By the Seaside: Learning to Treasure
By Cathleen Elise Rossiter
Across the narrow beach we flit, One little sand-piper and I; And fast I gather, bit by bit, The scattered drift-wood, bleached and dry, The wild waves reach their hands for it, The wild wind raves, the tide runs high, As up and down the beach we flit, One little sand-piper and I.
Circles of friends. The wider the circle, the more value one has in the eyes of the world. Houses, at least in the United States of America, are designed to hold ever-larger numbers of people with floor plans providing large, open spaces to accommodate the eternally happy masses. Commercials and other forms of media continually show groups of smiling people enjoying the multitude surrounding them as they use the featured product, their lives validated by the volume of people who are a part of their lives.
Celia Laighton Thaxter knew a different truth. Growing up on an island nestled off the New England coast between two states, Celia’s friends were the flora and fauna of the island. Although her circle of friends widened as she grew up, this time spent getting to know herself and her surroundings was invaluable in establishing the most important friendship we all need yet rarely have, that of a friendship with ourselves. Without getting to know our inner selves intimately, coming to grips with our faults, failings, and fabulousness, we will always be looking to others for approval, for value, and for our happiness.
Perhaps because we have been trained to downplay our merits outside of the work world, we are uncomfortable admitting that we have a great sense of humor, or are smarter than people give us credit for, or that in spite of all the mistakes we have made and attempts at goodness that have failed, that we really like the person we have become. Many of us find it hard to sing our own praises even in the workplace. We feel that there is something inherently wrong in liking ourselves from an objective point of view so we do not look at ourselves other than with a critical eye.
Celia Thaxter’s time spent alone with the natural world, secluded as the daughter of a lighthouse keeper in her early years, allowed her to become friends with herself, to understand her innermost heart and thoughts. This time spent by the seaside, encouraged exploration of her physical world as well as her emotional and interior worlds. Her strength of character came from her thorough knowledge of herself, which enabled her to enter into her ever-widening circle of friends as she grew up and her family began operating a hotel on their little island. In fact, when she married and moved to the suburbs of Boston, MA, she felt suffocated being cut off from the seaside and nature in general.
Spending time alone with yourself, taking the time to become friends with yourself regardless of what your past may be like is the surest way to avoid loneliness. If you are your own best friend, you are never alone. By learning how to be a friend to yourself, you will know how to be a friend to others, thus allowing your circle of friends to expand and be filled with true friends, rather than a room full of people who really do not know or care about you.
Will you accept the challenge as Celia Thaxter did? The only thing you have to lose is the loneliness of chasing empty happiness.
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