This morning at the beach, I was helping my wriggly puppy out of the car and heard the unmistakable crack of a golf club connect with a golf ball. I was tangled up inside the car, disconnecting the strap from the seatbelt, fussing with the lead and checking my pocket for poo bags, but I heard it. It sounded so out of context from the normal morning murmur of outboard motors, distant echoes of barking dogs and car engines slowing to a halt.
I straightened up and noticed the bay looking smooth and creamy blue. I saw a few trawlers chugging out through the channel. The tide was out and the orange stretch of sand out to the island exposed. The dog pulled at the lead and crouched into what my daughter calls the “poo-sition”. I’m immediately in new dog owner mode, making a show of getting the black plastic poo bag ready, inserting my hand into the bottom, demonstrating my social conscience and community consideration. At the same time I’m slightly embarrassed, wanting him to hurry up because it smells like wretched dog food and I want to dump it. It is so quiet; I can hear it pat onto the grass as it falls.
I’ve knotted the bag and I walk to the bin when I hear it again, another sharp tuk sound of the club connecting with a ball. I head towards the beach and wonder if it might have been a crab. Sometimes the crabs snap and crack in the mangroves. I watch the smaller crabs scattering sideways into their holes scrabbling over the perfect little balls of sand.
I lift my head towards the island. I feel like Moses here, the thin, long strip of sand lifted up from the sea bed and the water lapping either side. I’m feeling all powerful and biblical when I spot her. A middle aged cranky woman in shorts and joggers making a bee-line towards the mud with a golf club held like a staff. I nearly laugh out loud.
I am full of questions. What is she doing? Doesn’t she have the patience for lessons? Is she deliberately pegging golf balls into the ocean? Is she just plain angry? I wonder how many balls she had and how many she lost. I start to think about marine life and what a golf ball might do to a dugong. I want to talk to her but she was spludging across the mud and crab holes tracking her lost ball. Dog people only seem to talk to other dog people and it didn’t feel right for me to approach a random club wielding cranky-pants lady. I can’t exactly ask her the standard dog introduction; what age and type of club she has. I watch her storm off and realise I’m over thinking again.
The beach is beautiful, the water like silk. I view the flotsam on the sand and the shells strewn where they lay as the water retreated. I see pointed triangle shells with holes, empty half shell pippis as well as fan and oyster shells, there are sponges and craggy, white, coral rocks. I’m not really taking it all in because I am already over thinking. I think about writing a blog about the golfing woman and then I’m busy thinking is overthinking spelt as one word or two, or is it hyphenated? Then I notice I am over thinking the word.
Yesterday I spent an hour with a young girl and her mother assisting them with anxiety and depression. We talked about ways to stop her mind from being too active. I mentioned some strategies I had used which disrupted the over thinking loop: these were things like meditation, walking outside, taking the dog for a walk and listening to music. Here I was, outside, walking the dog in breathtaking scenery; the early morning sunlight reflecting on the water, quite meditative and I am still stuck in the over thinking. I tell my brain to stop it. I pull myself back into the moment. What can I see, hear, smell, touch, taste?
I hear the crunch of sand under my runners. In the distance there is an old man calling to his two black dogs, they are running into the water and splashing. I saw him yesterday he called them his two black monsters. I see the long strip of sand heading towards the island like a long orange road. I smell slightly tangy, briny clean air and seaweed. I feel the wet, grains of sand flicked into my shoes, because I haven’t put socks on. They are rubbing and scratching at my heels a bit and the side of my foot. I walk along watching my dog sniffing at foot and paw prints like he is some kind of forensic dog and we are about to solve a murder mystery from the 1800s.
I look out and take in the whole expanse of the view. I breathe the air, the morning, the ridiculous time of 5:15am and the weirdness of walking along a sandbank which a few hours ago was the bottom of the ocean. I think about how I am walking on the ocean bed, I notice the things on it that are now exposed, an upturned puffer fish, shells, crabs, the sponges and rocks, the weed and a cob of corn. WTF?
I was doing so well, being mindful and not thinking, but this set me off. What the fuck is a cob of corn doing on a sandbank in the middle of the ocean? Did a fisherman toss it out of his dingy? Surely a fisherman would be eating a packet of chips, not corn. Was it dragged here by the tide? It’s not even standard beach-side fish n’ chippery fare. It seemed so incongruous, like the lady golfer, so out of place and bizarre. It was somehow better than a tin can or a car tyre. Less environmentally offensive; almost an acceptable biodegradable pollutant; if corn cobs are degradable, I seemed to remember they hang around for a long time. I suppose they are less harmful than plastic, but I’m sure it could plug a whale spout. Then I start thinking of Jonah. I know, I’m doing it again.
I begin to understand, from my lived experience with anxiety, it can lead to overwhelm. From my experience with clients who speak of anxiety and depression, I know they go hand in hand. Yesterday we talked about overwhelm tilting off into depression. I know depression and anxiety are bedfellows, so I Google it. On the sandbank, with the dog sniffing around at the three pronged ibis prints. And it comes up. Anxiety leads to depression in more than 50% of cases. I know that too much thinking can push the brain into overwhelm and I know in cases of depression the thinking kind of halts and freezes and the person gets stuck in a demotivated cloudy funk of darkness.
My friend once told me that looking at the water forces the brain into a hazy daydream like state because it overstimulates the brain and it can’t focus. I know this is the same with fire, it kind of hypnotises you, showing you shapes and patterns and the brain can’t think of anything else. I can see how the constant thinking, with no space for the mind to rest, can lead to overwhelm and depression. I now see the benefit of meditation and not overcrowding my mind with unimportant thoughts. I can see the trap for me and for anxiety sufferers; the brain is caught in a spasm and looping panic of what ifs and what about, and how and what if I die? and overprotective madness.
I refocus and decide I will only worry about the things which impact me directly. I have to actively push away the questions and curiosity of the beach golfer and hand them back to her. Not my business, not my story, not my drama. Bye bye beach golfer. I think about the dugongs and I decide they eat sea-grass and not golf balls. Surely it is the domain of marine biologists and ocean conservationists to worry about. Not me. Not my drama, not my story, not my business.
All I can control is my life, my thoughts and my behaviour.
I wrestle with the sandy, muddy puppy and put him on an old rug in the back of the car. He lets me clip him in without biting me, I’m relieved, he is tired. I drive home with the windows down and listen to the soft radio, the birds waking up the whole peninsula, squawking and telling them how magnificent this bloody morning is. My mind is clear. I am peaceful.
When I arrive home, my husband comes out to help me with the uncooperative side gate. The dog’s feet are mucky and sandy. I can hear the news on in the background and smell coffee on his breath. He pats the dog and says to him “Did you have a good time at the beach?” The puppy lifts his head I hear him say “What the hell is that?” he looks at me confused and says “Why does he have a cob of corn?”
I don’t. I can’t. I shake my head, I will tell him another time, because I can’t save the dugongs or the whales today, I’m too busy with my own stuff. I’m trying to save some space in my head for the upcoming day, we need to Christmas shop, see my brother and his family, then catch up with a friend for coffee, before the networking party. I can’t go into the story of the 5am golfer and the cob of corn. He can read it here. For now, I need coffee.
If you or someone you know wrestles with anxiety or depression, we can get together and talk about some ways to assist. I don’t always sit in a clinic room. We can chat over coffee, or go for a walk. Believe it or not, there are some proven strategies that work, it is possible to avoid the downward spiral into depression and come out of the darkness. December is such a busy time, physically, mentally and emotionally. We need more peace on earth.
I am a counsellor, massage therapist and reiki practitioner with a clinic room in Mansfield and Wellington Point. See my website for more details.