The older I get, the more I find myself grasping onto moments and appreciating all of the steps that happened to lead me to where I am at that precise moment.
That wasn’t always the case. In fact, only two summers ago, I found myself annoyed to be headed to the beach for the third time that week. Can you imagine? Actually annoyed to be at the beach on a sunny California afternoon.
But there I was. I had just left a full-time job after 17 years – a departure that I initiated – and was spending nearly two weeks near Santa Monica with my mother-in-law and my three sons. My husband was back home working, but I was able to work remotely 15 hours a week. (For that same company, as part of a transition period.)
At that time, the boys were 7, 8 and 10. My mother-in-law loved the beach and went daily during summers growing up in Tel Aviv. Me, on the other hand, grew up as a desert dweller and went to the beach maybe once a year. I saw “Jaws” when I was about 8 so a fear of the ocean is always on the back of mind and I rarely venture too far out into the water. I admit it, I’m a nervous wreck at the beach with my boys, as I imagine the scenarios of what could happen if I take my eyes off them for a moment. So, needless to say, it’s not a relaxing experience for me. Plus, I have pale skin and have a strict warning from a dermatologist to limit sun exposure.
Anyway, to my mother-in-law, there was nothing better than bringing the boys to the beach. We were on a bit of a budget so she saw it as a fun, free afternoon of fresh air. And there I was, being sort of a grump about the whole thing as I wanted to go to Griffith Park or a museum.
As I sat there on my towel watching my boys play, I thought of my mom. When was the last time she went to the beach before she died? Whenever it was, she didn’t know it would be her last time. When will I be at the beach again? I decided to go put my feet in the water, because who knew if I’ve had the opportunity to do that again? It is pretty cool to be standing there at the very end of the land. If you were to be looking down from a plane up above, you could see where the land meets the water and there I am in one little space at the end of the country.
That felt very humbling and I decided to feel the sand underneath my feet and the water covering my feet. And that cool breeze felt so nice, such a great change from Phoenix’s summer sun. I knew then that I should be appreciating my time there – after all I was on a sunny California beach – many people dream about having the opportunity to do that.
I don’t like the beach, but I still touch my toes to the water
Feel the breeze on my face, appreciate the place ’cause I outta
Walking barefoot on the sand isn’t what I planned, but I’ll do it
You never know how things will go ’til you pursue it
I also thought about what led me to being there that day. Making the decision to leave my job wasn’t an easy one, but I really wanted to spend more time with my kids over the summer. And there I was, only a few months after considering it – on a beach with my kids instead of working on a deadline in an air-conditioned office on an 105-degree day in Phoenix. What was I complaining about anyway?
I knew I shouldn’t take this experience for granted.
You never know if this will be the last time
You never know if you’ll pass this way again
Don’t take for granted the circumstances
That led you here, now that you’re here – jump in
Weeks later, my friend invited me again to perform one of my songs with her at her synagogue’s Hanukkah event. I couldn’t pick a song that might work as a duet, but I found myself continuing to sing the above lyrics so I thought I’d try to finish it. I thought it was an important message to remember so I tried to think of another scenario I’ve experienced where I went somewhere I didn’t really want to go but ended up having a good time.
I didn’t want to go to the party, but I committed
I put my party dress on, but my heart wasn’t in it
After it was done, I realized I had fun, I admit it
You never know how things will go ’til you begin it
Before long, I finished the song, but was having trouble with the bridge. Here were a few of the different versions, all in the course of one morning as I sung it over and over.
From the moment you open your eyes, you may find an unexpected surprise
The change of scenery may be beautiful
From the moment you open your eyes, greet the beauty of the new sunrise
Each day can bring a new surprise that’s beautiful
In the morning you open your eyes, you’re greeted with a stunning sunrise
A whole new day of possibilities
In the morning when I open my eyes, through my window I see the sunrise
Lighting up the dark sky, a new beginning
The next day.. getting closer to the performance day, I need to come up with something!
When I catch the sunrise, it takes my breath away with all the promise of a new day
At the end of the week:
From sunrise to sunset, we’re bound by time
Avoid regret, there’s no way to rewind
Finally it was time for the performance, although I felt like the bridge still needed something different and I had a difficult time singing it. After practicing all week with my friend, I performed the song at the songwriting workshop a few hours before the performance. It was the first time I played a song live, as opposed to playing a recording. I got really good feedback about the song, which gave me a little more confidence to perform that evening.
A few months later, I took my own advice (you never know…) and submitted the song for NPR’s 2018 Tiny Desk Contest. By then a found a bridge I was happy with:
A medley of moments composed over time
Live life with boldness, there’s no way to rewind.