Staring out the window of the airplane, I can’t help but feel small: so small compared to the puffy white clouds dotting the sky. Only minutes ago it was the white caps and the size of the ocean making me feel insignificant. Just hours before, I stood on that beach, my feet sinking into millions of grains of sand.
I was but one person on the beach of hundreds, and but one on this planet of billions.
They say that the fish is the last to notice the water he’s swimming in. Removing ourselves from our own environment through travel, we see the grandeur of nature in a different place and can notice our water; differences and similarities in culture. Getting on an airplane to somewhere new has always helped to give me perspective before.
I think it’s important to remember how small we are, that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, but we also need to reflect on the value of each and every person, and we can’t deny ourselves our own realities.
Our problems are not diminished simply because we are a small piece of the puzzle. Indeed, when I’m hurting and feeling small, I’m still just one grain of sand on the beach, one whitecap on the ocean, one puffy cloud in the sky — but my hurt is still very real. I thought a sunny escape might help, but somehow my “baggage” followed me in my carry-on.
It always seems so strange to me how everyone around us can continue going about their business in such an ordinary and orderly fashion when I’m hurting so much. Who cares about paint colours? the daily commute? the next marketing slogan? Every action seems futile. But that’s my egocentricity speaking — I know that my problems are small in perspective to the beach, the ocean, and the sky. The world is faced with so many mammoth concerns; wars, hunger, and environmental crisis to name a few.
I shouldn’t complain. Overall I have carved out a good life. But I’d do myself a disservice if I didn’t honour the pain I’m feeling. Everything is relative. We need to be able to grieve, to process, to come out the other end of our own dark tunnels even if everyone else is standing in the sunshine.
Selfishly, I want the world to stop. Perhaps the sun could shine just a little less brightly, or take a well-deserved break for a few days and simply not rise.
I say that, but, I know that as humans, as we work through our hurt, whether facing health concerns, or the literal or figurative loss of a loved one, we need to be sunflowers. We can’t ask the sun to not rise. We need to beg for its strength. We need to turn to the sun and drink it in. We need to surround ourselves with our true friends. We need to go back to finding all the things that bring us joy.
We need to look at our families and hold them close. There will be bad and good times, worse times and better times, but unconditional love from our families is the most precious gift in the world.
I am allowed to be sad, because I don’t want my kids to think that some emotions are off limits, but for my kids, I have to also show them that even when you are sad, you keep moving. You put one foot in front of the other and eventually it will get easier.
For my kids them, I am the sky, I am the ocean, I am the beach.
I will point out the clouds in the sky and we’ll name what we think the clouds look like.
We’ll dip our feet in the ocean together. We’ll play in the waves, sometimes together, sometimes apart, and there will be times that a wave will sneak up on one of us, gargle us harshly and spit us out. Yet, we’ll know that our family will be there to pick us up and help clean all the sand out of our hair and swimsuit.
The kids and I will build sandcastles and moats on the beach and decorate them with seashells and seaweed. Then we may chose to be giants and smash our sandy structures. If, the waves or someone else may beat us to it, and destroy our world, either way, we will put one foot in front of the other knowing that we can rebuild our castle again.