Challenging the Always/Nevers (And Sea Glass Hecklers)
I’m not a fan of using terms like “always” or “never”. They’re limiting, lend toward extreme thinking, and most of all they don’t describe anything remotely literal because nothing definitive can actually be described by those words. Well, most of the time. I mean, I truly believe I’ll never say the words, “I need to get these pants hemmed”, so there’s that. Of course, something could potentially happen to my legs, but I feel comfortably certain that odds are, this is a situation not meant to be covered by the phrase “never say never”, at the very least, and at the most, I’m too lazy to imagine all the gruesome leg-shortening misfortunes I might be facing. I spent my entire teen and young adult years longing to be a petite little bird of a woman and thank the Goddess I don’t want to be anyone other than exactly who I actually am today. “I’ll never be petite!” is my victory cry, so maybe let’s shift our attention to the fact that millions of women worldwide aren’t able to find clothes that fit them if they fall outside a range of sizes designed by someone who I assume can never have actually seen a woman’s body.
If it’s shame, fear, and pain that show up in our consciousness using declarative sentences heavily laden with the alwayses and the nevers, then we heal every time we see through them.
“I’ll never get into a loving relationship that works” “They will never understand me” “I’ll never solve (this problem)”. You always/You never is usually trotted out when what we really mean is, “My feelings are hurt”, giving us the opportunity to own who we are emotionally. Whole structures of mental illness are built upon lies like “I’ll always be depressed”, “I’ll never fit in”, and there is real danger in allowing them to go unchallenged.
From a purely intuitive place, even if he’s never going to stop verbally abusing you, or even if she will always attempt to avoid giving you a cost-of-living increase, or even if they never understood you and will always center themselves in any discussion, we only gain access to what essential and empowering by leap-frogging over “always” and “never” and asking: why am I agreeing to this, and what am I going to need to heal?
However. There is one and only one always/never combo that I stand by with my whole heart. I can find no exception to it in my memory. I will defend my stance with the power of one who loves being right.
I always feel better at the beach.
I’ll stake my entire reputation on the assertion that I have never had a bad day at the beach and I never will. The wind has been bitter, the water cold, I was once broken up with at the beach, once the shoreline was littered with a jellyfish extinction event. I once did a beach clean-up with a dozen people for four hours and we hardly made a dent in the garbage there. But I always leave feeling centered and believing in myself and locked into communion with all of life, without sugar-coating or engaging in magical thinking about the reality of any of it. So much can be unfinished in my heart and going to the beach invites God, the Universe, and Everything into a partnership that demands the deepest of surrenders on my part. Even if, on some future beach I am the victim of some grisly crime or abject heartbreak, should I survive I will probably share about it afterward acknowledging that it would have been worse had those things happened somewhere else.
On a recent Monday, after supporting my kid through some gut-wrenching decisions facing them, I received bad news from the vet about my beloved, old-timer Fuzzy dog at the exact second a text arrived that my mom had been taken to the hospital via ambulance after being in the ER twice previously that week. The rest of the week was spent attempting to recover some equilibrium and failing. There was only one thing for it: check the tides and the weather, and make a plan.
We showed up at one of our favorite sea glass hunting beaches and exchanged all that was heavy in our hearts with Neptune for a few soft hours at the beach. It was a no-wind, warm-enough, the-light-just-a-little-bit-fuzzy-around-the-edges-afternoon. One that would ensure we came home pinked up on the west side of our faces as only the seriously uncool on the last day of April can. A spring sunburn is such a hopeful sunburn yet it also keeps us humble. It’s like the sun is sternly reminding us that unless we leave New England for a while in February or ski, we are always at risk for translucency.
Twice we were gifted handfuls of glass by locals, who always seem slightly puzzled by the low tide looters that are constantly combing up and down their shoreline, like plovers with pockets. Two fishermen told us about how it used to be and where the good spots are now. These are stunning generosities, mostly we encounter combers who don’t say much and who seem to have forgotten that all mudlarking is essentially a kind of beach clean-up (which we also do, with the “real” garbage we find). I think I understand their anxious don’t-make-eye-contact stances but if you saw the jars and jars and jars full of glass we’ve collected you’d understand the folly of thinking the beach is ever going to run out of beautiful treasures. There is truly enough for everyone.
We also met three super dogs: Bruno (it’s ok to talk about him), Bo, who taught me how to throw his very best ball, and Bodhi who likes to dig up oyster shells and carry them around proudly in his mouth.
I was also heckled. While hunting sea glass, may I remind you. A Definite First. I just beamed upwards at the guy, who will never know he was responsible for what may be the funniest bit I will ever do-I was so tickled, so grateful, so overwhelmed at the hilarious ridiculousness of it that I completely and utterly failed the moment. I didn’t care. I was hapless and stupid happy and could not regain my composure enough to throw some shit back at him.
But imagine if you will, this guy. Who actually used time and energy, that he’ll never, ever get back by the way, and who decided that the moment demanded the deepest, most authentic expression of his truest self, and so he opened his mouth and called out mockingly, “Hey there’s a piece of sea glass over there!” His best life right then was lived chiding people who were so deep in meditation that it barely registered to them that he was talking, let alone that he was an absolute idiot. Sir. You don’t have to fing point it out to us. You’ll honestly *never* have to do that. And you know why? Because we’re wayyyy ahead of you. It’s already funny to us. It’s funny every time we go to any beach and see the lovely walking trails adjacent to the beautiful picnic pavilion or notice the color of the water is stunning and the curve of the shore or cove is just so cozy and perfect for an entire day spent there as soon as it gets over 70°, and then we say something *out loud* like, “Next time we come here we should plan in some extra time and maybe bring our bikes”, and then instantly choke on our own spit because we’re laughing so hard we can’t breathe since we ALL know we are never ever going to spend any significant time on a beach doing anything that involves looking up for more than a few seconds at a time. Because no matter how many millions of pieces of history wash up on this fucking beach, we won’t stop looking. There is no last piece.
So I say to you, you adorable dummy: DUH.
Also? If I can’t handle sea glass hecklers who are probably the lowest stakes hecklers around, I will never do stand up and live to tell the tale.
Or maybe I will. Perhaps I could just deal with hecklers in a club by pretending we’re all at the beach and they’re trying to ruin my happy place. And failing.
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