There has been so much doom and gloom surrounding us all in recent months. It has been anywhere from mildly depressing to absolutely overwhelming on the spectrum. While horseman war and famine have been with us for a while, the final two, pestilence and death have ridden in hard. Even at a lesser level, the impact of job losses, disconnection and isolation from friends and family have placed massive dents in our individual and collective psyches.
I have personally reached some pretty low depths. As I write this blog, it has been 70 days since I last was able to visit my three children. I do not know how those in the services spend months on end away on tours! Lack of contact from friends has brought me to my knees, literally.
Things began to shift for me when the government announced a relaxing of restrictions last week. The possibility of revisiting my kids was like a shot in the arm, leg and eyeballs. To be in the presence of those you love is a unique gift that most of us take for granted. Or at least we used to.
I was also fortunate enough to attend a business meeting – in the flesh (socially distanced obviously)! What used to be a mundane meet and greet with a potential client was now an opportunity to make eye contact and form a connection with new people. I physically felt the dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and oxytocin pumping through my veins! The gallons of cortisol washed away.
Mindset is amazing. Gratitude is powerful. As such, with the fuse lite, I widened my eyes and started to search for more positivity. Time to leave the sad-sack backpack behind.
On Thursday, I started up the Mazda 3 (fresh battery installed) and cruised off down the M1 on the journey from Brisbane, Qld to Port Macquarie, NSW. Bed down at my parents’ place for a night before continuing south for a short, but I am sure sweet parenting opportunity.
I grew up near the beach. Over my back fence, across the road and down the hill and I had would hit soft white sand within minutes. From the age of 4 to 40, I lived no further than 20 minutes from the ocean. Brisbane is not “near” a beach. Some may say it close enough. Five minutes to 50 minutes is not “close”.
Saltwater is the mothers’ milk to me. I had never failed to leave a swim in the ocean, feeling fresher and more alive than when I entered. So when I crossed the border of Queensland and NSW and re-entered the home of my birth, I felt the Mazda 3 being pulled forcefully to the left. Towards the mighty Pacific Ocean – the big blue beast. I resisted as I had a schedule to keep. I resisted for a good……15 minutes.
If you have never been to Kingscliff, put it on your post-COVID-19 lockdown list. The beaches are magnificent, the restaurants divine and the atmosphere is as chilled as a nice bottle of Dom Perignon. It is an exceptional part of the world. Even at this time, as Australia is on the doorstep of Winter, the weather and the water temperature still make a quick swim a pleasure.
Hitting the salty sea sends a little shiver. Your senses heighten, and you prepare yourself for the first wave to splash against your shorts. Coldwater does funny things. You take the dive and exit like a porpoise with a smile from ear to ear—the clear blue sky on the horizon. Behind me the spacious, long and clean beach. For that moment, there is no lockdown, no death, no job losses, no COVID-19.
Life lesson 1 – thought shall never again take simple pleasures for granted.
A babies smile
Time to get back on track. Schedule to keep. The drive from Kingscliff to Coffs Harbour is about 4 hours. All highway travel slowed down by on-going roadworks for a portion of that time—new plan. Get to Coffs, a quick run around the jetty, grab a late lunch, and you will still make to it to Port by 3.30 pm.
I must say, I have downloaded a killer list of podcasts for this solo drive. Traffic is light and the roadworks are not as bad as they have been. I roll into Coffs Harbour a little in front of the new schedule, change into my running gear and step off for a snappy 8kms (I neglected to mention the piece of carrot cake I treated myself at Maclean – need to even out the calories!).
There are plenty of people out, enjoying the fact that the warden has provided us time to exercise in the yard. Mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts and kids of all ages enjoy the beautiful weather. I weave in and out, being cautious not to get too close to older walkers especially. As I near the end of my run, I come head-on with a mother, walking her toddler—a delightful baby girl, dressed in pink. Let’s call her Jade. You know the age when they are still finding their feet and need to hold an adults finger to stay upright for longer than 5 metres.
Jade has scraggly blond hear, and even from 20 metres away, I can see large striking eyes. Jade and I lock eyes as I run by her. I smile. Jade responds with one of those fantastic toothless, innocent and joyous toddler grins. The ones that are always accompanied by a giggle. Jade turned her head and did not let her gaze break until I was in her distance. Jade will never know it, but she taught me another small lesson in that tiny moment.
Life lesson 2 – thought shall remember that a smile is the most valuable thing in the world. It costs you nothing but gives so much. Smile more you cranky, old man!
The final leg. A short drive from Coffs to my destination for the day, my home town, Port Macquarie. If Kingscliff is exceptional, then Port Macquarie is fantabulous! As my home town, I took it for granted for far too many years.
We don’t see many rainbows. Mainly because the country has been in drought for so long that we don’t see any rain. Had to have the bow without the rain! But on this day, we did have some rain. Not a monsoon. Just enough precipitation for a rainbow to form.
Perhaps the ageing process is aligned to the rainbow appreciating process? I have no proof of that, but I certainly admire a brilliantly coloured rainbow now. Each time I look at one, I am drawn to a different colour. Sometimes blue, others green, often yellow.
Life lesson 3 – Though shall take the time to enjoy the beauty around us.
Thursday was a lucky day for me. These were but three moments that stood out. I also had a friend reach out to me to ask me if I was OK. The tone of one of my emails from a few weeks ago had worried her, and she made a note to check in on me. Catherine did not need to do this. We aren’t close friends; however, her gesture meant a great deal. Thank you, Catherine.
I will consciously grateful for simple pleasures and the beauty around me. I will smile, my smile just a little bit more. I hope you will join me.