We had less rain this week, but after last week, we would have had to have a typhoon or something to keep up. We certainly did have our share of precipitation, which brought a portion of the receding flood waters back up. But, there were plenty of moments filled with sunshine and blue skies that remind you this is just a season, and it won’t be raining for the rest of eternity.
It’s that week of the year where you spend a good bit of your time wondering how it is already almost Christmas. Allyson and I try hard to be thoughtful in our gift choices, but we also try to resist the stressful feelings of obligation that come with gift giving. We want to show our friends and family love, but also don’t want to feel like we must equal the amount of money or time put into it, like we are exchanging “gifts” in some kind of market. Christmas can become this soul-sucking stress marathon if we connect the value of our relationships to getting stuff for people who may not even need anything.
So, we’ve got some presents we feel pretty good about, some we think will do the trick and show we thought about someone, and then there’s some we’re still scratching our head on. If nothing else, we’re traveling across the country to spend time with our family and friends, which I prefer to stuff any day. I’m in this part of my life where all I really want is to eat good food, drink good drinks, and travel to beautiful, exciting places. When people ask me my dream job, I typically reply with: Nomad. With that job my life would essentially consist of traveling around, so that I could keep eating. I’m joking a little with that answer, and I’m being a little serious too.
Allyson and I have been taking lunch hour walks on the beach whenever the weather allows it. We’ll eat, then lace up our shoes, assure Digby that he can come with us, then make our way out to the beach. The ocean has had many different personalities this week, but it has consistently been strong. We’ve seen huge waves, and those huge waves have carried in enormous pieces of driftwood, litter, and sea plants.
I was hit with an epiphany on one of our walks. It was a day Allyson and I were talking about our anxieties and how we had both been subject to some relatively sour moods lately. Allyson being the mental health therapist by trade and me on this constant search for meaning, we both
tend to analyze our emotions and try to pinpoint where things are coming from. We’ve both been through a lot of changes lately. The move across country is an obvious one, but there have been plenty of other changes in our life, and change tends to leave us asking a lot of questions without easy answers.
We talked about how wonderful Oregon is, how it’s really like a dream come true for both of us in so many ways. We were doing this, mind you, as we walked along the Pacific Coast with waves crashing against huge rocky cliffs on a walk we can make any day from our home. We are close to good food, several arts communities, cool little quirky beach towns, and one large quirky town just two hours away. We are close to m
ountains, oceans, rivers, gorges, waterfalls. There are giant trees a walk or bike ride from us. This is paradise. And yet, on many days I find myself under this melancholy blanket that I have a hard time shaking off.
When I ask myself about it, I chalk it up to a big shift like this to a totally new place leaving me with lots of natural questions: Were we right to move here? Am I doing well enough at this job? Did they pick the right person? Am I using my gifts the best I can? Those are certainly there and cloud how I feel, but I also realized there on the beach next to my lovely wife that I wan’t actively connecting with a sense of joy. I was waiting for the joy to just happen. I was working under the assumption that if I just went outside in this wonderful place, the joy would flow into me eventually when I’m at this more stable place, feeling more grounded. I was waiting for it to happen on its own and not trying to help it.
I realized I had been letting myself down a bit, letting Allyson down a bit, letting this place down not seeking all the joy there was to be found. I am surely in love with all this, I definitely appreciate it and see its amazingness. But, I’m slacking on accepting the happiness from it that is just waiting to be taken and then spread around. I apologized to Allyson, vowed to be more in touch with a sense of joy.
Almost immediately, my outlook improved. Each day this week, I’ve felt much lighter, much more observant of the beauty surrounding me. Saturday, Allyson and I made our way north for the first time since the floods. We were both experiencing a little cabin fever, being surrounded by flood waters. We saw Nehalem, Cannon Beach, Astoria. We went into the shops to get our loved ones artisan goods from our exotic new home. Allyson greeted the familiar people in these familiar haunts of ours, where she has already made some friends. We stopped into the Nehalem Beehive and The Sleepy Monk. At both spots, everyone was so warm and fun to talk to. The Oregon Coast is dotted with so many places that you go into once and then tell each other, “we need to come back here a lot.” We had delicious Mexican at the Rio Cafe and then walked down the pier to the Buoy Beer Company to sit by the window looking out over the Columbia, watching ships and sea lions make their way.
As we drove, we passed so many ocean gorgeous views, mountain cliffs, tall evergreens. My love for this place felt very fresh, very strong. I felt in love with my life. This isn’t to say my life is now problem free, that I don’t have concerns, that I’m not still trying to answer questions. But, I’ve been reminded this week that there is always beauty, a beauty that deserves equal attention. I don’t need to let myself lose site of that.
It seemed pre-planned with the third week of Advent being the one that focuses on Joy, on the angels visiting the Shepherds and telling them not to be afraid. Joy has been trying to get my attention all week.
As Allyson and I pack up our gifts, our most easily packable, washable outfits, as we prep to go back to a place much more familiar with people who have known us most of our lives, I am growing excited to feel the joy this whole experience will bring. The joy of seeing the place I was born and grew up. The joy of friends, family, of growing children. The joy of walking on my land. The joy of catching up, sharing experiences that may be remembered for years. Then that joy that will come when the plane dips below the clouds in Portland and we see that familiar carpet,
and it seems just a little more familiar. When we pull into our drive, walk in the doors, and the cats greet us meowing. When I smell the scent of spruce in the air and hear the ocean and I know that feeling inside myself. There is joy in the knowing, joy in feeling that you have given some of yourself to a place, to people, and knowing they have given some of themselves to you.