I went to Lyme Regis yesterday.
I went to Lyme Regis a lot over the summer, but I haven’t been since one particularly tricky weekend a couple of months ago and I’ve missed it. I think it might be my very favourite seaside. It has pebbles and sand, pretty fishing boats, colourful beach huts, a couple of eccentric book shops and a kiosk selling excellent coffee and bagels.
And the sea obviously. But also bagels. Did I mention the bagels?
Of course while I was there I had a paddle. You can’t go to the seaside and not have a paddle can you? It was freezing, but I took my socks and shoes off regardless, and the cold was surprisingly exhilarating.
Lyme Regis also has some rather lovely gardens, which climb up the side of the hill from the beach, and feature a small mini golf course. If Lyme Regis wasn’t already my favourite seaside town then the mini golf would seal the deal.
For some reason though I don’t normally walk up and into the gardens, but yesterday I did. I hadn’t realised that the gardens have a little sculpture trail, and so I was quite surprised when I came across this.
My first thought was ‘me after bearing two children’,* but then I read the sign that went with it and felt a bit taken aback, because it really did feel like it was written for me.
I felt like I’d been caught out.
That’s an interesting message isn’t it?
I looked at the sculpture some more.
Now I don’t claim to be someone who is generally moved by art, especially sculpture, but there was something about this Persephone that I felt a connection with. That balance between being strong and confident and at the same time vulnerable is one that I’m always aware of, and something I’m always working on.
I was reading an old blog post in fact this week, about how much vulnerability to show as a parent. It was about whether or not you should cry in front of your children, and at the time my position was clear – absolutely not. Ten years later and my stance on that has definitely changed. Perhaps it’s that as my children got older I felt less need to protect them, or perhaps it’s more about personal growth, realising that it’s okay to show a more human side sometimes, understanding that relentless positivity isn’t always the best way to connect with people.
Living a chunk of my life online has taught me a lot about how giving away a little bit of yourself, letting people see the bad as well as the good, can strengthen relationships. I’m not sure everyone on Instagram is always desperate to know whereabouts I am in my cycle, but I do think I get that balance in my stories between inner feelings and external imagery.
Where I think I still have room for growth is in showing vulnerability within romantic relationships. Telling hundreds of people on social media that you have your period and are sad is one thing, telling a partner what you need from them, that’s quite another. I find it hard to get away from the idea of vulnerability in that kind of relationship as a weakness and the idea of needing someone is a difficult one for me. I have always managed on my own, raised the children, earned the money – that strength and independence is crucial to me and I struggle to understand how to keep that at the same time as needing or relying on someone else.
Vulnerability is absolutely not a weakness of course, and neither should it feel like a burden or something negative. Vulnerability means opening yourself to the risk of harm, but it doesn’t mean that harm is a given, and in the process you might be opening yourself up to joy and love and adventure.
I guess it’s a bit like that November paddle – yes you risk the cold, but it makes you feel alive in the process, and so the risk is worth it.
Maybe sometimes you do just need to take your socks and shoes off and get in the sea.
*My internal monologue tends to take the form of Instagram story captions. I spend a lot of time alone.