I awakened this morning after a rough night of sleep — or lack thereof, actually. But nonetheless at 4 a.m. I shut off the alarm, popped out of bed, and rushed around the kitchen to get ready for the workday ahead. At one point, I noticed my cup of coffee had gotten a bit tepid, and I wistfully longed for the opportunity to sit, just sit, on the porch and welcome the day’s arrival with my hands wrapped around a hot cup of coffee. Sipping life.
But like me, my coffee simply had a job to do — satisfy my need for caffeine. My job? Get out the door by 5.
Ironically, my husband and I had just returned from a vacation at the beach — where I did have time to wrap my hands around a cup of coffee and sit on the beachfront balcony welcoming the sunrise.
But I didn’t.
Another way to welcome the sunrise
It’s not that I wasn’t awake to welcome the sunrise. It’s just that I’d tossed back a cup of Joe, threw on workout clothes and sneaks, and was on the beach well before the sun would rise.
Those vacation mornings, fine silk strings that spiders had created overnight greeted my face and upper body as I stepped along the wooden beach walkover toward the water. It was a sure sign that I was the first to tread the boards that day. Breaking spider webs, I experienced the thrill I might feel breaking through the ribbon at the finish line of a race. First place!
My sneaks served as snowshoes, keeping me from sinking as I gingerly stepped on peaks of soft sand, attempting to keep sand out of my shoes and socks as I headed toward the packed sand near the water.
Once I was on solid ground, it was time to Map My Walk — and I had a pace to beat (as well as a soon-to-rise sun that would raise the temperature uncomfortably).
The Atlantic Ocean at my side, I walked in one direction for a couple of miles, enjoying the relative coolness of the morning and the colorful display preceding and accompanying the sunrise. Then I turned around and booked it back to our vacation condo.
Before I saved the day’s walk in my Map My Walk app, I added notes of what I’d seen as I had sped along: “1 yogi, 1 fisherman, 1 professional photographer, 1 paddle boarder, loads of walkers, dogs, a couple runners, 1 diaper, 1 scuba mask, 1 crutch.” (The last three sightings were at the edge of the water, evidence of the crowds who’d populated the beach the previous day.)
I had stopped only to shoot photos of the sunrise — and they hadn’t done it justice.
The next day I walked farther and faster. When I finished I regretted not shooting photos of some of the beauties of nature I’d seen along my way. I knew I’d lost — not just the images I might have captured — but the moment to pause and enjoy. Sip life.
Taking the time to hit “pause”
Finally, on Day 3, I hit the pause button on my walking app every time I wanted to capture a moment: sandpipers along the water’s edge, the shimmery beach reflecting the sun’s colorful rising; the tracks of a sea turtle that had come ashore to lay her eggs; the sunrise.
The next morning I walked north, the ocean calm, a virtual mirror — and a dolphin rolled, displaying its dorsal fin, within view of my walking path. Every time I looked over my right shoulder at the horizon, I saw the dolphin roll.
“A dolphin at my shoulder. Not sure which of us was setting the pace,” I had written in my notes for that day’s walk. “Beautiful sunrise.”
I paused the app and stopped often, attempting to capture the dolphin, mistiming his roll every time. It was a sight I’d only capture with my eyes and memory, but the pause to delight in this animal was enough. A reminder that I needed to stop and savor the moment — rather like that one delicious cup of coffee I only distractedly enjoyed as I focused on completing my morning tasks.
More than one way to “pause”
That rush out the door this morning enabled me to get to the health club early enough to enjoy a swim before my “real” workout. By real, I mean “scheduled” or “routine” workout. Swimming is legit exercise.
It is also much like sipping life, as I’d equated with sitting with my hands wrapped around a morning cup of coffee as the sun rises. For as I swam, I enjoyed the feel of water against my skin, the lengthening and strengthening of my body as I worked the various strokes, the opportunity to think in the quiet of the pool, the satisfaction at feeling the heat escape when I peeled the latex swim cap from my head at the end of my swim.
And I realized that the pauses during my sunrise walks, the time I spent walking and thinking on vacation, and the reflection I experienced in the pool this morning — all were a way for me to stop rushing, pause, savor, enjoy.
Sometimes you have to rush to create space and time for those opportunities. Sometimes you have to make yourself recognize that you’re in one of those opportunities.
And sometimes you have to rush from someone or something to get a distance away for quiet thought.
Oh, the irony! (It makes for great memories)
The day we were leaving the beach, I took the time to enjoy a sunrise walk one last time. Before I started speed walking, I shot a photo of the full moon hovering above the condominium complex.
Then I started my sprint along the water’s edge. A man was there, holding a little dog in his arms, and as I passed, he started talking to me. I slowed my steps.
“I can’t get over how quiet and peaceful the beach is at this time of day,” he expressed. He likely would have continued (and maybe he did), but I had miles to go and a time to beat. I concurred with his statement and then walked away.
A few moments later, when I was a few hundred paces down the beach, I heard yelling and noticed that walkers heading the opposite direction — those with dogs on leashes — had halted their steps.
“Rocky! Rocky, come back here!”
I turned to see it was the man, the dog no longer in his arms. Yelling.
(Apparently, he was too embarrassed to call the dog by his real name, Twinkles.) 😉
He’d let his little dog down on the beach — without a leash — and then lost all control of the animal, who was at the moment approaching the nearest dog and her walker on the beach.
“Stop it! Sit down! Stop…”
And the peace and quiet were ironically broken by the man who had appreciated it so much just moments before.
Some days are like that. I smiled as I walked away from the chaos.
Like those steps away from Rocky’s loud owner, I make choices. I might have missed a quiet cup of coffee this morning, but I sipped life my way. This morning’s rush to get out the door enabled me to find stillness in my soul during a swift, short swim before showering and lifting weights with friends.
The trick is recognizing that I made that choice and seeing that it is good.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or so the saying goes. One man’s solace (that luxurious first cup of coffee) is another man’s blasting off point — so he (or she, in this case: me) can find solace where she so richly finds it.
Not everyone takes a cup of coffee the same way… (Most days, I like mine with lots of half n half and a list of chores.)