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Beach 2013

“The restlessness, the unending pressures and demands, the denials of leisure and silence, the threat to inner peace and integration…” These words on the inside jacket of a newly published book describe an era. But guess which era? Try 1955, the year that Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea was published.

Most of us think of the 1950s as a sweeter, slower time. But it seems that even then, thoughtful people worried about how humanity is affected by the collective lack of an inner life.

This book seemed like the perfect beach read, so I bought an original edition and carried it along on our beach vacation. After reading it, I want to give a copy to every woman I know, especially my friends who are mothers. It’s so relevant to the digital age!

Lindbergh wrote the book while vacationing alone—let me repeat that—while vacationing alone! Heaven only knows she needed the break from a husband who was demanding, mercurial and emotionally remote.

How many women have dreamed of just such a trip—and dismissed the idea as a selfish ambition? I know I have.

Do you VAAnt to be alone?

Here’s what she has to say about that: “If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it.”

And: “By and large, mothers and housewives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class. They rarely even complain of their lack, apparently not considering occasional time to themselves as a justifiable need.” Lindbergh says we are so frightened of being alone that we never let it happen—and yet it’s the most important time in one’s life.

Gift from the SeaExfoliating life

The art of shedding is another theme in Gift from the Sea. Clothes, décor and the social mask lose importance during Lindbergh’s beach retreat. What exhausts her is the same thing that exhausts many of us today: a lack of sincerity—our own and our neighbor’s.

After 23 annual trips to the beaches of Emerald Isle, NC, these beach-influenced transformations become more apparent to me every year as I pack. Over two decades, I’ve learned to take less of everything, from clothes and makeup to expectations. On Day One, I typically get up and apply a full face of makeup. Mascara, lipstick and blush seem adequate on Day Two. By Day Three, I’m lucky if I have the ambition to apply lipstick. Take me as I am or not at all!

The same principle applies to living comfortably side-by-side for a few days among a large extended family with their own ideas about how life ought to be. It gets easier (and more fun) every year because I have shed certain expectations.

Shift dress summer 2013 copy

On arrival day, clothes were still important. I wore my new shift dress! The hair isn’t great, but I shed my vanity as the vacation unravels. 

Gift from the Sea is truly a gift. After reading it, don’t be surprised if you find yourself planning your own daily, weekly or annual retreat—maybe all three.

I’m back from this year’s beach pilgrimage, glad for the break I’ve had and glad to be home. But I’m eagerly anticipating a few purposeful solo trips this year. What about you? Have you ever taken a few days of discernment just for yourself? Vacation is a great time to practice shedding our social masks, but we can do it every day if we focus.

Check out my blogger friends at Visible Monday, hosted by my friend Patti, founder of Not Dead Yet Style.

Life is short. Wear the good stuff.