A quote from When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodrin:
“Before we know it, we’ve composed a novel on why someone is so wrong, or why we are so right, or why we must get such-and-such. When we begin to understand the whole process, it begins to lighten up considerably. We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off-limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.” (pg 49)
When I read this it gave me a new perspective on how I’ve been living my life. I’m an amazing sandcastle builder, embellisher and defender. I’m an expert. I remember a time a few years ago when Theo, my oldest, was struggling in school. He was eventually diagnosed with dyslexia and we were able to get him the help that he needed. However, during the many months he was struggling and we were struggling to figure out what he needed, I built a giant glorious sandcastle blaming myself for the whole mess. I embellished it with so much evidence about how his learning disabilities came from me in the first place, what I should have done differently as a parent, signs I should have seen earlier and so on. My story made this challenging time into an extra painful experience for myself. In retrospect, if I could have been a little gentler with myself and a little quicker to let my grand sandcastle go, I could have felt a lot more peace and balance in spite of Theos challenges. I might have even been more equipped to find solutions. The funny thing was that even after Theo’s reading and school experience improved, I still had trouble letting my story go. My identity was so wrapped up in my sandcastle and it had so many mini sandcastle offshoots in all directions. It was like a large sandcastle subdivision had overtaken my brain.
Sometimes there are good sandcastles that I want to protect from the waves forever, even though their time is up and the tide is coming for them. We took a little trip to Cayucos, a beach town on the central California coast a few weeks ago. The nature there is beautiful. We all had a wonderful time at the beach. There’s something so fulfilling about being out in a natural environment. As I enjoyed the time, I felt myself not wanting to let it go, clinging onto the beautiful scenery and ocean air. It was so good, it was too good! As an expert sandcastle builder and protector, I did not want the waves to take my peaceful sandcastle away! I was so attached to the magic of the trip that it was painful to let it go and come home to the looming reality of being the remote education facilitator for my 3 kids. I was a real crab for a few days after we returned home…I’m gradually becoming human again.
One of my favorite memories from our trip was an afternoon when Gus found a tiny crab and built a “home” for it; a giant drippy sandcastle. The waves kept coming up and partially destroying it and Gus kept laughing and running around it with excitement and rebuilding it. It was fun to see how easily he was able to work with the waves, to let the castle go and rebuild it anew over and over. And when we left he kept looking back to see if it was still standing. Then, as we were walking home he said with a sigh, “The waves are going to knock it down.” What a profound lesson from my five year old, already a philosopher. And once more, in the words of Pema Chodrin, “Enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”