On Sunday I drove down to my favorite beach here in Oregon by myself.
I needed a break.
Sometimes we all need to get away by ourselves, we need to to think without other voices in our head, we need to get away from stress and anything stressful going on at home, we need new scenery. We need to become ourselves again, and to be in the quiet.
We need beauty.
The beach it was for me. I had recently finished proofing a novel, and before that I had finished writing a 35,000 word short story. I was trying to think of the plot for my next novel, which I need to start immediately. My mind was spinning with words, plots, and character arcs.
I spent hours and hours on the beach, and there were many lovely gifts that day. I watched the wind sailers fly through the sky, over the ocean, on surfboards.
I saw five seals watching me, their curious heads bobbing above the waves.
I saw a partial rainbow, in a square, peeping between the clouds, even though there had been no rain.
I saw an Irish Setter chasing those little birds that skitter across the sand, their feet a blur they move so fast. The Irish Setter couldn’t catch a single bird and he looked at me like, “What the heck?”
I walked for miles. I had clam chowder and garlic bread on the beach.
And I found two messages in a bottle.
No kidding. I even took photos of it with my phone but now I can’t find the darn cord that will allow me to download them.
One of the notes said, and I am paraphrasing a bit because I can’t remember each word, ”I am here with my ex-wife. We divorced after 17 years of marriage. I have found that our love wasn’t dead, it just needed a break.”
The other note was from the wife. It said, “Seize the moment! Enjoy the day!”
The wine bottle had a label on it. It said Hallmark Inn, Newport. It had been thrown out that day.
After I read the messages through the glass, I corked it back up and threw it in the water. Yes, it did offend my littering sensibilities, but I just knew someone else would get a lot of pleasure out of finding it, too.
So, because I am brainstorming for my next book, and I am debating about whether the main character is married, divorced, separated, or single, the notes made a whole bunch of questions fly through my head about marriage. Some of them:
Will this couple from the bottle make it? Are they simply enjoying the blush of hot reunion sex and when that goes away, will the same problems that drove them apart the first time break them up again?
What percentage of married couples are truly happy? Half divorce. Of the other half, are they married because they want to be or because of the kids/money/don’t want to be alone/familiarity/friends/better the devil you know than the devil you don’t/don’t believe someone else is out there/scared to make a change, etc.
What percentage of people who divorce regret it?
What about the people who think their marriage is “good enough.” What is good enough? Is it worth it to stay in a “good enough” marriage? If you stay, you won’t meet anyone else…unless you cheat, but that is skanky, so don’t.
Would you be happier alone? How do you know for sure without separating?
What does one owe one’s children in terms of staying in a marriage one doesn’t want to be in?
Are we unreasonable/spoiled/entitled to believe we should be in a great marriage anyhow? Much of the world’s population is starving, living in war zones or the women have to wear burquas. If their only problem was whether or not to stay in a so-so marriage while living in a house in suburbia, with a fully stocked store down the street, heat and a toilet, and no visible guns or shooting anywhere, they would be beyond delighted.
For people to aspire to really happy marriages…is that an unreasonable first world problem? Is it immature and irrational? Or is it what our heart desires above all else and we should hunt it down until we find it?
Should we lower our expectations for marriage? If we did, would it be easier to stay married?
Is it silly to suggest that different spouses suit different times of life? Are we too obsessed with wanting to stay married to the same person for life? People change. Is it a failure to leave someone after twenty years when you’re both completely different people and unhappy? Or is it saving yourself and moving forward?
We applaud people who make it to 50 years of marriage. If they’re happy, fantastic, if not, that was an unmitigated disaster and a waste of life.
What gifts does a happy marriage bring? Love. Friendship. Passion. Togetherness. Companionship. Parenting together if kids are bopping around. Laughter. Chit chat. Someone to trust with your life, your feelings, your innermost thoughts. Someone to grow old with, to have adventures and take vacations. To watch movies with and eat popcorn, and to lean on and cry with when those hard, dark times hit, which they always do.
A happy marriage is an enormous, amazing gift. Besides children, I can’t think of a better gift.
Which one of these questions do I want to address in my book?
Will the people in the bottle make it?
When can I go to the beach again?