On January 3, 2022, I plumped the final pillow on our bed, my dog Kai at my feet eager for the next thing (breakfast). It was 7:30 am, the first Monday of the new year. Normally, I wouldn’t remember the first Monday of a new year, but this was not the regular beginning to a regular year. This was the year of high and low tides.
My mood was heavy, and about to get heavier. My 59-year-old husband, Mike, opened the bedroom door and mumbled these words: I think I’m having a stroke. His slurred words were not what gave it away. It was the look in his eyes across the room that transcended all else and told me he was right. High tide. No beach available. We needed to move quickly.
Luckily, I’m good under pressure, and Mike had already run some preliminary tests on himself to reach the stroke conclusion, so we had a solid starting point. Having dealt with more than my share of life crises, this part of me run by “Captain Dan” took over. (When this happens, the emotional part, so ever present, retreats because Captain Dan is like a military sergeant going to war and demands the room.) I directed Mike to the couch, called 911, decided I could get him two towns away to the hospital faster in my car than an ambulance could reach our rural home, and off we went. Along the way, his speech became more slurred, his face was massively drooping, and his emotional centers were cracked open in new ways I’d never seen in our 29 intimate years together. On the way, I called Mercy Hospital in Redding, California, and they were ready for him when we arrived.
I pulled into the “no car” emergency and called for help. Turns out first Monday in January is a GREAT time to have a stroke if you’re going to have one. Within two hours, Mike was administered a drug called tPA, which is a clot-dissolving tissue plasminogen activator. For Mike, this drug was nothing short of a miracle. Within 15 minutes, all symptoms (which felt severe at this point) dissipated and he was back to normal. The crew of medical staff standing around the bed with me literally cheered. Though he needed to spend the night in ICU, he was out the next day, and you wouldn’t know to look at him that he had launched the year hit with a Universal 2 x 4. That Friday, three days later, we traveled to Southern California to host the baby shower for our first grandchild, born the next month on Valentine’s Day in Long Beach, California. Low tide. A space to rest and celebrate new life.
Tides just are. We do not need to label tides as good or bad. It’s more nuanced than that. Yes, a high tide can trap you in a space and a low tide can give you time and room to find a space. But tides are tides, they move in cycles just as life does. We can just watch them, learn from them, enjoy the space and time we have between them and do our best not to get stranded against a rocky shore.
After Mike’s stroke, we were pointed to a new health struggle which started in a Southern California ER visit a week later: a clue to what we would learn would be prostate cancer. High tide. This story is in play as I type this. We await eagerly to see how severe that is, and how we will find a space to ride that wave. Low tide.
On Valentine’s Day, our magical grandson Langston popped into the world wide-eyed and ready to spread love. Between Mike’s health waves, our youngest son’s pledge to become healthy and sober, and new life staring me down with saucer blue eyes, I put my foot down on my own health. I stopped drinking alcohol, lost 91 pounds in 9 months (I basically drank really good water and ate lots of vegetables and fish!), and began educating myself on Ayurvedic living. Regular fasts from increasingly dramatic newsreels and long walks, preferably next to an ocean, are up there with my always daily meditation as good medicine. Low tide. My bloodwork, blood pressure, and overall labs were so good my doctor gave me a hug. (To be fair, he always does that anyway, but he was VERY happy.)
I haven’t written during all of this as I search for my own emotional foothold in the swirl. This has been quite difficult as my writing is inexorably tied to said foothold. Now, in the beautiful strip of coast along Dana Point, California, I’m feeling called, by the ocean, by my friends, by Spirit, and so here we are. I have been on a blog hiatus for multiple reasons since writing Shine: When Chasing Sacred Spaces Goes Dark, my last book published in 2020. There are a number of reasons for that, some physical (2 carpal tunnel surgeries and a full knee replacement), but beyond that, emotional. The timing just wasn’t right and I was not physically able with my hands. Changing tides.
Last week, I sat with my friend Katherine and her sister Jenny in a Laguna Beach cove that had appeared in my dreams bathed in golden light just a week before. This cove was significant. I knew that from my mystical dream. As we stood looking down on it, Kath told me that the land here in the center of Laguna had been in her family for generations and she’d grown up going up and down the stairs to the cove below. This cove was only available at certain times. Low tides. During the high tides, no beach can be seen. Only rocks.
We went down to the shore, and I ran into cover myself with the Pacific waters. The ocean sparkled and the sun shined in its perfect way, dancing with the ripples and the waves. As I ran in, I lost my footing due to a big dip (and rock) near the break and was instantly reminded to respect this ocean and the creatures in it. It can change on a dime. Just like life. High tide.
I made my way back to the sand, sitting with Kath under the umbrella, looking out at the breathtaking scene. Low tide. Katherine asked, “Where have you been? Your blog?” Thank you for missing me, Katherine. It feels good to be missed, to be seen. Because sometimes, when it’s been a while since I’ve played in this writing space, I feel invisible. The synchronistic afternoon, sitting in my dream cove which was the same place my last book Shine starts, and in these shifting tides, I was not always feeling the shiniest. This was not missed by me. And yet, what I could see in this moment was perfect. Later that day, just a short way down the shore at Thousand Steps Beach, a 16-year-old drowned. The LA Times wrote:
Constantly changing beach, surf and tidal conditions make the rocky areas along the shoreline unpredictable and extremely hazardous.
Highs and lows. The tide in, the tide out. Lives changed forever. The ocean, like life, moves with such force and power that we just don’t always see coming. Control is an illusion. It can take us any second. And perhaps this is why I believe so strongly in co-creating fun down life’s path. In laughter. In dreams. It seems rude not to.
In this moment, I have a new dream. Well, newish. I’ve had it for some time, but I haven’t known exactly how to birth it, to give it life, to find the space, to breathe into it and make it matter. To make it fun and life-changing simultaneously, not just for the individual but for the collective. Both are important to me and are why I’m on this planet. I’m discovering it now as it unfolds in my heart through these Laguna moments. Here is my dream.
I will help other empaths like me, who feel EVERYTHING so deeply and often attract those who don’t care for their hearts as tenderly as they should. My dream is to guide those who don’t feel seen or heard but have so much to say, those with the strongest of sensitivities living in a world that doesn’t consistently value that…to help them shine. I am in the beginning of this project, creating this container, to hold these magical beings so they may share their gifts with the world and elevate it for the sake of all of us. We can do this. I’m positive of that. I can see the promise on the horizon, and I will not stop until I’ve done my part to guide it in. I will do that here, once again re-branding, re-inventing “Tasting Life,” this current blog you are reading that evolves as I evolve. (I’m a 3D branding person’s nightmare).
There is, always, a story behind the story. When we went on the 6-region wine/spa blog tour in September of 2020 as Covid was well underway, I interviewed many winery managers and owners. I wrote 20 blogs and took great pictures, but I was very unsettled by the whole trip. It inspired major changes in my own psyche, and attitude towards alcohol. What I was hearing was wine sales were through the roof: the collective was on a massive self-medication binge. I just simply was not comfortable with adding to that energy.
I never published those blogs, nor did I drink the wine we accumulated along the way. In fact, I have not drunk any alcohol since 2021 and don’t really plan to add that back into my life. I was just too turned off. As a bonus, my youngest son found strength and clarity during a rough time in his life through sobriety, and I feel a great stewardship holding that space for him as well.
This blog, then, if not about food and wine, will be about what? It’s called Tasting Life after all. But tasting for me has come in the form of connecting with people I meet along the path. The barista that serves me coffee. The woman at the grocery store buying oranges. The Silicon Valley couple in the Fort Bragg coffee shop who talked to us for 2.5 hours about their lives in India and then in California. It will be about connection. With our house currently on the market, I have a vision to move around connecting with others in a way I feel we are being called to do: face to face. Not life in tranches, but real human interaction live and in person. Imagine that. To share stories, hearts, dreams. To focus on our humanity, what we have in common. To trust synchronicity in the face of the unknown. To connect. Tasting Life, then, is about connection.
Currently, we are in Dana Point, California for October where Kai, our 103-pound lab, is making friends. Today he met Banksy Boy. Yesterday, Winston for a night romp in a nearby park. His daily coffee visit with Kelly, Diane, and Surrena now has him on the 5 free biscuits perk program. Today, they were homemade. I’m thinking The Kai-nection. Maybe it will come in a dream. I will ride the wave. My dream to helping empower other empaths (and myself) through writing is taking shape. Connection. Low tide. High tide.
Surf’s up. Get ready.