“There is a distinct difference between lonely and alone.”
~ Kelli Owen
I spent Christmas weekend at the Outer Banks (with special thanks to @meteornotes for the use of his beach house—thank you, again, sooooo much!). Alone. It wasn’t because I wanted to, but because I needed to. Yes I missed my family, but in the state I was in, I was no good to them or anyone else. I needed to find my chi, dust it off, remind it how to stand tall, and remember that even when you fall, you fall in a direction. I needed to figure out that direction.
I was surrounded by quiet. To the point that when I said something aloud the second day, my own voice startled me—and I can’t honestly remember that ever happening before. Inside was anything but quiet. A cacophony of voices, all screaming to be heard, ranged from logic to anger to pain to stubborn denial. It was noisy inside my head and quiet outside, and I needed those two things to find a happy medium.
I wandered the beach. Not much for pebbles, but plenty of broken shells to catch my eye. I saw shapes and designs in everything. And while I was sad that I had no one to show them to, I realized I also wasn’t taking pictures to show anyone later, or gathering them to share with people when I got home. These discoveries were for me and me alone. And while my subconscious had obviously already grasped the idea of that, of alone, my conscious had to learn to accept it as well.
There was no moon.
There were no crows.
There was only me.
I listened to the silence. I listened to the surf. I heard a lot of things I should have already known. I heard a lot of things others have said to which I hadn’t truly been listening. I heard old wisdom and new lessons. And I realized the surf wasn’t the one talking. The surf simply cleaned the gypsy off so her words were no longer muffled, no longer muted, and I listened to my own soul tell me the realities as they were, and the paths as they lay ahead of me.
I found a walking stick of driftwood. I dragged it along the sand, stuck it in the muck, flipped over strange discoveries with it, and held tight to it… my gift from the sea. When I got back to the beach house, I pulled out the sharpies and decorated my stick a bit. It came home with me. As did several pocketfuls of shell, a container of sand, and a plethora of pictures.
I learned to be comfortable alone, without being lonely. I learned that the voices in my head, while occasionally sounding insane, all have valid points to be considered. And I learned that even if you don’t know every pebble you’ll encounter on the path, knowing you’re at least on a path does wonders for the psyche.
The little girl was relocated when a piece of blue chalk literally fell from the sky (though I think perhaps a child tossed it, Mary insists the universe threw it at me). The gypsy was cleansed by the waters she loves. And my soul is healing. It’s got to heal from the inside out so it doesn’t leave scar tissue, I know that, but there are stitches and bandages in place and the initial pain is finally subsiding.
I watched the sun rise on my last day there. I looked at the beach and the things the sea had coughed up for me to discover—puked up from her depths—and realized there was beauty even in what’s discarded. And wondered if occasionally it wasn’t especially in what’s discarded.
I cried my last tears and let the ocean swallow them up, making them her own, and made it impossible to ever find them again. I stood up. I brushed the sand off myself. And I took a step forward. A pocket full of pebbles shells and a path to follow…