Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Gift of Alone

"Woman must come of age by herself. This is the essence of 'coming of age'--to learn how to stand alone ... She must find her true center alone." 
--Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Everyone needs to come of age at some point in their life.

For me, this "coming of age" has come fast and furious over the past year.  It is a process that has involved a small tribe with kindred hearts who massage my tired muscles, bring me baskets full of nourishment and repeatedly utter words of reassurance so that I can take the long trek into myself without breaking down. 

And though I have been strengthened by this tribe and the gifts they offer me, this is a journey that must be taken alone.
"How one hates to think of oneself as alone. How one avoids it... And yet, once it is done, I find there is a quality to being alone that is incredibly precious."
(Gift from the Sea, pages 35 and 36)

* * * * * 
I am an ocean. And in the rocky inlet where I have been living, it's high tide.

The waters have risen up, up, up to the edge of the rocky shoreline. In this corner of the ocean, my inner life is filled to the brim. It can't hold anymore rising. I hold my breath and wait for the waters to recede.

When the tide is low, I feel enticed into exploration and movement. The exposed rocks invite me to climb down into the cool, shallow waters they surround. They hint at secret treasures hidden beneath them. Small crabs scurry out into the open and quickly back under their cover in a game of hide-and-seek. 

When the tide is low in this rocky inlet, my heart is light and playful. I want to linger outside, surrounded by light and motion. 

Then the sun sets and the tide rises.

When the tide is high and the rocky shoreline is hidden under the weight of the water, it seems as if it was never there. Those boulders, rocks and pebbles that my feet clung to in play no longer invite adventure. Submerged under water they seem dangerous, slippery, foolish.  

And even though I know the tide rises and falls--that this is the natural rhythm of the waters--still I wonder, will it be high tide forever? Will the time of lightness and play ever return?

When the tide is high, the deep waters of my soul are drawn in to the shoreline where they mix and mingle with the shallow, familiar waters. My heart hears the deep bass tones of the sea and I listen to its song.
When the tide is high in this rocky inlet, my heart is somber and reflective. I want to pull away to a quiet place where I can contemplate.

The high tide reminds me of my childhood and all the hours I spent at a friend's house in her pool. After a storm, when the water level was nearly even with the pool's edge, we'd play a game. With bellies pressed against boogie boards, we'd rock back and forth, back and forth, and make waves. Before long, the pool could not contain the water. It would pour out in sheets all over the cement. 

Perhaps we did this because we didn't like the feeling of "almost too full"--as if the pool was a water balloon, filled to capacity and ready to p.o.p. and lose its magic. 

Perhaps we couldn't bear the mystery of how and when the "popping"--the overflowing, the spilling--would happen, so we took matters into our own hands. We made waves. We pushed the water out with our activity. The water level went back to normal and we were content and giddy again. 

Maybe coming of age is about being okay with the ready-to-spill-over waters. Maybe it's about letting things happen on their own. Maybe it's about appreciating the magic of the almost too full balloon and trusting the natural course of filling up and emptying out. 

Today, coming of age meant sitting at the water's edge and letting the tide rise and rise and rise without interrupting its rising with a flurry of activity and movement. Eventually, it did rise past the highest of the rocks and spilled over into a refreshing stream of tears onto my cheeks, tears that have been choked and buried in the low-tide excitement of exploration and play.

And as I rested on the shoreline, with the water spilling out over me, I was content. My muscles felt massaged, my basket was full of nourishment, my ears were full of reassuring words, yet I was alone. Alone with the sea, alone with the tide, alone with the rocky shoreline.

I am an ocean. And in the rocky inlet where I have been living, it's high tide.

The waters have risen up, up, up to the edge of the rocky shoreline. In this corner of the ocean, my inner life is filled to the brim. But I'm breathing easy now as I wait for the waters to recede.


  1. Thank you for sharing this, so beautifully written, and so true. You are truly are an inspiration Angela. I love your blog btw, I always get something out of it, and I never read people's blogs! I am also learning to be ok with being 'alone" with myself and all that I feel, it is the only way through to healing! Thanks again!! :)

    1. Thanks for all of your support, Heather. Not just here, but in life too. Love you.

  2. Hi Angela... I wish I could have sat next to you at the ocean. I'm at a high tide, too. I like how you call it a "coming of age" and that being alone, for right now, is a "gift." It's a beautiful message to my heart, and I know God is filling that deep well of wisdom and compassion in yours! I'm so glad you're writing, dear woman after God's own heart!

    1. Susan, up til this point of my life I have tried so hard to resist the high tide. I'd run and hide and duck for cover. I'm finding new freedom in accepting it and being kind to myself as the waters rise. We can remind each other to treat our hearts with extra care in these high tide seasons. It isn't always easy, but there are good things for both of us right in the midst of it.

      Thank you for reading, engaging and taking the time to leave your sweet encouragement while you are here.

  3. Oh Angela! I, too, find such comfort in your words. This is such a trying time, isn't it? But He will sustain us! He is always with us. I love HIm for that!

    1. Elisabeth, I am delighted to hear that these words borne out of struggle have comforted you. Thanks for leaving your words of love.