Sometimes the only way to be free is for something to die.
There was a day I was driving along the California coastline in my little convertible, wind in my hair, tent and suitcase in my trunk, heading to camp at the beach.
I was running away.
I was at the end of my first marriage, though I didn’t know it then, not yet. My excuse for this trip was that a friend’s film was in a festival in Santa Barbara. But in reality I just needed to be free from the strain and stress of of my then-marriage, if just for a few days. And I needed to prove something to myself – and to my soon-to-be-ex, I suppose, as well. And to the world. It was the first time in a long time, perhaps ever, that I’d gone out camping alone, on my own, doing it all by myself. This was pre-cell phone days. Pre-wi-fi days. Pre-any-kind-of-social-media days. The only way for me to let anyone know where I was and that I was OK was by finding a pay phone and hoping I had enough coins to make the call. It was scary. Yet it was also liberating. And exhilarating.
He’d said I couldn’t do it, I shouldn’t do it, I wouldn’t do it. Which was why I had to.
I pulled into a random campground on the water not far from Santa Barbara, it was getting dark by this point, so I quickly found a site and set up my tent. Dragging my gear out, I tripped over a root and banged my shin against a log. The top of the tent fell down on me three times before I finally figured out the poles. I whacked my thumb with the hammer trying to drive in the stakes, and as the tears came to my eyes I wondered if he was right. But I sucked my thumb and decided he wasn’t. I threw in my sleeping bag and crawled inside.
Sitting in silence I breathed deeply and looked out at the fading light in the sky, and the stars beginning to twinkle one by one over the water. The night was crystal clear, and I could hear the waves breaking on the shoreline down below the campground. I decided I needed to explore.
I hiked down towards the closest beach, and clambered down the side of a cliff to get to a small cove below. There was no one there, and by this time the sky had darkened into full-blown night. The moon was full, however, and as it rose it lit up the sand and water with a pearlescent sheen that made it look like a fairyland. The surf broke hard before me as the shore dropped down sharply into the depths of the ocean. There was a gentle breeze that rustled my hair just slightly and seemed to kiss my cheek. The scent of fish and seaweed and ocean life around me was tangy in my nose.
Suddenly I heard noises beyond the crashing surf – a splashing in the waves. I could see shapes out there. And then they appeared.
Magicians of the deeps. Elves of the water. Spirits of the seas. Dolphins.
There was a family of them, and they were playing in a fierce and foamy sea made iridescent by the full moon.
They surfed, they tossed, they jumped over one another. They rode inside the waves until they broke, then turned around and rode on top of the waves. They did backflips and front flips and sideways flips. They were clearly doing this for the sheer joy of it, the absolute love of it, swimming around and beside, over and under one another in a dance with the crashing water that was breathtaking and beautiful and amazing and one of the most moonlit magical moments of my life.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe for at least ten minutes while I watched them.
There, below the turbulence of the tides, the dolphins played with glee because for them the disturbance on the surface was merely a distraction from the calm of the depths below. Certain of where they swam, they could navigate the rough seas with ease.
I became so absorbed in the enchantment of it that I lost myself in it. I relaxed onto the sand, I opened my arms wide and embraced it all, the darkness, the stars, the vastness of the ocean, the waves, the dolphins dancing before me. It was a gift. I inhaled it deeply.
And as I let out my breath, I felt something unfamiliar. A calm. A widening of my spirit. An acceptance of all that is, just as it is. Oneness with everything around me. A deep sense of gratitude for it all.
As I let it fill me, as I sat in the profound simplicity of it, the stark contrast of what I was experiencing right then versus what I was experiencing back home seemed to be laid before me like the shadows created by the moonlight and the sand dunes. Sparkling with magic and promise on one side – dark and hidden on the other.
I knew which side I wanted to be on. Needed to be on.
On the beach that night, sitting alone, camping on my own, feeling my independence, having magic unfold before me, I felt it, I felt true freedom, I felt true peace, and I knew I could have nothing less than that in my life ever again.
It wasn’t until much later that I’d come to realize that moment of pure peace was the turning point in me. It was the place where I chose to pursue what I found that night, even at the cost of the marriage, even at the cost of other relationships, at the cost of jobs and careers and goals and dreams and things and ideas and ideologies.
It was the place I left them to die.
It was the place I let myself live.
And though it seemed steep at the time, I came to find that the price paid was worth it. For I was giving up things that had never been good for me anyway. I was giving up fighting and arguing and negative emotions. I was giving up anger and anxiety and fear. I was choosing love. I was choosing freedom. I was choosing peace.
The only way for me to find that peace was to release, remove or refrain from those people and things that brought the opposite of it into my life. They created chaos rather than promoting peace. So either I moved away from them, or, interestingly, as I shifted closer to the peace I sought, I found them naturally moving away from me instead. And that was just fine.
Because as I re-crafted and re-created my life, I discovered others who were in alignment with my new goals, and I bonded more strongly to those who always had been.
The contrast of that moonlit magical moment with what was going on in the rest of my life at that point gave me the clarity to see that I not only needed to change, but that I really wanted to as well. I was ready to choose peace at last.
So I did.
By the time I left that beach and returned home two days later, the decision had been made. I knew what I had to do. I had to not run, but walk away, and this time for good.
And though it was difficult, and it hurt, and yes, it was scary, I did it. And it was liberating. And ultimately, exhilarating.
For in searching for my freedom, I found a peace that led me to the freedom I truly needed… the freedom of my soul.
Sometimes the only way to be free is to choose for peace to live.
Jeanette Elaine Dubois
Jeanette is a film & tv editor, writer, director and producer who’s worked on Emmy & Telly Award winning shows, movies, and music videos for a variety of networks. She’s also a trained operatic who mostly sings to her cats now, though sometimes she expands her audience to her family & friends. She loves gardening, good books, good wine, and good conversations, preferably all at the same time.
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