Several years ago, when I was a child, we lived in Bandon on the southern Oregon coast. The house we lived in was about a quarter-mile from the beach. My siblings and I would spend hours playing on the beach and on the large rock formations during low tide. As children we learned to watch the water level around the rocks. We knew when, for the most part, to head back to the sand because we knew high tide was coming in. No body wanted to get stranded on the rocks during high tide. It was incredibly dangerous and unnerving to say the least. In fact, I can remember one time when we were on the rocks as high tide came in. We were so busy playing that we did not see the water level change. Nothing like swallowing seawater while my brothers fought the waves to drag me back to shore!
On more than one occasion before my siblings and I would head out for the day, we would hear mom or dad say, “Be careful, high tide will be coming in soon.” As a child I remember we would get so frustrated and angry with mom and dad for “nagging us.” We would rant and rave as we walked to the beach. That was until that one time. That one time we were on the rock as the tide came rolling in. We came to understand the warning, and came to understand that is was just that, a warning. They were not nagging us or trying to take away our fun. They were just trying to look out for our safety.
This past week we had a thunderstorm roll through the valley. I listened to the thunder and watched the lightning. I watched as the rain poured down and I began to think about those days on the coast. As I was watching the storm and thinking about days gone by, it occurred to me that words are like the ocean. They can be beautiful and bring beauty around them or they can be very destructive. Maybe I need to explain.
About 4 weeks ago I experienced one of those proverbial high tide times. I had been enjoying my time writing and sharing the stories I had written when a storm of words, or high tide, rolled in and left me stranded in fear and pain. Within a few days I was angry at life. I was angry with those around me, and to be honest I was angry with myself for allowing the pain, and angry with God for not punishing the person for the words that were spoken. I decided that a sabbatical was what I needed as I tried to find my way back to the shore, or back to my writing.
During my sabbatical time I unplugged from all technology. I temporarily disabled my social media account and limited the social interaction with those around me. I was hurt, angry and disillusioned with society as a whole. There were no words of encouragement, or positive words exiting my mouth. Only words of destruction. By the end of the four weeks I was exhausted. I knew where I was and I knew I needed a plan of action to get back to shore. To get back to what brings me joy. I needed to return to writing and I needed to let the harmful words go.
As I began to think about a plan of action an epiphany, of sorts, took place. How could it not take place? Sometimes I think exhaustion is just what a person needs. Excuses are abandoned, railing accusations can no longer be held up as a defense and self-examination can ensue. It was during this time that I came to understand, and see, all the times I spoke without reservation. All those times my words robbed someone around me of their joy in life, and I began to understand, with clarity, the importance of weighing my words. The little interaction I did have with those around me was destructive to say the least. I was at a point of reaction, reacting to those around me, instead of acting, choosing the right words.
It has been said that, “Wounded people wound others around them.” I think that is true. During my sabbatical, when I was so hurt, I spoke wounding words. I repelled those around me. It was a horrible place to be. All I could see was conspiracies in life as a whole. I railed against the government, political officials, religion, and anyone who would dare disagree with me. No wonder I was so tired!
Once I reached the end of myself and I could no longer fight I could see the answer I needed for this time. So what is the answer? This is what I think, and what I gleaned from this time period. If I am repelling those around me, and if people are trying to avoid me, I need to take personal inventory. I need to ask myself one very important question: Is there some deep emotional pain I need to work through? I answered with a resounding yes. Now was the time to work through it.
Secondly, just because there were words spoken that eroded my confidence in life that does not mean I should ignore everything that was spoken. Sometimes, like the ocean, words spoken during high tides can show me where I need to reinforce my life and shore up those weak areas, or in some cases, allow the destruction in order to produce a better view of life.
Lastly, in order to succeed in life balance is necessary. What do I mean by that? There are two extremes that should be avoided at all costs. The first extreme is taking everything to heart, by allowing myself to get hurt on a daily basis. The second extreme is refusing anything to touch my heart at all.
We need high tide times in our lives. It is the hard times that help form us into the best person we can be, if applied in a positive way. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I needed to let the situation go. I learned what I needed to learn, and chalked the rest up to experience. Within a few days my strength returned, my attitude towards life changed, and I made it back to the shoreline!
Mitchell L Peterson
September 24, 2013 at 3:13 pm
An incoming tide raises all vessels…
Yes, yes it does, and hopefully in the raising process the ship does not get slammed into the shore!