Monday, July 15, 2013

The Great Beach Escape: Guinness, Shark-Infested Water, and Shrimp Kabobs

Sometimes the universe sits back and allows you to take the reins; giving us the chance to f*ck things up royally or bask in the glory of our successes.  And then sometimes the universe rubs its hands together, lets loose an evil, maniacal guffaw, and creates its own agenda.  Several different words might be popping into your thoughts right now - karma, yin & yang, bacon.  But, the universe doesn’t fall under the veils of evil or good - it just…is.  It’s main driving force? Balance. 
Last week, I could feel a ‘shift’ coming.  I’ve felt it every time the course of my life switched directions - oddly enough it’s only for good things.  Any horrible, soul-destroying changes tend to sneak up on me and pounce when I’m least expecting it.  This time I felt it when I was typing away 2 days before we left for the beach.  I even almost wrote a blog about it!  And then I remembered how completely RIDICULOUS it sounded to say *in my best stoner voice*:“Did anyone else just feel that cosmic shift, cause it totally just happened.”  So instead, I tucked it away in the recesses of my mind and looked ahead to a week at the beach!  (Writing 101: that was foreshadowing)
So what, you say, does this have to do with Guinness, Shark Infested Water, and Shrimp Kabobs?  Everything.  Let’s begin from the very moment we left Mooresville -er-tried to leave Mooresville.  Math has never been my strong suit; however I learned a very important equation on that fateful Sunday:
(Bungee cords + stubbornness) - 4 tie down points / (insufficient rack width + wind velocity)*70mph = 1 rogue orange kayak bouncing down I-485 as cars behind us bob and weave.    
This little incident bought Stacy and Brian *in best announcer voice* “A round trip ticket to the booming metropolis of Kannapolis, NC!!” where five Yak Straps lay in wait amongst the other items in their garage.  After an hour of avoiding eye-contact with each passer-byer trying to figure out why we were standing on the side of the road and one knee-slapping story about a trailer gone wild (courtesy of B-Ri), we continued on our journey to the coast. 
Later that night, our bags were unpacked and hopes were high for the week ahead.  After a glorious Monday of immersing ourselves in the sand, sun, and surf of Oak Island, we headed out to a place that always seems to welcome my restless soul with open arms - Bald Head Island.  
A packed ferry of sun-bronzed teenagers and children delirious with the expectation of a new adventure took us across the Cape Fear river toward the island.  The water either resembled a nice sizzling glass of Pepsi or an overflowing glass of Guinness.  The unprecedented amounts of rains NC has been muted with appeared to drain from every part of the state - creating a mass exodus of dark brown, frothy river water into the unsuspecting Atlantic Ocean.  This is when I imagine a school of Nemo type fish bumping in to one another - blinded by the dingy run-off or a great white shark becoming disoriented and jumping onto the ferry to eat us all in a fit of rage…  But I digress.
If you’ve delved into the Daughters of the Sea series, you’ll also recognize Bald Head as the main setting of the books.   There is a reason for that.  Seemingly oblivious to the magnificent wonder they currently stand on; the island-goers hop on golf carts bound for vacation homes or gather up their families for a journey across the island towards the awe-inspiring expanse of sand we call Cape Fear.  To me, the absense of car motors, the brooding trees stretching their mangled limbs above the golf-cart sized roads, and sounds of birds and cicadas lessens the reality based mass of barbed-wire encircling my heart.  Its secluded, unspoiled landscape speaks to me intimately and brings out the contentment I crave in my life.  Now, back to the books.  The photos below are from our visit to the cape and how it relates to the book.
From this viewpoint, we can see the Cape Fear's point as it stretches out into the Atlantic Ocean.  This is where the bonfire was held as well as the setting for a very important scene for Stasia and Finn. *wink, wink*
Stasia sat near a sand dune just like this one while waiting for Finn to arrive at the Cape.
From this side of the Cape, the Frying Pan Shoals are easily seen by way of the rough waves farther out in the ocean.  The shoals are a compilation of sand pushed into an massive underwater speed bump by the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear river as they meet. 
A closer look at the waves kicked up by the invisible shoals beneath the water.  Hundreds of ships failed to see the warning signs - resulting in their hulls running aground and ultimately sinking the ship...inducting this area as part of the Graveyard of the Atlantic. 
As we rode the ferry back to Southport and drove back to Oak Island, I was completely unaware of the cosmic shift heading my way.  (Writing 101: More foreshadowing and building of suspense)
Have you ever felt like there’s a dark cloud of doom & gloom following your every move - itching for the right moment to destroy all things good in your life and reality as you know it?  If you do, it means at some point (most likely during those impressionable childhood years) that really DID happen and now you are simply waiting for the inevitable karma fairy to unleash her wrath upon your life once more. 
One karma fairy is enough to drive anyone insane, but I’ve got four.  That wasn’t a typo, people.  I said FOUR.  Think of my life as four separate lives - intertwining within my own reality but never mixing or touching in an effort to thwart any diabolical plans the karma fairy may have.  My four separate lives which consequently result in a varying of Kristens could be categorized as Mom’s house, Dad’s house, Friends/School, Spiritual.  You see, in my experience, the mixing of those four lives results in the implosion of all things Kristen.  To clarify a bit more, by ‘lives’ I mean mixing the actual people within each, my personality/belief system resulting from each, and the mental struggles/issues that have come out of each.  The imploding of Kristens is not very fun and in the past has not proved very well for my mental stability.
Through my mind’s expert level of compartmentalization, I’ve been able to grow and deal with things and become the person I ultimately wanted to be.  On the flip side, the ability to re-join those separate lives was lost to me.  As it stands today, I don’t need the defense mechanism of compartmentalization.  Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble doesn’t have a self-help book detailing the steps to take.  Enter the universe.  That tricksy false universe that thinks it’s so smart. 
Long story short, my four lives - complete with the same people, struggles, and doubts came crashing back together into one massive supernova contained on a small island in the Atlantic.  I learned people are capable of forgiveness, I’m stronger than I realized, and the shattered shards of me create an even brighter light once I give them the opportunity to shine as one.  There were no soul implosions, suicide attempts, or mass rejections followed by a chorus of jeering.  This new ‘whole’ Kristen will take me a while to get used to, but something is wonderfully uncomfortable about this newfound outlook on myself and my past lives.  Not to mention I was able to see some very important people I hadn't seen in a long time...

The universe made sure I had the people with me that had the ability to keep me strong and stable no matter how many earthquakes and tsunamis came my way.  
Even at the age of 34, I love learning new things and unfortunately for my love/hate relationship with man-eating sharks, I feel at home in the ocean.  Nothing like an afternoon paddleboard lesson to shake up your courage and refuel the art of prayer…
After wading out past waist-deep breakers, I had to dive under the larger ones that pummeled us each step of the way.  The momentum of the water washing over me and the calm silence of being beneath the water soothed my thoughts and had my heart singing.  The gory thoughts of my leg being eaten off by a 10ft great white shark was happily replaced with the concentration and bravery to hop on a paddleboard atop some of the harshest surf I’d ever seen.  At least if I was standing on the paddleboard I wasn’t dangling a steak the size of my leg, awaiting my bloody demise at the teeth of a shark.  Or atleast that’s what I told myself.  After three tries I was successfully standing up on my own and actually remaining that way for the majority of 10 seconds.  In all the anticipation it had completely slipped my mind that a fair amount of exercise and exertion would be needed to pull paddleboarding up.  Once my arms had turned to jelly and showed no signs of being able to pull me up on to the board again, I stepped aside for my husband and little brother to give it a shot.  I couldn’t decide if it was more fun falling off the board myself or laughing at them tumbling towards the water with the grace of an elephant. 
Later that night, while getting ready for dinner I overheard the news and stopped in my tracks at the words ‘shark attack’.  Both eyes now fixed on the television, I read the headline at the bottom of the screen.  ‘Shark Attack on Holden Beach’  Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, Holden Beach is roughly 2 miles away (by water) from the very spot we were gleefully and paddle boarding in only hours earlier.  After I picked up my stomach from the ground and made myself take a breath, I made sure to share my terror with the rest of our group and watched their jaws hit the ground.  Maybe that slimy thing that rubbed up against Matt’s leg wasn’t a fish after all….
Several more beach days, a visit to the aquarium, I sat down in anticipation of selling and signing books at the signing on Saturday.  I was still rearranging my way of thinking and letting go of old beliefs.  I also felt strangely lighter.  You wouldn’t believe how exhausting it is to juggle four different versions of yourself all of the time.  I don’t want you to think I came around to this conclusion years ago.  Oh no - I figured all of this out while lying in bed last Thursday night.  Hindsight really is 20/20. 
After a successful book signing, we prepped for the neighborhood cookout which was being held at the coffee shop at 7pm.  My older brother the coffee genius/paddleboard & surfing expert/musician/five star cook single-handedly pulled off the best 6 course meal I’ve ever had.  Several others brought desserts and some shrimp and grits that would rival any restaurant in Charleston, SC!  But for the main courses of fish, shrimp kabobs, and veggie kabobs, he showed just how good of a cook he really is!

So if you're still with me...or if you've passed out from boredom - drool pulling beneath your snoring mouth onto your keyboard - thank you for going on this journey with me!  It won't be slowing down anytime soon and I can't wait to see what craziness the universe throws at me next.







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