For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea – E.E. Cummings
Not running sucks.
But if one good thing has come out of this whole mess with my back, it’s that I’ve discovered one of my new favorite things – walking on the beach.
That might sound lame, especially if you’re not a beach walker. I get it. Years ago, I had a good friend who was a couple of decades older than me, and she just loved her nightly walks on the beach. I thought it was a little weird. I mean, walking on the beach is nice and all, but why is it even a thing? Isn’t walking on the beach the same as walking anywhere else?
Fast forward 11 years, 2 kids, and a couple of fused vertebrae later – ah, now I get it.
I had to stop running back in December 2015 when I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis. As my condition worsened, I had to give up most forms of physical activity altogether. The only type of exercise my body could handle was walking.
So I walked.
I tried walking in my neighborhood, but that was boring.
I tried walking with friends, but most of them were too fast for me.
I tried walking in town, but traffic was a pain. It wasn’t relaxing.
Then one winter morning after dropping my kids off at school, I decided to be a little adventurous. I drove out to a spot on the beach that I’d been to a couple of times with friends. As it turned out, this spot was only 2 miles from my kids’ school. And as it also turned out, on chilly weekday mornings such as that one, my spot was also exceptionally quiet. Aside from a handful of morning walkers and beachcombers, I had this lovely little stretch of beach almost entirely to myself.
So I started walking. My walks were short at first. I don’t quite know why, but I felt self conscious, like I wasn’t a “beach person,” that I didn’t belong – yet. But over time, my walks got longer. I started to recognize familiar faces. I discovered the best spots for finding shark teeth and sea glass. I even started using tide charts to plan my day.
I walked for exercise. But my walks on the beach became about so much more.
I hunted for treasures (and found some good ones).
I crossed paths with sea creatures – crabs, starfish, occasionally some dolphins.
I listened to the sound of the ocean and marveled at the bright blue sky, bluer than I’ve ever seen anywhere else.
I used the time to think, to meditate, to pray.
I was soothed by the quiet, the stillness, the solitude.
The thing about us beach walkers is that we usually stick to ourselves. We smile and nod hello as we pass each other on the sand, but it stops there. There’s no conversation, no competition. Just peace. And miles and miles of endless blue sky, chilly ocean water on my toes, and treasures in my pockets.
I hope that someday I’ll be able to run on the beach as well. But for now, I’m truly filled with joy the moment my feet sink into the sand – whether I’m in running shoes, flip flops, or bare feet.
The beach is my peaceful spot. My happy place. It’s part of me now, part of post-op Sharon. A part that I like very, very much.