Slack Tide

July 30, 2012

Every life has a series of tides, times of transition and fluctuating circumstances. For example, as children grow up, a parent’s focus changes from the physical care of changing diapers and feeing babies to supervising homework, and on to grilling teenagers about where they’re going and who they will be with. Parenting is a series of ebbs and flows as children’s needs change from one day to the next. Marriages, friendships, jobs, hobbies and interests all have their own rhythms of ebb and flow.

I’ve been thinking about ebbs and flows as my son prepares for his senior year in high school. In most ways he requires little care, and can even be helpful. In others, we’ve had to tighten up certain rules and practices. We’ve also made it a point to spend as much time with him as possible (and as he will allow!) while he’s still at home. In a short time (God willing) he’ll be gone, and we’ll be faced with the complete ebb of our roles as parents.

While this is happening, I’m trying to shift my focus from household responsibilities to writing projects. I’m finding this hard to do because there’s no guarantee my writing projects will be successful (and they’re certainly not contributing to the family finances right at this moment) and it’s easy to see when the bathroom is clean, the laundry is done and dinner is on the table. The problem is, my writing projects will never be successful if they don’t get the time and attention they need to blossom. That time and attention has to come from somewhere, and I can’t (and don’t want to) give up all leisure time, so some household stuff is just going to have to take a backseat.

While I’m learning to cope with the ebbs and flows of life, I’ve found these principles helpful.

Pay attention. What you need, what your family and friends need from you, may—will!—change. Maybe instead of a nap you need a bike ride, or vice versa. Maybe your best friend needs a kick in the pants instead of a listening ear, or vice versa. What was soothing or energizing last month might not do the trick today. As a sailor studies tides, watch for changes in the current of your life.

Go with the flow. Don’t fight the current. Don’t get hung up on what you “should” do or “should” have or “should” want. If you feel strongly that the tide is taking you away from where you want to be, know that new tides will come. The ocean, and your life, is always moving, always changing. Down times give way to up times. Try to keep your head above water and watch for a break in the current. Fighting the tides will exhaust you and can be dangerous. Allow the current to take you. You might end up someplace wonderful.

Float when you get the chance. Slack water, or slack tide, is the moment that tidal current ceases. This occurs just before the tide turns and begins running the other direction. If you’ve been paying attention and going with the flow, you should be able to sense this change and float for a while before flowing off to who knows where. Relax, gather strength and look forward to what’s next. (That’s kind of where I feel I am now.)

Ocean tides are among the most reliable natural phenomena in the world. In life, we are sure to face times of ebb and flow, just like the ocean. How about you? What is flowing into your life? Out of it?

P.S. I’ve had a big uptick in spam lately, so I’m putting word verification on for at least a little while—sorry for the inconvenience!

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  1. Hey, Kathy! This is an awesome piece. You are a such great writer. What you said is so true, and the examples you used resonate. Where we put energy is what is going to grow in our lives, and I am so glad that you are focusing your energy into your writing for the world to read.

    Kathy M.

  2. Kathy, your comment made my day! Thanks so much for your encouragement. It really helps me keep going when I don't feel very confident.

  3. This is a lovely post--I like the comparison of life to tides and ebbs and flows (and very soon I'll get to watch the tides and contemplate them--yay for CA). Life really is like that. It's too bad we (and I do the same thing) tend to spend more time on the 'necessities' like cleaning and laundry as they are tangibles over more creative endeavors. I need to be better at balancing the two. Very good advice you've shared!

  4. Thank you, Danielle. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It's hard to see the big picture of life when so much of it involves small, daily activities that never seem done (like laundry!). I guess that's the point--it won't ever BE done, so relax and enjoy life!