Ocean Thoughts

Until I thought of myself as the sea

I used to separate good days from bad until 
I thought of myself as an ocean. I used to 
split times I felt strong from when I felt weak 
until I imagined myself as the sea. Calm and 
rocky, wild and soft, still and powerful and vast 
and more than any one thing. In the ocean it’s 
hard to divorce one mood from another, one wave 
from the next. Now, on my worst days, I think 
of how good life is too, how I still can greet joy 
while swimming through grief. How fragile 
strength feels. How I’m not any one thing in any 
one moment on any one day. I’m all of it and 
all of it is me. 

– Hannah Napier Rosenberg

I came across this poem on Instagram and it resonated deeply. It feels like something that women in particular relate to, and need to hear. It led me to my frequent meditations on enough-ness and the struggle to be all of our feelings and experiences at once, not diminishing or canceling either side. 

We can be processing a deep wound while also sharing joyful moments with loved ones. We can be run down and exhausted and also grateful for the things that make our lives so busy. We can have humility for our failings as we work to regenerate, and still believe we are enough now. When life feels hard it is so easy to believe we are doing life wrong. But life can be hard and we can still be good: exactly where we are supposed to be on this stage of the heaven-bound journey . 

And even as I write this I doubt. How easy it is to say these words, and yet how hard to trust their reality, at least for myself. But my head at least knows the importance of them: of holding the good and the pain of life in the same hand and letting them be. And trusting that they will change and rise and fall and that that is right too. Maybe in another 30 years of life I will be a whole lot better at it. 

This past October my husband gifted me a day to myself for a solo beach trip. It felt like a spiritual retreat. I spent a day filling my ears with the waves, pushing my toes in the sand, and breathing, and breathing again. The changing and yet constant ocean is profound. Midst all the crashing of the waves, the slipping of the tides, the bigness of the sky, and wind all around: all the chaos, all the noise, all the movement; the ocean is still so utterly there. There and doing what it’s supposed to. Just like I can choose to be. Just like the Lord certainly is. The waves crash again and again, ever changing, ever seeking the shore. Ever seeking and yet exactly where they should be.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me. (Psalms 139:7-10)

About Tania Alden

Tania is a wife, mother and watercolour painter (when she has the time and brain space). She currently lives in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania but holds a special place in her heart for Westville, South Africa where she grew up. She and husband Micah are delighted and exhausted parents to three young children. As the daughter of a minister, married to the son of a minister, New Church ideas have always formed a central and important part of Tania’s family life, but now as a mother, finding ways to communicate and teach these values to young children has given them a new meaning and power. And it is exciting, and daunting, to know that the journey of spiritual understanding is just barely beginning!

4 thoughts on “Ocean Thoughts

  1. What a powerful and beautiful metaphor for life the ocean is. Reading your post I suddenly realized why the ocean (or even a large lake or river at times) had calmed my spirit and helped put my life in perspective. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  2. “…holding the good and the pain of life in the same hand and letting them be. And trusting that they will change and rise and fall and that that is right too. Maybe in another 30 years of life I will be a whole lot better at it.”
    Tania, you probably WILL be better at it in 30 years time. It’s something I’ve got a bit better at as I age. I’ve learned to accept that life goes in circles, and that good and bad can exist together, and that things will change – and change again – as time passes. Doesn’t mean I don’t still get frustrated, though, with that reality! So I guess I still have some way to go….

  3. I thought this was profound. I like the coupling of your thought with the quote from the Word. The uttermost parts of the sea always sounded so lonely. But right— even there we are not alone. I like what you say about being in motion and reaching but still being right where we should.
    The poem you started with makes a perfect intro. I thought you’d written it. It sounds like something you’d write.

  4. Oh Tania. Thank you so much for sharing that resonant poem. Your thoughts are expressed so poignantly and I just kept nodding along with every word. I will look at the ocean with even more awe, hope, and peace now. And maybe even see a reflection of myself in it. Thank you.

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