There is a stretch of train track between San Diego and points north that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. I had big plans to tuck into a new book as I was kid- and obligation-free during our short journey, but instead I found myself glued to the view…a mesmerizing expanse of endless blue-gray ocean stretching flat…far out to the end of the world. The rhythmic rock of the train and the “whirrrr” of the shoreline speeding by lulled me into contemplation.
Forehead pressed against the cool glass, I fixated on dozens of surfers—their dark wetsuit clad bodies dotting the water, floating like fishing bobbers, waiting for the perfect wave. It was early evening and the sun was beginning to slip closer to the horizon as the day neared its end. I imagined those surfers watching the time wherever they were before they hit the water, waiting desperately to clock out of work, of life…migrating in droves west to the beach. I’m confident they shed their clothes in the car, or did an immodest deck change—the allure of the pounding waves quickening their pulse with anticipation. And then the moment…bounding down the sand Baywatch-style before meeting their saltwater Mecca.
Oh the sheer freedom they must feel in those moments…every pulsating wave satisfying a deep, carnal need causing an adrenaline rush that floods out the rest of the world and keeps life it at bay, at least temporarily. An escape. An escape doing something they love.
I wondered to myself when the last time was that I did something I truly loved. Something that made me loose myself, my sense of time, my sense of responsibility…something that quieted my restless mind and drowned out the noise. When was my last surf?
My husband of almost 12 years sat snugly at my side, competing for armrest position. We were off to a weekend getaway, just the two of us…something that was not just desired, but needed. Our relationship needed resuscitation, needed connection and a beach getaway was going to be our oxygen mask. The truth is, after a decade and a half of couplehood, he and I-like this train-are between destinations…temporarily untethered to a station, to one another.
When we got engaged, I sent out Save The Dates for our wedding in the form of a magnet with a tagline that said “A New Adventure Begins!” At that time in our lives, our priorities intersected beautifully, both focused on the together, both leaning into one another. We were standing on the platform hand-in-hand waiting to board the train towards our combined future. We were very much in the “here.”
What I didn’t know at the time, but now see with great clarity is that our “adventure” would be marked by momentous periods of connection, coming together during critical milestones—a wedding, having children…these life changing occasions that forge new bonds and unknown depths of love for one another. Sometimes these great swells would ripple for months, even years as we reveled in that station of life together.
However, in between those moments and after such intense and purposeful focus on one another, we inevitably turn back to the self-to our own ambitions, to our own personal fulfillment. We split down separate tracks, still running parallel towards the next joint destination, but taking different routes to get there—focusing instead on individual goals and satisfaction. And at times, that meant that we have traveled alone. Not in the literal sense—for we still dock at the same station morning and night, but figuratively these are times of singular pursuits.
These are the periods of in between. Between the bonds that tie us together in the here, and the bonds that will be made in the future of there-wherever our next destination may be.
Staring out the window during our train trip, I realize this in between is where the surfers surf. This LIFE is my surf: the peaks and rises, the glorious whitecaps rolling on, hitting the shores in powerful sets. The great troughs in between, where calm still waters can be found until the pulse of the tide shifts again. The chasm between here and there is in fact my wave-my time where I can focus inward, pursue my own thrilling ride in whatever form that may take. That aloneness used to make me sad, but like the ocean, instead it now offers a great vastness of freedom.
Marriage doesn’t mean we have to be on the same journey all the time. I have grown to appreciate that these moments in between our great joint milestones are just as important and integral to a healthy marriage. The key for me is to enter the in between generous of spirit, and with kindness of heart, knowing that we each need our space. We have to genuinely want that for one another. We have to be confident that our relationship will reap the rewards of a more satisfied and personally fulfilled partner when we once again intersect at the same station, or decide to hit the surf together. And when our individual journeys have gone on too long, we have to force a connection in the form of a beach weekend away.
Our train slowed at a station and I was temporarily jolted to attention. “I love taking the train,” I told my husband, grabbing his hand. “There is a palpable sense of going somewhere…a real sense of adventure…” I resumed my nose-to-the-window position as the train lurched forward again. “We are between here and there…I like that….but I also can’t wait for our next stop.”
Thank you, Rachel!
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