October 24, 2014
Last Friday, I went to the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. Despite living only three hours away and always having a decent-sized group of local writers in attendance to hang with, this was the first time in 20 years that I attended.
(I actually don’t know if they’ve been holding it for 20 years, but that’s how long I’ve been in RWA and my local chapter. Yikes!)
I attended some good workshops, met a few people, held my breath for my friend who’d finaled in the contest during the award ceremony, failed to win any prizes, sold 7 books at the literacy signing, and actually danced at the after-party. It was a great time, and I’m really glad I went.
But then came this:
Long-time readers might recall that I have a thing for the beach. Like a lot of people do, I guess, but mine’s all tied up with childhood memories and my complicated relationship with my mother and her death 11 years ago, blah blah blah. I live inland now, just far enough to be within reach but not close enough for it to be practical to actually go there. My family doesn’t particularly care for the beach, so years go by between visits.
This year, I needed some ocean. A break from my day jobs and real-life stress, a chance to focus on writing and recharging. I did a lot of both. And it was very close to perfect.
The first flaw was Monday morning. Twenty minutes after I woke up, a migraine hit. I had my vibrating-lightning-bolt aura for about an hour. That makes it hard to see, and uncomfortable to use a computer screen. Typically, the longer I have the aura, the worse and longer-lasting the pain is. But…there was no pain. Talk about dodging a disaster!
But I wasn’t satisfied with that kind of dodge, apparently.
I finished editing a novella and prepping it for publication and went for a walk in the surf. The weather was gorgeous the whole time I was there. Low 60s and sunny. The water wasn’t cold (not that I cared if it was), so I rolled up my jeans and went for a nice, long walk.
This is where the Energizer Brain comes in. It never shuts off. I stood at the water’s edge, watching the waves and the gulls, staring out to the edge of the world, and it just would. not. stop. I thought about my family and work and this blog post and Facebook and my manuscript and the conference and my car and every tiny little thing that runs through my head on a normal day. I was relaxed and re-energized, sure, but that just seemed to rev up my brain even more.
And then I paid for it.
I was walking along, and watching the waves rush up into these rocks:
The surf was running about a dozen small waves and then one big one that rushed up the beach, and it was coming up higher at the rocks. I knew I was likely to get my jeans wet if I got caught in there, so I was going to go around them. But they were still a good way’s away, and guess what? Yeah. I got lost in thought again. And I started to walk into the rocks at the water’s edge. And that one big wave came rushing up, and not only would it probably splash up my thighs, it was going to catch me where I was, before the rocks. I dodged—but “inadequate” describes that move.
So I started running. Ha! The sand was very deep and soft, and I sank a good two inches for every step. So by “running” I mean “stumbling sideways.” It wasn’t going to be enough. The water was going to soak my cuffs, so I tried to move faster, knowing that was dumb, that I couldn’t get my feet clear, and I was going to fall. And sure enough, I did. Big ol’ belly flop onto the sand, with a good two inches of surf still under me.
I was wet from chest to ankles, and covered in sand. My sneakers, which were in my hand, got super-soaked. Luckily, my Kindle in my back pocket and new smartphone in my front pocket didn’t get wet at all. The cash in my other front pocket got slightly damp by the time I got back to the room, because of the water soaking through my sweatshirt, T-shirt, and jeans. And it wasn’t at all cold, so I stayed on the beach for a while longer.
Then I had to re-enter the hotel (and spa! high-end place!) and cross the gigantic lobby to the elevators. Again, luck was with me, and the lobby was mostly empty, unlike the rest of my time there (starting about two hours later) when there were always like 50 people milling around.
My only remaining clothes were a truly ridiculous combination, which wouldn’t have been a big deal to drive home in, except I had to go back to the conference hotel to pick up a sweater I’d left when I checked out, and I couldn’t really be in public dressed like that. Also, I was going to need Starbucks. So I wore the ridiculous combination of clothes to the laundromat and washed and dried my salty-sandy stuff.
Then I walked on the beach some more before dinner.
I also held the room service cart hostage for a full day so I could write like this:
If I can manage it, I’m totally going back next year! And hey, maybe I’ll make belly-flopping a retreat tradition.