My friends who are moms often talk about days where they let their kids do anything they want. Like let their kids eat cake for breakfast, ride the carousel at the mall and stay up late. They all always say that it’s so freeing, rewarding and improves their relationship with their children.
I don’t have children (although, I am sponsoring the cutest boy on the face of the planet. Meet my boy, Prosper). Thus, I can’t give a child a day where he can do anything to feel that freedom. So, I did the next best thing yesterday: I gave myself an anything day.
I woke up yesterday in Jacksonville, FL at the home of one of the friends I’ve known for the longest. July 27. It’ll always be a tough day for me, so it was nice to be amongst someone who understands my soul and gets my spirit. Yesterday was the 10-year anniversary of my friend, Scott’s, untimely passing.
My dad asked me this morning why I felt so strongly about Scott. What made him different than the rest? He was honest. And loyal. And good. And pure. And gentle with me. So, so gentle. And of course, fun. And handsome.
When I woke up yesterday at my friend’s house, I could hear her footsteps walking across the floor. I wasn’t ready to get up yet, though. I laid in bed for an hour, awake. I pulled up some Bible verses on my phone. And I let my mind wander and reminisce. I know that the “What If” game is one that cannot be won. I live in the present. I’ve opened my heart. I’ve accepted. And most of all, I’ve realized that I have to keep living.
And so yesterday, I lived. I got up, got out and got on with the day that in all honesty, I never thought would come. It’s weird knowing that you haven’t seen someone or heard their laugh in ten years. It’s strange wondering if you passed each other on the street today whether you’d even recognize each other. Again, though, “What If’s.”
Yesterday, I told myself that I wouldn’t tell myself “no.” I’d do whatever I want. With no questions asked and no remorse. It was a day to feel what living full-heartedly with no limitations felt like. And let me tell you–for someone who usually has her guard up high–it was amazing.
The day began with brunch at my favorite restaurant in Jacksonville, Tacolu, with my friend Courtney and her amazing fiancee, Jeff. We ate breakfast tacos. And chips. With queso. At 10 a.m. Oh, and we ordered sopapillas. With ice cream. Because, carpe diem, my friends. Sieze the carpe. And put a scoop of ice cream on top of it.
After brunch, it was time for me to begin the drive back to Miami. I made a mental note that I was going to take it slow. And make lots of stops. And do lots of things. And live. With no agenda or focus upon time.
My first stop was at World Market. Can someone please tell me why Miami DOES NOT have a World Market? It’s a little out of hand. When I walked through the doors, I nodded to myself and said, “Mmmhmm. Oh, yes. This is good. This place is good.” I wandered the store’s aisles aimlessly for some 45-minutes. Picking up things. And putting them down. Throwing things haphazardly in my cart. Then realizing some five minutes later that I probably didn’t need them. Then remembering that this was the day of no “no’s” and putting them back in place in the cart. Luckily, I got out with only a $43 tab and this awesome mug. Which I so obviously needed. I say “obviously,” because everyone knows that Mondays are made better when you drink coffee from a “GOOD MORNING” mug. Yes, everyone knows that.
I drove south about 45 miles to America’s oldest city, St. Augustine. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a blasted hot day in Florida, so I rolled my windows down. And I put in my new Miranda Lambert CD. And laughed when she sang that line, “I’ve been sowing wildflower seeds and chasing tumbleweeds.” And swayed my hand out the window as I drove through street by street, looking at houses, dreaming about life.
After about 20 minutes of house hunting, I settled on this one. I mean, they say when you know, you know. And here is what I know: It has two crucial things that I hope my future home holds. A big front porch and waterfront lot.
I was ready to go, so I headed south. I decided to take the longer route, so I took the A1A instead of the 95. I kept seeing signs reading, “Beach Access,” so I thought to myself, “You know what I want to do today? I want to go to the beach.” The problem was, I didn’t have a bathing suit or a towel. But it was the day of no “no’s,” so I knew I’d figure it out. And just as I thought that, this store and all of its awful gaudiness came into my horizon.
I popped into Alvin’s and thought briefly about buying a hermit crab. It was a good deal, after all: Buy a hermit crab and get the cage and supplies for free. And judging by my RueLaLa invoices as of late, I really appreciate a good deal. Then I remembered that I’m not home enough to take care of a pet, so I left the hermit crab there. I settled for a $5 beach towel and was off.
I headed down an unassuming street and into a park that served as an artificial gate for a beach. I parked my car, hopped out, told the gal who said she liked my shirt, “Thank you, thank you SO much!” and didn’t even care that I over-exagerated the second “so.” When I hit the sand, I didn’t take off my Sam Edelman’s that I paid too much for, because the sand was hot and I decided I cared more about the skin on my feet than the shoes on them. I strolled along the beach, looking at houses and talking on the phone. I watched people fly kites and boys throw footballs. I threw my towel down and watched a pelican nose dive into the ocean over and over and over. And inside, I was laughing. And I may have even laughed out loud a couple of times. When I let the giggles out, I thought, “Don’t LAUGH out loud. You’re alone and that looks weird. You look like the weird, crazy, single lady.” Then I realized I didn’t care. Living is good.
I decided it was time to go, so I got into my car and headed south. I downloaded some new music that I’ve been digging. Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” is everything. Everything. And I may have listened to Florida Georgia Line’s “Dirt” 23 times since yesterday.
I stopped at a Starbucks in Daytona Beach and ordered my favorite drink–an iced, grande, non-fat Chai tea latte. I made small talk with the barista and flirted with the guy standing outside with the chocolate lab. I got back in my car and kept going south and before I knew it, I was home.
It was almost sunset, so I decided to pour myself a glass of wine. I pulled one of my dining room chairs out onto the balcony that I never sit on. I grabbed my phone and pressed play on iTunes and decided not to wear headphones as I listened to them. Yea, living means not caring about whether your neighbors can hear your music.
And I sat there. And as I sipped and bopped my head, I watched the sunset. And I saw the colors that were being painted across the sky. To the east, every shade of blue. Light blue. Sea blue. Royal blue. Navy blue. And my favorite, midnight blue. Through the blue, lines of pink scattered across making their presence gently felt like confetti popping through the atmosphere. To the west, the most vibrant orange. Deep orange faded into magenta faded into a color similar to the mangoes in my refrigerator.
With the wind lightly blowing through my hair, I thought about how much I’ve learned about what it means to be alive in the last ten years. Being alive means more than staying up late and going places. Being alive means treasuring people more than places and places more than things. Being alive means being vulnerable. Being alive means saying it like it is, because saying it like it is means being unafraid of the pain that could come to your heart. Being alive means finding joy in the smallest things, like the colors painted across a summer sky.
When the sun went down, I came in. A friend of mine who’s a producer for ESPN sent me the kindest message. I held onto these words, “Life can be very random but wonderful and tragic. There aren’t always answers but life is a gift.” A gift, indeed. The greatest gift, actually. It’s the greatest gift, because it is because of life that we get to choose to live.
We chatted a little bit more and at one point, the subject of the dreams for my life came up. And for the first time ever, I decided to be vulnerable and say out loud what my dreams are. I shared my crazy, wild, most likely improbable dreams. And with their uttering, I realized I had done something with them: I made them come alive.
I’m weird in the sense that I hate working out in daylight hours. Part of that because of the Miami heat, no, not the basketball team, but the literal hot, hot, humid, sticky heat. So it wasn’t until around 9 last night that I threw on my highlighter yellow adidas sneakers and the most obnoxious workout outfit I own. I went for my usual run around the island I live on.
Generally, I run several laps at a leisurely pace that definitely gives me exercise but definitely doesn’t challenge me. Yesterday, I realized this isn’t living. Not pushing yourself to do your best is not living. So, I ran. I ran faster than I ever have. I felt like I was lightning. I felt invincible. At one point, I was racing a boat down a straight stretch. And I was keeping up. It was so, so good. And so empowering. And redeeming.
As my feet hit the pavement, I let go of so much. I remembered that I’m still here. It sounds so coarse. But I’m here for a reason. There’s another purpose for my heart. Another reason for this life. And so help me, every single day when I wake up I will search for it. For every day for the rest of my life.
It was almost time for bed. My bedtime routine is a little intense on Sundays. I’m 30 now, so my skincare regimen is a bit more, um, regimental. And that regimen hits its high peak on Sundays.
As I scrubbed my face, I looked in the mirror and deep into my eyes. These days, they’re more hazel than the green they were ten years ago. They’ve seen a lot more, too. They’ve seen a lot of joy. And some real good excitement. A little bit of hurt, too. Most of all, though, they’ve looked into my heart. They know its secrets better than anyone. And they know the biggest regret that it holds.
I have regrets in my life. Most of them are minor. Like quitting piano lessons and dance. And not getting on that private jet to meet Bubba Watson. Yes, that was really an opportunity I passed up once. I only have one real regret, though. And it was not telling Scott how I felt. I never laid my heart fully on the line. I think I was so crushed when he died because I never got to tell him what he meant in my life. And when he left this world, that opportunity passed.
When I wiped my face off with the towel, I knew after I put on my pajamas that there was one more thing I had to do. I needed to come clean with some people. The last year of my life has been a roller coaster in terms of dating. One of those roller coasters with loops and insane drops. I’ve been riding in the front seat, largely being taken on one long ride.
So, I decided it was time for the ride to end. There were a few people I needed to reach out to so I could gain closure. There were a few things I needed to say. And maybe some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. “I miss you.” “I want to see you.” “What the hell happened to you?!” As I laid there and hit “send,” each time I felt more free. And best of all, I got answers. And my heart got some more space.
This morning, I woke up and thought to myself, “I know why moms give their kids days like the one I gave myself yesterday” as I drank from my new GOOD MORNING mug.
Days like yesterday are gentle reminders of all of the goodness that can be soaked from life. They’re nudges that to live, you need to be alive in the truest sense of the word. You need to go out on a limb and beyond your comfort zone. You need to experience to live. Experience joy and pain and fear and hurt and love. Most of all, though, you need to be free with yourself. Free enough with yourself to know when to let go. Free enough with yourself to know when to move on. Free enough with yourself to know when the time has come to realize that this is it: you’re alive.