Notes from Provincetown: Seeing

grey-skies

It is raining outside and I am in my room, looking over the bay in Provincetown.

I woke up about 6:30 and headed out to one of the beaches at the end of the cape. No one was there and I just walked. The rain had not started, but you could smell it in the air, a heavy, pregnant smell. The wind was blowing and I was glad for the windbreaker I bought last spring in the offseason. The seagulls were out in abundance, and the soundscape was of waves and birds calling out.

I walked for about an hour, then called the woman I love. I had asked her to join me, but since I decided to come on such short notice, she could not redo work to be here. The next best thing would be to talk to her while I was walking on the beach.

“You sound stronger.” she said.

I never thought about that. About being stronger or weaker. But recharging our internal batteries, our spirits, our souls does make us stronger, no matter what form it comes in. And yet, we do is so rarely. We work hard. Play hard. Fill our every hour with activity. Go to the gym to make our bodies strong. Go to classes to make our brains strong. Some of us go to religious services to make our spirituality strong.

And we neglect the time to refresh our own spirits. To let them settle.

There are a few people whose spirits are so strong that they don’t get scrambled by so-called “real life.” A few. A very few. I’m not one of them. I like being able to be active. I like being effective, helping others, making a difference, my work, all of it. I like the activities I am part of. But too much…. and I am less good at everything I do. I talk and write of erosion a lot, because I believe it happens a lot, and most of the painful things in my life have been caused by a long slow erosion more than by a single event. Enough of them in fact, that I have made it one of my self-care missions to not let that happen to me again.

Years into it, so far, so good.

I don’t like admitting that I’m not superman. That I’m no white knight who wins all my battles and comes out of them with James Bond swag. I don’t like admitting that I get beat up and worn out and frustrated to the point of screaming (mostly in my journal. I was raised to be perhaps too polite and I have not learned to shed that yet.) But, there it is. I’d be ignoring my history if I didn’t admit it. So admit it I have.

And try to minimize it I do. (Said in my best Yoda imitation.).

My favorite bible verse is Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know I am God.”. Stillness lets all sorts of things happen. Be still long enough and all your emotions settle down, like mud in the water settles down when the water is still. Clarity arrives, if we give it enough time. Perspective happens. And if we are open, we can let God in and become more than ourselves. Mostly though, we don’t. Even someone determined to do just that sometimes has trouble with it.

I was hoping to do some painting, but I left my travel paints in the studio. I’ve had an urge to get back to watercolors for a while, and this was to be a start on that. But it’s not to be. I had hoped to begin work on my next novel. I have a couple of chapters written, but I need to stop and organize it all before it gets out of hand as big stories tend to do. I haven’t done that either. I’ve just wandered beaches in the light rain. Wandered the town with it’s abundance of closed shops.

But just wanting to has refocused my mind. I’ve been seeing the things around me with a watercolorist’s eye. Washes of color. Soft lines. Blending of shades. No, not my stark contemporary oils of which I am so fond, but something more subtle. Softer. Gentler. And the rainy day has helped that by creating a watercolor palette in nature.

It is amazing to me how much how we decide to see changes how we actually see. I experience it in my art. I choose to see differently depending on what medium I am working in. Oils, watercolor, photography each require a different way of seeing, each with elements that they share, and with elements that are exclusive to that particular medium. I can generally shift how I choose to see on the fly, and that mental shift, that choice to notice certain things, results in me actually seeing the world around me in a completely different way.

The same thing is possible with our emotions. We can choose (yes we can.) to see through a veil of anger or a wash of kindness. We can choose compassion or greed. Pick your opposites and there is a choice involved. There is no “the world is like this or the world is like that.” The world is what we choose it to be.

Scary thought huh? That we are responsible for how we see the world and our situations? And not at all where I expected to be when I began this little piece of writing.

But that’s what happens when we let ourselves be alone, and we focus on who we are and what feeds us and where we’ve done well and where we’ve done less well. Stuff comes out. Good stuff. Bad stuff. Real stuff. Because when we are not in a place where we have to be this or have to be that or have any roles in life we need to fulfill, we get to just be ourselves, whatever that may be.

And that is a restful place. It’s not that I feel I am “fake” when I am fulfilling all those roles in life – consultant, pastor, coach, parent, engineer, yadda yadda yadda. I like those roles mostly. Each one defines a little piece of who I am. But it’s healthy to be in a place with no expectations for a while, I think. It’s restful. It opens us to just be in a way that is often hard in “real life.”. It allows us to recharge, rethink and reconsider – with no pressure.

It’s raining outside my room. From my desk, I can see the water and the whitecaps caused by the wind. I can hear the waves beating hard against the breakwater and the shore. I will read a while, I think. Then I’ll likely go out again a little later, as dusk arrives, and walk on the beaches some more, whether it is raining or not.

And get a little stronger still.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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