“Growth doesn’t happen until you step outside of your comfort zone.”
Even before I had my son, I typically went to the beach in the early morning hours. I preferred to get that sun in before it reached its “harshest” time (hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). I would be set up by 8:30 in the morning, and I would be pulling out of the parking lot just after 10 a.m. when the flocks of beach-goers would be rumbling down that hill.
It wasn’t just the better sun hours I wanted, it wasn’t even the risk of judging stares. It was because I just didn’t want to talk to anyone.
“I want to go out, but I want to stay in too.”
Before my husband and I started dating, I spent a lot of time with a group of women I worked with at the time. They had a routine of dinner out one night a week, karaoke at a local tavern another night a week, and then there was one other night that was a “grab bag” if you are looking for something to call it. When my ex and I split, I started tagging along on these nights for something to do. Get out more. Not just that, but GET OUT.
I’m a social creature of a different type.
I like chatting with people, meeting new people, etc. But, don’t expect me to initiate conversation. I’m just as content standing in the back of the room, watching everyone else interact, mingle, socialize. If someone catches me standing there and comes over and strikes up a conversation, then I’m game.
Or at least, I was.
Pregnancy shifted a lot of things for me. If you have been reading this blog for awhile, you know about my anxiety and that shift post-pregnancy. It has played a role in that part of me that could make conversation with strangers if they came up to chat.
I have, in a sense, lost my ability to just… chat.
Even with people I know.
A lot of times, I just listen to people talk to me and all I can formulate are the simple Mhms, head nods, pretty much the very basic in responses. It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that my brain has shut down and I have found myself unable to give more.
Which is why taking my son to the beach at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Friday, near the end of summer vacation, terrified me.
I pulled into the parking lot of our usual beach and saw all of the cars. I continued to drive in, with the sole intention of turning around and checking a few other locations. I happened to see a spot in the shade, close to the entrance of the beach. Taking a deep breath, I parked. I continued focusing on calming breaths while I chatted with my son about how we were going to “shoo-shoo” the seagulls, build sandcastles and maybe find some more beach items for our beach jar at home.
Walking out on to the beach, all I could see were all of the umbrellas. The towels laid out. The people. Never mind that it was a beautiful, gorgeous afternoon that was literally perfect for spending time at the beach. I picked up my son, and scanned the beach for the biggest swath of empty space to set us up. As far away from possible chatter as I could get.
There it was, way, way down at the other end. I laid out our blankets, set out his beach toys and slathered us both up in an “extra” layer of sunscreen. He grabbed his shovel and set to work digging away.
Moments later, we were joined by a sweet little girl who was instantly enamoured with my son. She asked questions about what words he knew, what shows he liked. She built him sandcastles to knock down. Her twin brother joined in after a little while. And then their mother came over. She explained that her daughter was waiting until she was old enough to become a Mother’s Helper.
And that was where the conversation started between the mother and I.
We stood between our two spots on the beach chatting. For over two hours. We found common ground with crazy neighbors. We had similar parenting techniques. Shared similar views on many things in the world around us. And we both had experienced infertility.
My son loved watching the boy and girl play. Watched carefully as the girl showed him patiently how to use the toy fishing net in the water. Studied with grand curiosity the crabs the boy gathered in his bucket on one of his rock pool excursions.
As the sun sank lower into the trees, I had realized that we had been at the beach for far longer than the hour I had told my husband we would be. As the sun sank lower, and I sent off an “I’m okay, we made new friends, we’ll be a little while longer” text to my husband, I realized that not only was stepping out my comfort zone worth it that day because it gave me the realization that not all hope is lost when it comes to me making meaningful conversation, but it was worth it to give my son the chance to work on his blossoming socialization skills, his play skills, to explore, make new friends.
Packing up our things and heading off to my truck, I was a little sad that we had to say goodbye to our new friends, knowing that we probably would never see them again.
Exhausted and asleep before we even left the beach road, I knew he wouldn’t remember that day, and just how much it meant to momma. Some day, I will tell him.