“And the ocean taught her to drown in everything bigger than herself, the ocean loved her and knew everything that made her. And every time she walked to the shore, she would smile at the ocean because the waves told her story.”
R. M. Drake
Ever since I was my daughters age I have been going to the same beach town each summer. My favorite memories as a child were in Ocean City, NJ. It was a place at a young age I could find joy, peace, and laughter. The positive energy (even the seagulls brought happiness) radiated throughout the town. I still go there and I have to say Friday of last week was one of the greatest days I have ever had in my life. Bringing my now three year old daughter to my favorite place in the world and sharing my love for the ocean with her was something I will never forget. She is three, a very tall three but still the young age of three. I thought she would be frightened by the ocean, she is used to pools and loves swimming as much as I do but the ocean is huge or as Kayci says: “Wow Mommy, this pool is big!” No fear. She ran so fast to get into that ocean I didn’t have time to even put sunscreen on. The ocean was rough: warning signs were designated throughout the area that the tides were heavy and to be careful. The signs were not lying. At first I carried Kayci into the ocean, however within ten minutes she was on her own loving the waves crashing on her face and feeling the salt water in her hair and face. She then began riding waves, I have never seen any child that young ride waves and be completely un-afraid. She and I spent a good three hours in that ocean and when it did calm down for a bit, I took her out deep and held her and we both just stared at the never-ending sea. The only thing said was: “Mommy, this is so beautiful. Can we live here?” It is unbelievable to me how intuitive, fearless, and carefree my daughter is and I am not taking credit: she was really just born this way.
Following my stay at the Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehab Center where I learned to manage pain naturally and accept my invisible illness I took a few months off of “life” to practice what I was taught and to seek solitude. It was in September, which is the greatest month to go to the beach because all kids are back in school, the town is quiet and there are very few people sitting in the very crowded summer town. All I brought was my I pod for meditations, books, and my journal. It was the greatest month I ever had at the beach and it was just time with myself, which was always a fear of mine: being alone. I practiced two mediations each day, read, wrote, took walks, swam in the ocean and talked to the Universe. I had no idea what/where I was going in life. I was afraid. I had just gotten out of a four-week program that taught me how to manage pain and was surrounded by people who understood my invisible illness and then in a mere day I was on my own. Was I ready to go back to work? If so, should I remain a social worker or find something more holistic or as I am now doing many years later start my writing for the book I had titled while in the Mayo Clinic: “No One Gets Flowers For Chronic Pain.” A couple of weeks later I was offered a job as a social worker in an adult day care center working with Alzheimer’s patients, Cancer patients, and children/adults with mental illness. Following the interview, I was offered the job: I did not know what to do. I asked the head of the facility to allow me a week to think about the job because of my management of chronic pain: I was very honest about my invisible illness. He agreed whole heartedly and so I spent that week on the beach by myself. I kept asking for a sign. I stared at the ocean for hours waiting and waiting and waiting for something to say: “Take the job Jessica!” or “Do not do it, you are not ready Jessica. There are many more jobs out there.” By the end of the week I resorted to literally asking the Universe to have a seagull poop on my head which would mean take the job. No such luck, seagulls ate my food but refused to poop on me. So, I walked out onto the rocks and got as close to the waves as possible and just sat still, listening the waves as they crashed into the stone and then left peacefully. It hit me: my life was the ocean. It was rough managing pain naturally but also very peaceful and calm. I took the job: I loved that job. I did not need a sign, I knew I was just afraid.
My dad has always said when you are going through tough times go to the ocean because seeing something so large like the mountains puts your problems into perspective. As a teenager, I thought that was crap and just wanted to go with my best friends to pretend we were in our twenties and have adults buy us cigarettes. Times sure do change. Now it makes more sense than anything else. I live about fifty minutes from the ocean and it the one place I am truly at peace and just happy no matter what outside forces are happening. Now, seeing my daughter love the ocean as much as I do I realize I need to take a lot more time going to the most healing place I know. Each of us has a place we find healing. For some it is the mountains: not me I am an ocean girl. I lived in Colorado for many years and at times got claustrophobic from being land locked. I missed the ocean, as beautiful as the mountains were nothing compares to the sounds, beauty, smell and peace of the ocean. Where do you find your peace? I know each of you have somewhere you just love but are allowing chronic pain to take that away from you: don’t. Go to your place, wherever that may be. I promise your thoughts about your pain will lessen and remember the fear of pain is often worse than pain itself. I am taking Kayci to the ocean tomorrow: life is short, I want to find that peace again.
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy.” They told me I did not understand the assignment. I told them, they did not understand life.”