This is my mom’s house. I drive 500 miles to get here. I endure traffic from Baltimore, MD to nearly Richmond, VA. This trip I got a flat tire shortly before arriving, 7pm on Saturday when no shop is open. I finally made it to the house with a few groceries, and I simply wanted a hot shower and to go to bed. The water was cold. Thanks to a diagnosis over the phone from my husband, I learned that the fuse had tripped for the hot water heater. It was a long day. But you know what? I would do it all again. And I will, as soon as I can.
The house is small, as you can see. There really isn’t much to it. But the property has been a constant in my life for over 20 years. It is a place of respite, sanctuary, healing, centering. It is a place of joy and relaxation. It is a place that inspires and challenges me. It is a place where I can most clearly hear my voice. And that’s because when I walk past the house and into the expansive yard beyond, this is what I see:
I have always loved the ocean. And I am so grateful to have a place where I can find myself again. Today I ran on the beach with my arms stretched out wide like an eight year old kid. My 14 year old labrador ran next to me like a puppy. I didn’t see anyone around, but I imagine if someone caught a glimpse of us, they would’ve had a chuckle. I ran with my face upward, laughing out loud, the sun shining and the wind blowing my hair. I ignored the voice in my head that told me I looked silly. I felt free and overflowing with unadulterated joy. I felt the weight of life slip off my shoulders as I ran and laughed and kicked the foam that the sea had left at my feet. My dog pranced and chased the foam and panted with her tongue hanging out of the side of her mouth. And it was magical. It was glorious. It was heavenly.
I take my life seriously. I take my responsibilities seriously. And I have seen things, experienced things, that have aged me. But sometimes I need to set those aside, just for a bit, and act like a kid. I need to forget the scars and limps that life has caused, and run like I don’t have a care in the world. For those 15 minutes, I didn’t have a care in the world. Just a beach to run on and a dog to accompany me. When it was done, my reality hadn’t changed a bit. But it felt somehow lighter. And that right there is the point. We can let life weigh us down, literally and figuratively, day after day after day. And it will unless we carve out time to run and laugh and play. We need to not take ourselves so seriously, at least for awhile.
Today I was reminded that I am but one small entity in the expansive universe. And I find that comforting. In fact that might be what is at the heart of a kid’s experience. She never forgets that she is small; she is surrounded by people who know more; she needs supervision. These are her daily realities. She’s okay with and even embraces them. She doesn’t let those things prevent her from experiencing things around her. But as she grows up, she realizes that she can control people’s perceptions by what she allows them to see. And so she chooses to let people see only parts of herself. She learns that life isn’t always fair. And so she allows resentment and bitterness to settle in, even just a little. She dissects every word she hears looking for hidden meanings. She craves victory to prove her worth. And it is exhausting. Kids, however, have a much simpler inner dialogue. My moments of abandon help shed the layers of unwanted and unhelpful inner dialogue.
The challenge is how to run like an eight year old, or its equivalent, healthily, authentically, consistently. I have learned to lighten my grasp, to even let go at times. I saw how little I actually could control, and so I learned to accept it as much as I can. That learning creates some turmoil, because what you thought you could count on turns out to be less of a safety net and more of a safety blanket. It feels good holding onto, but it’s not going to break your fall. It is serious business when you realize what could happen, when you no longer feel protected from the periodic cruelty of life, when you begin to see the suffering that is going on all around you. I have worked on letting my guard down, to be more open and honest with what I think and feel. Perhaps these will only get me so far. Maybe what I need in taking the next step is to regularly reconnect with my eight year old self, and make peace with the 38+ years of living that have occurred between then and now. It’s a paradox of sorts, to live with the wisdom of an old soul and the delight of a young child. And it’s going to take some time to get there because one gets in the way of the other. But one also needs the other. Wisdom brings meaning, purpose and clarity. Childlikeness brings joy, lightness, and the ability to be fully present. There is something undeniably sweet about being a 46 year old running like an eight year old. You should give it a try.