
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