I recently got back from California for a speaking engagement. I got a cute airbnb right by the beach in Santa Monica and walked to the beach in the mornings to do my morning routine of meditation and journaling.
The first day I walked out there, I saw an entrance at Arizona Ave. that would go straight down to the beach. It looked like this:
Now, given I have had 2 ankle surgeries within 9 months of each other and I’m still in rehab, I looked at the 5 flights down and said, No way. I can not go down those steps. Also, I told myself, there’s no bathroom near this part of the beach, better to walk down further south to the entrances that I am familiar with.
So I walked about a quarter mile down to the next entrance and slowly descended a more gently sloping set of stairs down to the beach. Safe and sound, yay. Once I got to the beach, though, I decided to walk even further south, closer to the pier, where I knew bathrooms were nearby. That took me an extra 15 minutes. No biggie. I finally found my spot, listened to the waves crashing, and journaled for about 30 minutes. After getting my fill of the ocean and its magic, I headed back.
After such a beautifully powerful morning, I was inspired to find that steep set of stairs on the way back and just size it up again. As I made my way back north along the beach, I could see the steps in the distance. They were there, all 5 flights of them. From the bottom of the stairs, it looked like this:
Imposing, sure, but they didn’t look as intimidating as they did before. By the way, as I got closer, I noticed a bathroom right by the bike path, literally at the foot of the steps. I hadn’t seen it when I was at the top of the stairs, freaking out earlier that morning. But it was there, all along. I decided to try the stairs. I went up, taking breaks after every flight and holding onto the railing for extra support. Eventually I made it to the top and was so proud of myself.
The next day, I was bold and took the steep steps down, no second thoughts. I was definitely shaky, but I made it down safely. I marched past the bathroom that was now so obviously present at the base of the stairs. I did not spend the extra 15 min to walk closer to the pier, and found a spot on this new part of the beach. I had another glorious morning of meditation and reverie.
On the way back this time, I noticed a wooden path that connected the beach to the bike path, again literally at the foot of the stairs, just on the opposite side of the bathroom. Clearly, I hadn’t seen that the day before either, but clearly, it had been there. Hopped on that puppy and cruised across the beach in record time, climbed the stairs, easy peasy.
What is the point of this story. The point is, Fear sucks. It blinds you. It literally drives you backwards. I was afraid of the steps because of my physical weakness. It was an unfamiliar part of the beach. And because I was afraid and unfamiliar, I went back to the place that I knew. Even though it took me extra time to walk south to the pier, I did it because it felt safe. And I got great results from doing it the safe way, don’t get me wrong. I had a perfect morning by the beach doing it the familiar way.
But, the reality is, is that the Arizona Ave entrance to the Santa Monica beach is perfect too. It has a wooden walkway, a bathroom, and a direct way to get from the beach back up to the street. It is more efficient, equally beautiful, and offered me the chance to test my strength and experience something new.
I just couldn’t see any of it that first morning.
I wonder how many other things have I missed out on or gone ‘the long way around’ on because I was afraid to do something new. I wonder how much more I would accomplish if I just tackled things, trusting that I have the strength somewhere inside me to rise to the occasion.
By meditating, releasing to God, whatever happens for me at the beach, I was able to get to a place of calm, peace, and strength. And when i tapped into that, instead of my fear, I suddenly saw things that I hadn’t before. I suddenly experienced the ease and beauty that was right in front me the whole time.
So next time you’re at Santa Monica, may I suggest you take the Arizona Ave beach entrance. It’s perfect and there’s nothing to be afraid of.