Like many families, we headed out last month on our beach vacation hoping to relax, reconnect and find a little adventure to help us refuel after a long season of busyness. I planned to unplug for the most part, deleting Facebook and other distractions from my phone.
I longed to be present, to truly engage my husband and children as we explored the coast together. I went into the week with a few expectations but mostly the hope that we'd feel the magic of our first ever vacation alone as a family of four.
It's amazing what a little intention will do for your soul.
As I purposed to be engaged and, as my therapist instructed, remain in tune to all of my senses throughout the week, I began to see more clearly some of the simple truths I've forgotten over the years as well as new revelations that just might put a little life back into these dry bones.
Here are 10 reminders that a beach vacation is good for the soul:
1. Just because we can check out doesn't mean we should.
For the first time, I could leave my children to explore the sand and sea without having to be right by their side. I picked up a magazine on several occasions but quickly set it down to join my family in their fun. It's a beautiful thing as a parent to reach that season where you can check out for a bit ... take a break ... focus on yourself. But just because we can doesn't mean we should. When I choose to engage with my loved ones, I am amazed at the deep connection that follows.
2. It's okay to love ourselves and want to be better.
Putting on a swimsuit has always been hard for me. As I near the end of my fourth decade of life, I'm learning that just because we want to be better, doesn't mean we can't love ourselves. It is in loving ourselves enough to change that we find the strength to change. I put on that swimsuit each day of our vacation and basked in the freedom that came with loving myself enough to enjoy every moment, despite my flaws.
3. Life is best lived one wave at a time.
Looking back over the past 10 years, I might liken it to a monsoon of struggle and loss that nearly drowned us. But when I take time to review the ups and downs, I see the rhythm of the waves and the strength we found to stand through each one. One thing in life (and at the beach) is for sure: The waves will continue to come and bring with them the tide of life. When I learn to live life one wave at a time, I'll discover the thrill of the ride.
4. Freedom follows the brave.
I watched my kids enjoy the thrill of each crashing wave without fear or inhibition. They stood confident within the tide and got back up again when the water was too much to bear. Their courage reminded me that when we stand bravely through whatever life brings, we find freedom to keep going. I will remember the courage of my children in the days to come and use it to fuel my own.
5. Paying attention is the most important thing we aren't doing.
I get on my kids all the time for lack of focus and not paying attention when they need to tune in. Yet I am guilty myself of distractions that keep me from focusing on those around me. We miss out when we check out (see #1) and we rob others of the respect of our full engagement.
Margin and room to breathe on vacation often illuminate our lack of attention in the midst of real life. But time spent lingering in moments I want to soak in remind me that my family, my own surroundings and other people in my life deserve for me to notice them no matter my location.
6. Life is one big choose your own adventure.
With the flexibility vacation brings, we faced each day without a schedule or to-do list. Each morning we chose what to do that day and often adjusted our plans according to our whims and the weather. Life back home isn't quite as carefree but this freedom reminded me of the opportunity we have each day to choose our next steps. When I understand the power of each choice in life, I will choose more wisely as I seek adventure and purpose.
7. We need to find our yes when life says no.
One afternoon we set out for a long walk on the beach (about 1.5 miles) toward an inlet where we were told dolphins go at low tide to strand feed. I wanted so badly to experience this amazing event up close. About a mile into our walk we discovered the path was closed due to beach construction.
We were tired and disappointed but instead of becoming defeated, we let the kids loose to romp in the ocean, fully clothed. They had a blast and although we didn't get to see any dolphins that day, a could-have-been disappointing "no" turned into an incredible adventure. With the right attitude and outlook I can turn any "no" into a life-altering "yes".
8. Treasure is there for those who look for it.
One morning when driving to the beach, I gazed out my window onto the golf course beside the road. I did a double take as I spotted a giant, black alligator. The gator strolled along the course while a few interrupted golfers snapped pics. I couldn't believe my eyes. From crabs to starfish to alligators on the green, we found treasure upon treasure throughout our week at the beach.
After a while in the waves, my girl would ask, "Mommy, can we go look for treasure?" and we'd walk until we could return with proof of something discovered. Had we not been looking, we might have missed what our surroundings had to offer. There is so much treasure to be discovered in my life... if only I'd look for it.
9. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
After a long day of salt water and sea air wreaking havoc on my hair, I decided to give up and throw my half-dried tresses into a ponytail on top of my head. This isn't a good look for me, but I was on vacation. Since I'm the one who holds the camera I figured it wouldn't matter if I looked silly that night. I was making dinner in our condo when my 3-year-old son walked into the kitchen.
"I like your hair mommy," he said.
I chuckled as I bent down low to hug his sweet neck. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. When I tightly hold those I love unconditionally, it allows me to experience beauty all around.
10. Joy is a choice.
I had such high hopes for a magical vacation and for the most part, we experienced blissful relaxation. But in the midst of all the fun I still struggled to feel joy. There were moments this struggle weighed heavy on my heart, exponentially adding to itself. Then I was reminded that joy isn't something we feel on a whim. Joy cannot be based on our circumstances or surroundings. Joy is a choice -- in a dead end job, while living a dream, at home or on vacation. When I choose to embrace my blessings, pain, struggles and triumphs, I will experience deep, unending joy.
We've settled back into real life but I'm choosing to remember these truths and carry them with me each day. Although we are now land-locked, I am hopeful the clarity of coastal breezes will remain and continue to bring fresh perspective.