I have lately, been thinking a lot about bringing balance to my life, taking care to not neglect some part of myself that is important. This is never something I’m perfect at, but I do work at it. Prepping for fatherhood, I’ve recently been reading a book about how crucial outdoor, unstructured play is for child development, and it’s had me thinking how that’s probably not just crucial for kids. I think about how much time outdoors and time spent playing has diminished for me in recent years and how I can feel that taking a toll on me.
On Monday I woke early, giving myself time to get into the office early. The next few weeks there are many important decisions to be made, and it’s causing me to put pressure on myself to be get a lot accomplished, which we often feel like always translates directly into work more hours. Before going into the office, I took Digby to the beach. I’ve been trying to be sure to get him out more to give him exercise, and for me to remember not to take the ocean for granted. I don’t want to look back ten years down the road and feel like I never played with the best dog I’ve ever had. I don’t want to tell people stories of how I lived next to the beach but never spent time on it.
The sun was just peaking over the mountains when we reached the sand, and it was a beautiful, clear day. The ocean was a deep blue, and it created the sort of environment you must take a little more slowly. I felt this great tug on me that I could not rush away from this in the name of ruthless efficiency. I made that sacrifice many times last year, and it’s tough to get out of that habit. But now, things are more stable, there is room for balance. I decided we had the time to take a walk to the jetty and back.
We have crafted a large part of our life into a world of measurements. It helps us plan, helps us assess a situation if we can look at numbers and weigh them next to each other. It is surely important to measure things, but we should not forget to there are things we don’t yet know how to measure and that their imeasurability doesn’t make them less important. We don’t have ways to measure the effects of quiet, of walking without a specific goal, of playing and what that does to the soul. We don’t have ways to measure how an uplifted spirit can change the course of a day for a person and the people around him. But, these things matter as much or more than the productivity we can accurately represent in numbers.
Digby and I arrived at the jetty, recently cleaned up by the ocean. Most of the driftwood that had been piled up along the beach days ago was gone. The sea had also carved away about 8 feet of sand, creating tall sand walls at the back of the beach. We topped the jetty and surveyed the entrance to the Tillamook Bay as fishermen rolled in to begin their day. We walked to a little knoll with some benches, set up to look out to Twin Rocks, Neahkhanie, and Cape Falcon in the distance. I felt that tug again to spend more than just a moment at this spot, that there was something I needed that had to be soaked up, it couldn’t just be gotten in a quick snapshot. There was a time in my life when I was better at this, when I could be still and sit for longer periods of time. I’m teaching myself to do that again.
Besides being Valentines Day, Tuesday was also Allyson’s birthday. I had worked a long enough string of days and hours that there was time to take away. In the days when work has made high demands on me, Allyson is one of the primary people who has to pay for it. I try to make as much of that time up to her as I can, especially in these days that she is growing our daughter. We slept in, and I made her breakfast. We shared homemade cards with each other. I tried to give as much of myself as I could to the work when I felt like it needed me most. I’m working to switch gears now and allot more of that time to my wife and our child.
To get away from the office early and still carry out my plans for Allyson, I conducted a meeting about staff interviews while shopping at Fred Myers for the evening. I got Dove chocolates, Tillamook Oregon Strawberry ice cream, chocolate sauce, and cool whip. I also got sparkling grape juice and orange juice for mock mimosas all while discussing potential applicants and our interview strategies. Once home, Digby and I sprinted to the beach to set up a small fire and ran back to meet Allyson when she got home. We spread blankets on the beach. It was drizzling, but not enough to notice if you had something on your head. The fire did not stay lit, which was a difficult blow to my pride. Thankfully, the mockmosas were very tasty and the view of the ocean can soothe a lot of ailments if you can give yourself over to it.
That night, we went to Manzanita for thai food. Normally on Allyson’s Birthentines day, we are not all that excited about eating out because of the crowds. We discovered, though, that Valentines Day on the Oregon Coast is different. Since most of the traffic on the coast comes from tourists in on weekends and summer days, restaurants didn’t seem too packed at all. We got a table with no wait and split a plate of pad thai. The day felt to me like one to appreciate so many blessings in my life: my wife, our growing family, the beauty of the coast, a season to take more personal time, the joy of savoring good food. These are the things we are living and working for.
The rest of the week, I returned to putting in hours at the office. There is much hiring to be done, then there will be work to prepare those new staff members. There is the work of being responsible with the budget, and being sure we are good stewards with what we are given. There is the work of taking care of guests. There is the work of looking for ways to grow and serve even more people. I have accepted that responsibility, and it is part of what takes care of me and my family. But, I am reminding myself that it is not my whole world. I am doing it to make this life possible. I am doing it to grow in my own journey, so I can better enjoy my walk on this planet. I am doing it to someday pass it on the next generation who have learned from our work. I must remember to also give myself to those things I do the work for in this time. There are things I have to give and receive that I cannot measure, and they are probably the things I long for most in this life.
At the end of the week, I worked past 5pm again and felt really good about what I had accomplished in the day. There would be a little work to do over the weekend, but I was leaving it in a place where I could take some time. Making my way to the house, I could see beautiful colors in the West from the sunset. Allyson was on the phone, but I encouraged her to finish up her conversation, so we could walk the beach route to dinner. During our walk, we saw the colors fade to gray as the night came on. I wonder how many sunsets we’ll ultimately witness like this together and how it will shape us. I think of bringing my daughter on walks like these in the coming years, hoping I give her time to play and explore on her own, hoping sunsets and this big ocean become some sort of foundation to who she is and who she grows into. For now, I am looking for ways to concentrate on also doing it for myself, so I will be a good teacher.