I was recently on a vacation with my wife. One day we were down on some beach chairs, not far from the ocean. The breeze was blowing and we were both enjoying the peace and quiet of the moment. After a while, another couple decided to sit down in the beach chairs next to us.
When my wife and I go on vacation we go to be quiet, read books, enjoy the view, and do as little as possible. This other couple was talkative, restless, and clearly more interested in an “active” vacation. </p
At one point, I was happily reading one of the handful of books I’d brought for the trip, enjoying the lovely breeze and the sounds of the ocean. Meanwhile, the husband sitting next to me was staring out at the ocean saying “Oh, here comes a wave! Oh this one is really going to be big. Oh boy, here comes another one. Wow! Look at that one.”
At first, I was kind of annoyed, because this guy was ruining my peaceful vacation time with his endless wave commentary. But I began to tune into his amazement and sheer enjoyment of the waves, and it reminded me of something that I so easily forget: sometimes the only thing you can do is watch the waves.
Watching the Waves
As I paused to watch for a moment, I noticed a few things:
- No wave is exactly like any other. Every wave has its own characteristics, its own break pattern. Each curls differently.
- Some waves are bigger than others. It doesn’t matter whether it’s high tide or low tide, some waves just hit the beach with more force and power than others.
- The waves never stop coming. Waves don’t ever stop. Even when there’s a lull, you know another one is coming soon.
Watching Our Days
The waves on a beach are a lot like the days we live out.
- No day is exactly like another. Even though it often feels like life is pretty monotonous. When we take the time to really look at each day, there’s something special, something unique about that day that sets it apart from the others.
- Some days are bigger than others. That doesn’t mean those days are necessarily better, but they are definitely bigger. Bigger days can be days we celebrate – like an unexpected bonus at work or a big moment in one of our kids’ lives. But bigger days can also be those moments we get a scary diagnosis from a doctor, or wonder whether our marriage is gonna survive the latest crisis.
- The days never stop coming. Every once in a while my wife and I say to one another, “I wish we could just have a pause day.” A pause day is an imaginary day my wife and I dream about where everything just stops, and we get to take a breath. No projects are due. Nobody expects anything of us. We don’t have to be responsible for anything. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, days just don’t work that way. They never stop coming, and we have to be ready every morning for what’s next.
So how do we handle the waves of days that come our way? Well, a lot of us resist them. We pretend the next day isn’t coming, or we worry about when the next “big” day is going to hit and whether we’ll be able to handle it.
But if you can find the capacity do so, the best way to manage every day is to approach them much the same way my beach chair companion approached the waves in the ocean. Every one was an opportunity for something exciting to happen. Every one held the possibility of being a really big one. Every one is just a little different.
All we can really do is watch the days as they come to us and try to be as present as possible for the reality each day brings. The more we can engage with each day, watch it as it happens, and find delight in its variety or challenge, the more likely we are to embrace and enjoy the days as they arrive – even when it isn’t the kind of big day we were hoping to see.