Friday, July 3, 2015

Why I love broken seashells...

Being the beach girl that I am, I have spent considerable time over the years picking up seashells of all sizes, shapes and colors. Many years ago, while on one of my beach walks, I stopped to think about how many broken seashells there were compared to those I found whole and virtually unmarred. And though I get pretty excited when I actually find a conch shell that is whole, I find that I actually prefer the broken shells to the whole ones. The broken pieces are interesting, unique in the way they have been shaped by sand and sea, beautiful in their imperfection, in their brokenness.  
We live in a world that demands perfection. You have to look a certain way, talk a certain way, behave a certain way to be accepted. You can’t have “issues”, not really. I mean, who has time for that in between all those gym workouts and self-help memes constantly being circulated on Facebook? Does anyone really want to listen, you may wonder. And often times it does seem as if the answer, while not always a resounding “no”, is sometimes a polite yawn. If your problem can’t be solved in five minutes or less, most people don’t want to hear it. This is the age of instant and drive-thru everything. Many people are simply not disposed to stand still for very long, much less take the time to really listen to one another beyond the usual small talk and “OMG, did you hear…” gossip.  
So we cover…we hide…we put on the front that says, “Hey, I’m good. No problem. I’ve got this.” Meanwhile, on the inside, we are shattered.  
Back to the seashells…a whole shell has a certain kind of beauty. Scallop shells in particular are a favorite of mine, with their textured ridges and muted colors, and the whole conch shells that I have, while rather plain looking on the outside, hold the ocean within…(I can prove this by holding the shell up to my ear!) But the broken pieces I have collected over the years are my favorites. So many different shapes and textures…many times they are very smooth, having been washed over and over in the salty sea and rubbed smooth against the sand. Their colors are and purple, orange and muted gold. I’m not scientific about this…I can’t tell you why the colors happen the way they do or how long it takes the ocean to smooth over what was once a deep ridge and turn it into a glassy surface. All I can tell you is that they are beautiful.   
Just like those shells, if we allow ourselves to break open and expose the tender places within, we would find that each of us has unique beauty on the inside. It is only by dropping our fronts, removing our masks, and breaking open that we show the world our true selves. Most of us fear that kind of exposure, so we hide. We hide our broken places, distract ourselves with whatever comes to hand, and live life on the surface, barely touching the deeper things, and therefore cheating ourselves out of the many opportunities we have every day to touch one another, to make a real difference to even just one person. We lose our ability to truly love one another because we are too busy covering and hiding what we think is a mess of imperfection that no one will want to deal with.  
Open yourself to the possibilities. Take off your mask, tear down the walls you’ve built around yourself and walk unencumbered by those things into the freedom of just being YOU. We are all beautiful, and we are all unique. There is something in each one of us that this world desperately needs. It’s time we get with the program and start being real. Not “keeping it real” as the popular trend goes…this phrase is overused and stale now, don’t you think? How about we simply resolve to be who we are, to allow others to be who they are, and to appreciate the fact that we are not all alike? I think that is a much better idea than the homogenization of a society that screams about being “individual” and “unique” but succumbs to the sameness of whatever the trend is because it is safer than truly striking out on one’s own.   
I march to the beat of my own drum. I always have. It’s been source of pain for me in many ways because I was misunderstood. I didn’t fit in. In many ways, I still don’t. But I’m learning to be okay with that. So should you. March to your own beat and let the world see who you really are. Those who don’t appreciate you…well you will simply have to let go of the idea that everyone will. Accept that you won’t always be accepted and move on. There are plenty of folks who will accept you for who you are. Appreciate them and let the rest go. There is something you alone can offer to this world. Search your heart, find out what it is, and then offer it. Step out of your comfort zone and live your life from the depths of your heart and soul.   
Trust me, it’s a little scary out here, on the limb of being who you are, but you’ll learn to find your balance. Don’t worry if you fall down a few times and get some bumps and bruises. That’s life. As you come across others who are walking the road you’re on, you can compare bruises. You’ll find that none of us are perfect and we’ve all taken our share of falls. Don’t let fear stop you from stepping out. It’s okay if you’re afraid. Do it anyway!   
And pay attention to those broken seashells. They are all unique, beautiful in their own special way. Different colors and shapes and sizes, and all worthy of being picked up and held onto. So are you.

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