Something happened to me this weekend that I never thought was possible: I got kinda freaked out when I found myself at the beach without a book or anything "to do."
This shocked me because (a), I LOVE the beach and often claim I could never live where the beach was not a short drive away; and (b), I'm one of those people who can pass loads of time just shuffling around my house, doing absolutely nothing, until I finally glance at the clock and see hours have flown by.
(Honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing during these black-hole stretches of time. Maybe I'm daydreaming about my someday trip to Italy. Maybe I'm wondering why my hydrangea is the only one in the neighborhood with no flowers, and brown leaves. Who knows.)
With such a track record of time-wasting, I thought I'd be fine showing up to the beach without something to keep me busy. But when we got to this beach we'd never before visited, and there were no nearby shops or anything but just beach and a snack bar, I freaked out. How was I gonna just sit there and do nothing while my husband had his iPhone to play with? My go-with-the-flow day of taking an open-ended Jeep ride was coming to a screeching halt. I wasn't flowing anymore. I was freaking.
All in the few minutes time between parking the car and unloading our chairs, I tried to reassure myself by thinking of how almost every time I go to the beach, I don't drag my book out of my bag for quite awhile -- if at all. Usually, I end up just sitting there in my chair, toes in the sand, basking in the sea air and sunshine.
But for some reason, this day was different. I realized that while I had no problem sitting quietly gazing out at the waves when I knew I had a fallback plan should I get antsy, knowing I didn't have a fallback plan was making me, well, antsy!
Anyway, my freakout didn't have the chance to last too long this lovely Saturday. It was as if the universe was playing a trick on me for daring to wonder how I'd pass the time on this gloriously beautiful July day, a day on which I was lucky enough to find myself at the beach.
What was this trick? Well, we weren't the only ones who came barreling out of the house that day to take advantage of this long overdue sunshine. The beach was so incredibly packed, we were lucky to find a patch of sand large enough to put down both our chairs. Even if I'd had a book, I doubt much reading would've been done.
Instead, after plunking down uncomfortably close to a few different groups of beach goers, my husband and I found ourselves laughing at the "view" in front of us -- people, people, people, with a glimpse of water and more than we ever wanted to see of what an extra hairy back looks like at high noon in July.
Looking back, I still can't believe how bummed I'd felt when I realized I was at the beach and hadn't packed a book. We'd been waiting with bated breath for a day like that day -- sunshine, no schedules, doors off the Jeep and just going wherever we ended up.
Part of me blames the exorbitant parking fee we paid that day, and the resulting feeling I had that we had to have "$22 worth of fun" to justify it. (Where we usually go we pay $5, $10 tops, and that's rare.) So, that was a lot of pressure (pressure invented by me, that is).
Needless to say, though, the hairy back and throngs of people sent us packing up our chairs in under two hours. But we had a lot of laughs feeling like we'd ended up in the John Candy beach classic "Summer Rental," trying to remember every summery 80's song we could.
Being spontaneous and going with the flow can make for moments of discomfort (even when you're at the beach, if you're a spazz like me), but it also can serve up some of the best new memories (our "Summer Rental" day) and important lessons (don't go back to that $22 beach!).
While I could chalk off spending time and money and gas going to a new beach only to see it's not that great as a waste -- especially since I am Miss Anti-Wasting anything, especially money -- I chose not to let that pall fall over my sunny Saturday. Instead, we learned one of the sweetest lessons of all: Hitting the road is always fun, but there's no place like home.