To beach or not to beach

Since my early twenties, I’ve dreamed of the looking down at the ocean waves through walls of glass in an ocean front condo; dreamed of turning to the door and heading down for a sandy walk and a salty swim. That I’m even entertaining the idea that beach living may not be my endgame intimates how much I and the world around me has changed in the past couple of years.

I had a clear picture of my future self sunning against the backdrop of shimmering waves and a warm breeze. I’d begun researching before the pandemic, and could envision great scoping vacations in resort areas across the country. I even considered a minor career adjustment that would have made all of it easier.

Fast forward to today, our pandemic limits travel, inflation floats beach properties higher each day, and my brush with cancer makes me wonder at times what lies ahead. I’ve started rethinking where I see myself in my future years, and how long I’m willing to wait to get there. In a few years I’ll have an empty nest. And if this pandemic EVER subsides, I’ll be able to begin vacationing again. But will I research areas near beaches as I’d planned? I’m not sure.

During my early research I bumped into a legitimate issue. As you know if you’ve read my earlier post about a writing contest, I’ve developed an aversion to dark water. And frankly part of it is predatory fish. Although I grew up near the beach and frequently swam in ocean and bay water with low visibility, I’ve developed some trepidation. Still, though, something more insidious crept in. It’s the changing value I place on the conveniences I have.

Post pandemic and post cancer treatment, I’ve come to value how connected my current location is to everything I could need. Paths and natural wooded areas allowed us to continue outside activities when indoor areas closed down. A nearby metropolitan area means access to all manner of deliveries and services. When searching for medical care I found exceptional doctors and facilities in my own back yard. They’re things I thought I didn’t need, and yet somehow they’ve become table stakes.

So were I bent on a beach relocation, I’d be looking for a place with crystal clear water, mild climates year round, recreational places and spaces to enjoy, city-style amenities reasonably close by, world class medical resources, close to a major airport and highways so I can easily stay connected to family and friends. Did I miss anything? And is there any chance this place exists?

This week, as I shopped in one of the four grocery stores a stone’s throw from my house, Coastal Living magazine with an island life feature caught my eye. It occurred to me that if I’m never going to be happy without clear water sans predatory fish, maybe I should just stop this seaside search and consider being happy with a pool.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about it, but it was a practical thought, so I stood for a couple of minutes and let it settle in. Given that I was in an obvious crisis, I did what my fellow Americans do in times of crises: I bought stuff.

Don’t worry, it was nothing big. I purchased two magazines: Coastal Living and Traditional Home. I wanted to explore what resonated and what didn’t. During my first flip through Coastal Living, I found that some of the coasts were beautiful…if I also had a pool, because I wasn’t loving those brownish green waves. Needing a pool defeats some of the purpose of moving to the beach. Shifting to Traditional Home, there was some appeal to the thought that I wouldn’t have to swap out French country furnishings for conch shells, sand dollars and shiplap. Over the years I’ve lost my affinity for classic coastal decor. It’s fun for a vacation, but it wouldn’t be my every day choice.

Moving beyond the superficial is going to take a little more courage. It’s not so often we wrestle with letting go of something we’ve held on to for so many years. So I’ll take some deep breaths and I’ll flip through more pages. Because a lot has changed for all of us. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that any successful rebuilding can only be done by being honest with ourselves about what we need, what we want, what has passed, and what may yet lie ahead.

I’m a sucker for the sparkles.

This is the story of how I ended up buying a flashy beach cover-up that has no business being seen at my neighborhood pool, let alone on me, and that I am unlikely to wear. Ever.

Blue smoky puffs waft through pale, diaphanous fabric. Metallic silver and gold threads run its length. The threads are exactly like those of my favorite shirt as a teen – four decades ago. That shirt was plaid. Yes – metallic threads in a plaid pattern. You’d think no one would try that, but they did, and I wore it. I wore that baby out.

Fast forward to a dressing room this June, as I try on this new number. The phrase about not wearing a trend twice flits through my brain. Whatevs. I let that thought pass through and keep on going. Yoga skills. This cover-up has a few rows of small ruffles towards the ends of the sleeves, and a flirty flounce that looks like scalloped edges a few inches above its hem. Ruffles aren’t really my thing in a cover-up, and small ruffles on sleeves aren’t really my thing anytime. But the shimmery threads tug at me.

I’ve shared my story of pool bling, so you know I’m a sucker for the sparkles even without the aforementioned shirt nostalgia. I try to put it in the “Nope” pile, but I know it will forever be “the one that got away”. Other thoughts flitter through my mind. This beach cover-up is not compatible with any bathing suit I own. It’s more than a little impractical considering my pool hours are spent at the neighborhood pool, not a resort in Baja or Bali. No matter. I convince myself that it would look great on a cruise or on some Caribbean beach. Neither is in my immediate future, but either could manifest…if I just had this cover-up to inspire me to action.

Fast forward to my home this July. Each day I walk into my closet and see this cover-up sitting in limbo, waiting to be worn or moved into a drawer with the other beach wear. Each day I think, “I like you, but no, today is not your day.” I know if it takes up residence in the drawer I’ll never wear it. So I move it to a dress form. Maybe seeing it on display will increase its chances of being worn. Au contraire…I’m confronted instead with stark reality.

Someone experienced in design could put better words to it, but in layman’s terms this cover-up is a hot mess of design elements. It’s like a cooking challenge where you get a basket with caviar, chocolate bars, nectarines, and broccoli and you’re supposed to make a cohesive meal with it. Each is good, but together?? Seeing it on the dress form I realize this cover-up has some great attributes, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

Now I’m faced with the inevitable question…

What am going to do with this thing?!

The summer is officially over, and I never did wear it. Do I keep it, put it in the drawer and hope that one day I’ll want to wear it more than today?

Or maybe cut my losses and donate it? There’s someone out there that would love this and may actually have occasion to wear it.

Or maybe take scissors to those sleeves…Could getting rid of those ruffles do enough?

What would you do? Drop a line in the comments, I’d love to know!