last week I spent time on an island in the sunshine with my gorgeous girl. A brief holiday for us both allowing us time to chat, to talk about the past, the present and the future. To make new memories and to recharge our batteries. It was magnificent.
I nearly didn’t go at all. Once booked things changed, as they always seem to do, and it felt foolish to spend money on leisure that was needed for necessities. My hubby and daughter felt differently. I was instructed to embrace this chance of sunshine and sea, to give myself a break. To be honest it was only once I was there that I understood just how much I needed this.
The sunshine is different to home. It wraps you in a blanket of heat that is all embracing, the air you breathe is warm and the sea you swim feels like a warm bath at the end of a long day. Indeed it has been a long day, one that has lasted a year. A whole three hundred and sixty five days in which nothing was usual. A roller coaster of confusion, fear, sadness and underneath it all I found some strength to keep on keeping on. This is a strength I doubted I had the energy to find. Yet somewhere, somehow, we got through this.
On the beach, we sat under an umbrella and watched the waves lap the shore. In the distance was an entirely different country, the shape of it’s mountains forming the backdrop to this view. Over there, people were also living lives we would never know about. In a place I will probably never visit there are women like me, dealing with life in the best way that they can. It made me smile to think that there maybe a woman on the beach looking over at our island and thinking about who we might be.
We love the sea, my girl and I. Neither of us would ever choose a pool over real water, we spent many hours floating and swimming, laughing and splashing, and remembering other seas, other holidays when things were very different. Times when my girl was little, when I was the only grown up. This time we are equal partners, and at times she is my support.
This is fitting as throughout our tricky year she has often been my support. At times I would not have got through without her. This funny, friendly girl who attracts friends wherever she goes. Her generosity of spirit and her sense of adventure make me ridiculously proud that she is mine. Here on the beach she is once again holding my hand, this time literally as we head for our first dip in the warm waters of the Ionian Sea.
The journey from sunbed to the water is less than six steps on sun warmed sand, our feet feel hot, we rush to the sea. As the waves tickle our toes for the first time we can see through the clear water to the ground beneath, and we can feel with our bare feet the shingles and rock we need to navigate. It is not easy. The broken shells and tiny pebbles are almost glass like, They prick and poke our bare soles, it is not comfortable. I am holding onto my girl, she is steady, as the sands beneath our feet begin to sink, and we try to hurry on. Next there is a line of rock, real hard stones, all different shapes and sizes and all to be crossed. It is hard to keep my balance, and yet with a hand to hold I managed it and within ten paces we arrive at the sandy bed of the sea, it’s smooth surface and the warm waves worth every tricky step we have taken to cross the shingle and the rocks. It is perfect.
It seems to me that this beach, this sea, well it is just like life has been for the past year. We have crossed sharp stones, dealt with being off balance and found our way through some very large rocks. The warm waters of life are getting closer by the day, things are looking up, and in a funny way, without the really, really tough times, I doubt I would understand just how good the warm waters of life actually are. Never again will I assume that all is well, but also never again will I underestimate my strength, my bravery and my ability to cross the difficult bits, and to reach for those who will steady me.
I am back from the island now and ready for the next chapter of this thing called life. Thankful for those who have stayed with us and for the new friends we have found. None of us know what is coming towards us, but at least now I know I can get through the pain, I can climb over the obstacles and I can make a tomorrow that is different from yesterday.
To steal a line from the play, Shirley Valentine, I really do believe that ‘this woman is alright’. It has been a long time coming.