Today Belle and I ran on the beach. We do that a few times each week and even though I time my pace and measure my distance, my only goal is to get back home. Each day I am amazed how different I feel and how different the beach feels to me. One day the waves are angry, the next – inviting. Some days they are calm, and the beach is wide and flat. The next day I run sideways in the sand to avoid the rising tide.
Yet through it all, Belle is undaunted and oblivious to the turn of the tide. She remains focused on an immediate smell to be found or a bird to be chased. No matter what the wave, she runs through the edge and into a deluge that towers over her head. She disappears for a moment then emerges with her dog-smile. She hates having water on her head but it never stops her.
In one of my counseling courses a professor required us to read Ann Morrow Lindbergh’s book, “A Gift from the Sea.” I had no idea why and at twenty years old, only pretended to know.
She had this to say about the beach:
The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach — waiting for a gift from the sea.
As you may know Ann was married to famed Charles Lindbergh and together they had a son, Charles Jr. who was born on Ann’s birthday. At twenty-months-old, he was kidnapped and later presumed dead when a baby was found on top of a hill just a few miles away.
Living a life of promise, educated in an elite institution and marrying a national hero, Ann’s future was bright. Intelligent and means, they began what appeared to be a story book relationship. Not only was she a woman of letters but she became a gifted aviator in her own rite. After the tragic loss of their first son, the couple had five more children but their relationship became distant and conflicted.
Yet somehow Ann rose above her circumstances and no matter what the tide or beach, she always found something to learn from and become better. So after returning from the beach when it seemed like the only thing I got was tired and hungry, I thought I’d return to Anne to give us “a gift from the sea.” Read the following now knowing about its author who dealt with life, love, and loss:
When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.
Now that I’ve matured a bit and have had my own ebb and flow in life, I can finally appreciate what this lady experienced, and how she responded. Ann Morrow Lindbergh lived for 94 years, alas taking her last breath on February 7, 2001.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. Look forward to his upcoming posts, quiz, and book, “When Sunday Smiled.” Visit his website at AndyMDavidson.com and Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief.