Tonight’s my last night on Topsail Island.
I just had my last drink of the trip out on my patio watching the moon shine down on the ocean. It was a concoction my friend Debbie dubbed a Relaxing Sunset. It’s Malibu Rum and pineapple juice and it’s become my beach cocktail.
These past two weeks have surpassed my expectations. About half way through, I thought, “Man, I could have afforded to spend more time here if I hadn’t committed at the beginning of the year to give away $3650 to charity.”
But you know what? I would have never been here if I hadn’t started Causes & Effects and made that decision to donate money every day. One of the main reasons I started the blog was to change my relationship with money and not hold so tightly to it. As I’ve watched my bank account dwindle this year-- not precipitously, but noticeably--instead of feeling some sense of panic, I realized I still had “enough.” I don’t know what “enough” means except that I wasn’t worried about paying each month’s bills, which is a blessing and a place that I know a lot of people aren’t in.
It was in that spirit that in March, I decided to try to rent a house at the beach. At first, my plan was to rent for a month, but that wasn’t financially feasible. I also thought I’d rent during the summer, but found the rates dropped after Labor Day, in part because kids were back in school and it’s prime hurricane season on the east coast. As I wrote the check in April to secure the beachfront condo here (the houses were too expensive), I didn’t let myself worry about the money that was leaving my checking account. Instead, I let myself look forward to an adventure that was five months away with great anticipation and would be the closest thing I’d get to a vacation this year. Now is the time to admit that I have a bit of an Eeyore complex: whenever I make longterm plans, there’s always a nagging part of me that thinks, “What if I get cancer between now and then?” or “What if all my freelance work dries up” or “What if...” or “What if...” Yes, I know it’s insane thinking and I'm working on that, but there it is laid bare.
So I just decided to believe that, as I was giving away money every day, that one of the bigger lessons for me to learn was to quit putting things off. I found that after I hit 40, the idea of mortality starts to creep in and I no longer thought about delaying for a day that may never come, but I’ve never lived it as thoroughly as I have this year and I have the blog to thank. Yes, my bank account is smaller, but I have had such excellent adventures this year simply because I said “yes.” And with each adventure, I have been in full and total gratitude that I had the money to do it, even if it’s meant cutting back in other ways.
Speaking of, while I was here, one of my main freelance outlets decided it was eliminating all freelancers. It’s hard for me to even write that because it makes it real. It’s a big financial hit for me and yet I just hunkered down while I was here, worked on my last few assignments for them (this was a working vacation, albeit one with a view of the ocean from my kitchen table/makeshift desk), and didn’t let myself think about how I could have used the money I spent on this rental for necessities. (I also didn't finish the book proposal for "Causes & Effects," one of my main goals while I was here, but there's still time).
Instead, I watched just-hatched baby turtles scramble to the sea as their lives started, I saw a 300-lb loggerhead be returned to the ocean four years after her shell was destroyed by a motorboat, her flippers flapping in anticipation as soon as she could smell the water; I found a poker game and went and played with the locals on the same night that if I’d been in Raleigh, I would have been playing with my dad’s poker gang; I spent time every day on the beach being still, unplugged from my computer and my smart phone, watching the waves roll in and out and in and out; I enjoyed the unbelievably great sunny weather every day; I laughed with childhood friends, my sister, and with new people I met here; I played with Tucker, a one-eyed golden retriever who liked nothing better than to lie down at the water’s edge, off leash, on the wet sand for hours, occasionally barking and digging furiously in the sand, keeping us all safe from some invisible threat, and I sat quietly every night in the living room, listening to the ocean and feeling like my heart beat in sync with the waves. And every morning, I looked out from my loft bed onto the ocean and watched the waves roll in during high tide, welcoming me to a new day.
Mainly, I felt in total gratitude, full of the realization that we do, to a large extent, get to create our own lives. There is so damn much that we have no control over, but most of us never realize just how much we can control. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to afford to spend two weeks at the beach again, but I do know that I can go to the beach in California a lot more than I do and refill my tank. I can leave my smart phone at home every now and then and not check it obsessively and it’s a good bet that the world won’t implode while I’m offline. I can remember to breathe and take stock of where I am, not where my fear tells me I’m probably not headed.
So once again, as thanks to the wonderful two weeks I’ve spend in Pender County, I’m donating to a local charity. This time to The Carousel Center for Abused Children. Based in Wilmington, Carousel Center supports child abuse prevention efforts throughout Southeastern North Carolina.
Sept. 20: Carousel Center for Abused Children
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