By Samir Shukla
There is an axiom.
Well, maybe not an axiom, but a mark of personal experience. The sand is always hotter than it looks. You know what I mean. The sparkly sand at beaches around the globe during a summer day. Even though I've bounced around on hot sand for decades, I thought I'd make a barefoot dash to the outdoor showers to rinse the salty water off my face after a dip in the ocean.
This was on a trip to the beach on a blue-domed July weekend. I had left the dollar flip flops near the chairs where we had made our stand for the day, a short distance from where the sand and the water were in an endless battle of redrawing the boundary between themselves. Of course, I took a couple steps and jumped back to the half-buried flip flops parked under one of the beach chairs.
The shiny sand on this late afternoon was hotter than the sun, a smiling July sun. I knew the sand would be hot, but experience flutters out of the brain when you are carefree and at one with the vast embrace of nature, in this case the salty waters swaying back and forth on a picturesque sandy beach. It's moments like these where the dampness of life dries away, and you feel you want to live forever, under the lovely, smiling sun. It is also a perfect place for brief self-reflection, that unmarked spot between reality and the dreamworld.
This self-reflection, whether done constantly or ignored, is a benefit or bane of so much human existence. It can land on you when least expected. Sitting in traffic. Maybe while hiking along a mountain stream. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling at two in the morning. Under the influence of spirits, alcoholic or otherwise. Why am I here? What is it all for? Is this all there is? Is it the soul I feel inside me or is it just indigestion?
It can happen when sitting on an idyllic beach when the constant breeze, an expanse of sky and the vastness of the sea makes you feel minuscule, almost non-existent, like one of the countless grains of sand underneath your feet.
A bit of self-reflection is a good occasional exercise. But can this reflection, this self-analysis, become counter- productive? It can be. In other words, turning these inner peeks of you, your being, into complaints forms of regrets, grievances, missed opportunities and words spoken that should have been left unspoken.
These gnawing feelings disguise themselves as self-reflection and can become the cause of much dampness in life for many folks. I have seen this among some friends. I have had bouts of it myself. What is in front of you, today, and what lies ahead in the near tomorrow are what matter. That seabird skimming the waters for a meal that catches your attention, children splashing in the water, in that moment, on that beach, is what matters.
Aggregating a lifetime of petty differences, pointless bickering, and the shards of anger and disappointments, eating away at you like a leech, are not self-reflection or even self-analysis. Not on this summer day. Discontent can weigh heavy, but achieving contentment, call it discontentment disinfected by a smiling July sun, can reignite the present, the today, and reset one's mindset. It does for me.
The drip and the drops of a passing rain shower on the beach, on that sunny day, is a passing of regrets. Let it pass because the sun will return and give you your day back. In there much promise awaits.
This is, after all, the July of fireflies sprinkling lights across the backyards of America and fireworks shooting the skies across America. It is the month that flips the year to its second half, to give an affirmative pat on the back saying you can do this, finish undone work, maybe even repair broken connections. Live on.
The past is a canvas of learned behaviors and experiences, regrets be damned. I like to visit the past in my mind on occasion, the good times, the bad times. It was a package deal. But self-reflection, a pause in life that is essential and warranted, if spent wisely, can get mired into recall of regrets and bitterness, if instead one seeks out complaint forms, pens ready. The sun always eventually parts dark clouds, warms cold days, becomes the antidote of apathy.
Another July sun is here. It offers a pause, a moment to reflect for cleansing and repairs. The sweet July sun ages me another year, but it continues to smile upon me. Year after year.