I have an unnatural attachment to the Great Egg toll booth plaza on the Southbound side of the Garden State Parkway. Anyone who has spent their lives traveling to the southern tip of the Jersey Shore understands this feeling. After the inevitable Union County traffic, the pushy crowds of the Atlantic City rest stop, and the feeling that New Jersey seems to be getting longer every time you come down here, suddenly, the land opens up. The Great Egg toll booth is at the entrance to the a bridge – so close to the water that upon entering it you feel as though a rogue wave may come up say hello to your car (though I’ve comforted myself time and again that we are farther from it than I think). Nevertheless, at this point, the air finally smells like the ocean. It’s as if you’ve reached some South Jersey Shore threshold, vacationland is south of you and real life is north of you. For the next few days, your hair is allowed to be salty and your purse is allowed to be a little bit full of sand.
I am now sitting on the porch of a rented beach house drinking coffee with a scoop of iced cream in it because it’s been a hard week. As you might had noticed, I really didn’t touch my writing. The week began with the elegant launching of my tea across my office, demolishing my work laptop. It definitely wasn’t a good thing to happen, but still, my extreme reaction shocked me. Instead of celebrating that I work in a place that will replace the tea covered laptop with…a new laptop…I fell into a pit of panicked despair that I had been enough of an idiot to karate chop my tea mug across the room. Clearly, it was on purpose. Things started to irrationally spiral from there.
Jump ahead about 24 hours and after some bumpy family news. I was talking to my mom on the phone about how rejuvenating their trip has been this year. They have been in Wildwood Crest since the beginning of this week, a town we’ve officially been visiting for four generations. My grandpa made it in the brochure of a 1960’s hawaiian-themed motel we use to stay in religiously, The Kona Kai, which was swapped out for silly condos around 2006. Somehow, for the past ten or so years, I have found an excuse to not join my family on this vacation. But since my anxiety came to a head around Tuesday night, my mom convinced me to hit the pause button on life, and drive down for a few nights to figure out where my head has been.
It wasn’t until I sat down with this iced cream coffee situation and started writing this post that I realized how much my blogging has been a canary in the coal mines lately. If I am struggling, my writing struggles. An hour ago, while sitting on the beach with my niece and nephews, I checked my phone to find a rejection email from a website I had submitted a post to. It’s fair for several reasons- A. my heart wasn’t in the post itself, and B. the style of the website is not completely in line with who I am as a writer. And yet as the train started to go off the track this month, I began to make compromises. I worked toward simply getting published opposed to writing pieces I deeply cared about. I also spent so much time researching the logistics of making money off a blog, that eventually I didn’t feel like blogging at all. In a nutshell, I lost the artistic balance and burned out.
This afternoon, we will go to Bandanas, the only place I’ve even gone where you can satisfy your craving for both ice cream covered crepes AND burritos. And after that, probably after naps, we may go back to the beach. Who knows. The important thing is that time moves differently in Wildwood. It is marked by early morning beach time (usually accompanied by cinnamon buns), pre-lunch beach time, and after dinner strolling beach time. I don’t know of any bars, though I’m sure they exist, and I can’t say that Wildwood is know for its snazzy fine dining, even though it has some great restaurants. All I know is that occasionally a plane flies overheard while you’re half asleep, sunburning on the beach, with a banner behind it telling you about lobsters. But you drift back to sleep because lobsters sound like way too much energy right now, and you could really just got for a taco and a crepe.
So long story longer, I’m down the shore trying to feel like me again. I’m very grateful that this was an option exactly when I needed it, especially since both my writing and general sanity was heading downhill. This, in the long run, though disruptive to our original plans, will be far more helpful in the scheme of things. Sometimes, it’s important to realize that taking care of yourself and your family needs to trump all the detailed plans your originally spent so much time delicately arranging. And with that comfort, I will sit here and finish my ice cream coffee with the satisfaction that I made the right choice.