“Time anxiety” described my symptoms perfectly. (Read more here.) I became easily overwhelmed by the day in front of me and what I needed to accomplish. My life became a series of “have to’s”: lesson planning, grading, housecleaning, dog walking, bill paying, appointment making. I found it difficult to relax, worried that I would not have time to complete some task. I feared wasting my time. As a result, engaging in positive, nurturing activities took a backseat to everything else. I didn’t give myself time to go to a movie, a park, out to eat, or shop for a new outfit. I did not find those pastimes productive, nor did it seem I could squeeze them in among the have to’s. To suggest that I was not healthy was an understatement.
I packed this obsession in a suitcase and brought it with me when my family moved to Mexico. My husband signed a two year work contract. I was not granted a work visa; therefore, my days stretched out in front of me. I made a list. I wrote down what I wanted to see, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and foods I wanted to try. I told myself moving to Mexico was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I did not want a second to slip by unspent. And then I found myself discouraged and frustrated when I wasn’t crossing items off quickly enough.
So I tossed my list in the trash and started walking on the beach.
I stopped wearing a watch. I did not plan on setting any speed walking records. I would not be submitting my time to an official. And besides, some days I jumped in the waves while walking; my watch wasn’t waterproof. I meandered, pausing to look behind me, and marvel at my footprints in the sand. I searched for shells and other surprises left for me by nature. I watched dolphins swim and dive playfully in the water. A sea lion surprised me one morning. I studied the shades of blue between the sea and sky. I wanted to name them all- – -I could not. I took detours, crossing rocky bridges when the the tide receded. I climbed sandy hills and gave myself permission to sit down at the top and just be. Each day I walked further. I paid attention to how the sand felt on the bottom of my feet, noting differences. My eyes scanned the distance, tracing the path of each mountain as it made its way to the sea. I learned to say thank you.
My breathing is slower. My appreciation for the world around me is deeper. I express joy more often. I have learned to use all of my senses. I look for and appreciate the possibility of each moment. Giving myself time each day has made me more productive, not less. The beach has been a wonderful teacher. My body is stronger, but more importantly, so are my mind and my soul.