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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 8-26-22 – Down the Shore

Vicinity to the sea is desirable, because it is easier to do nothing by the sea than anywhere else, and because bathing and basking on the shore cannot be considered an employment but only an apotheosis of loafing” ― E.F. Benson

Julie and I took a day trip last Friday to Ocean City, New Jersey to walk the boardwalk, have a few slices of Manco & Manco Pizza, and to experience the ocean. We had a day date at the beach. I confess I am not much of a sandy beach boardwalk kind of vacationer, but days like last Friday are to be cherished. My top ten list of vacation spots would not include Ocean City, but the place certainly has a level of nostalgia for me. The moment Julie and I got out of the car, I felt myself relax. Truth be told, we didn’t even dip a toe in the water. The beaches were packed. We were not the only people who thought that a day oceanside was a good choice. It did not really matter, we had fun. We walked out on Music Pier and watched the waves for a while. It was a day without an agenda other than to hang out together.

Julie’s family would go to Ocean City every summer. We were campers. We did not do the Jersey Shore often. We vacationed in the woods. I do recall one or two OC summers. I think a lot of families in our time and place went there in the summer because it is an alcohol-free town, which is why it is one of the top family vacation spots on the Jersey shore. It is a place I can still recognize, many of the same landmarks remain. Walking on that boardwalk reminded me of being 15 and in the same place, walking those same boards. Back then, Ocean City seemed a place of possibility to explore and other kids to meet. I am not entirely sure why we both enjoy retracing steps of our earlier days. I suppose it is nostalgia, a way to reminisce on days gone by and consider what we have prevailed through in the interim.

Most of my beach trips have been to rocky Maine shores. This started in childhood as this is one of the places we would go camping. Acadia National Park, the jewel of the North Atlantic Coast. Mountains jutting up to the ocean are etched in my childhood memory. Julie and I share a love for Maine. Most years we find a path to the dirigo state. Jersey shore trips are for winter. I think we both love the beach when it is not filled with people. Perhaps this was because our first weekend away when we were dating was to the Jersey Shore on a cold February weekend.

The differences between youth and adulthood at the beach are about the passage of time. Those places of new possibility are no longer novel. Even though the shops with their carnival barkers and bright lights no longer draw us in, the sea does. It still inspires. The unending water and waves draws us in, perhaps because we are reminded of how small we all are. The vastness and timelessness of the ocean is even greater with life experience because we have a better sense of scale and its power than we did when young. A gift of time.

I think of downtime as one of the gifts of recovery. I could even see it as addiction got a grip on me in my youth that resources for downtime would not be in the cards. I was spending resources I needed to live to get drugs, so there would never be extra resources for a holiday. As an aside, people who have not experienced addiction wrongly perceive it as fun for the person trapped in it. Far be it from the case, as addiction takes hold, the euphoria is long gone, replaced only by fleeting numbness. Addiction is the most painful thing I have ever experienced, which is a large part of why I made the journey into recovery. Pain is a huge motivator. Grateful for every day I have had in recovery.

I have met people who have never seen the ocean. Often trapped in addiction and poverty, the ocean is something that they have seen with their own eyes even though it is only 100 miles away. As a person curious about the world with some amount of wander lust it is almost hard to imagine such a life experience. However, having spent so much of my time working with people who have walked different paths. I have some level of understanding of what it is like for those who have less than they need for basic survival. The world would be a better place if persons who have never lived at subsistence levels were more empathetic to those who drew those cards in life. If you, like I have ever had a vacation and seen the ocean, consider yourself a lottery winner of life. Humans need to dream and explore, and not everyone in this world gets those needs met in any substantive way.

I am so grateful for a day away to see the Jersey Shore. I am grateful for a lifetime of visits to the ocean. I remember as a child trying to grasp what was on the other side of that vastness. As an adult in recovery, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see many shores, which has been an outright gift of the cards I drew and what I was provided opportunities to do with those cards. I am grateful that some of the shops of my youth, like Manco & Mancos and Shriver’s candy are still there, they provide a sense of permanence. I am grateful to have been able to spend so many of my downtime days with Julie. I am grateful for recovery, without which none of these adventures would have been possible in my life.

What are you grateful for today?

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