My earliest memories of peace, that feeling of being truly in the moment, without being drawn into the past or future, are vivid and fresh in my mind. The first came from a great many naps taken in the pop-up camper we had growing up. My mom always wanted to chase us out of the camper to do stuff, but being there in the cool breezes with the forest noises, drifting in and out of sleep, was fantastic. Similarly, I remember being on my dad's sailboat on Lake Erie. Sometimes, you could catch it just right that you could lay on the bow in the shadow of the sails, without risk of sunburn, and hear nothing but the sound of the water moving around the hull as the wind moved you forward. It was wonderful.
I don't think I really experienced peacefulness like that again until my first marriage honeymoon, when we had a hotel room right on the ocean. Waterfront stays after that reinforced these happy places and sense of peace, and having the chance to spend more time on beaches after moving to Florida made me realize how good the sea makes me feel. Then the cruising started in 2013, and I'm certain that I'm addicted to all of the senses... the wind, the smell of the ocean, and more than anything, the sound of the water.
We squeezed in another voyage last weekend. It's not inexpensive, especially compared to a day at the beach, but not only is there the chance for that environment of peace, but there's no Internet to distract me, and if there's one place I know that there will be no fights to put food in my son, it's on a cruise ship. I'm taken care of, as is my family, and I can spend time taking care of me.
It's especially powerful to hear the sound of the water while feeling the motion of it. These are the best nights of sleep for me. I don't know how to meditate, but this is being present in a way that I haven't found elsewhere. The stress disappears, my brain shuts off, and I just hear the waves. I only feel peace.
My stress comes from the usual places. However, I'm not a Type-A personality, and I'm not a box-checker around the life ideal that culture generally prescribes. The stress isn't entirely self-inflicted. Sure, I feel like I do "have" the wife, the job and the house, but those aren't a product of some nebulous pursuit of happiness. They aren't the keys to happiness, they just enable some degree of comfort. The happiness I have to choose, and sometimes I allow life's challenges to interfere with happiness. Forget my Instagram feed, because my real life is that sometimes it's really hard to be me.
It's not hard to feel peace at or by the sea.