That Tidal Feeling (When it randomly gets REAL)


There’s this feeling that I’ve had but that I can’t describe in words.

It’s been chasing me my whole life and I’ve chased it right back – like the two of us are meant to be together but the relationship is just a little bit forever out of reach: one of the great love stories of the ages – we come together and it feels REAL, we slip between each other’s fingers and it feels UNREAL, but – it’s okay – we know we’ll be right back and it’ll all work out in the end.

Every time I felt this ‘feeling’, it always felt like things finally ‘clicked’ into place and made sense, only for the sands of time to pass through the hourglass and leave me right back where I started…with the indistinct memories of some vague idea that things could and should be different but that – at the same time – they’re perfect if I just let them be that way and trust the process of letting life live itself through me as I do my best to live it right back.

I’m always telling myself that “What’s real is always real” and this feeling seems to be the closet I’ve ever got to actually KNOWING this for sure…It’s elusive, though, even though it’s always there.

I know you’ve felt this feeling too – even though I haven’t really shared any details about it yet (besides how nebulous it is and how it comes and goes like the tide going in and out).

You must’ve felt it though…I think it’s what makes us human.

The ‘tide’ is a good metaphor for this feeling. I’m gonna call it “that Tidal feeling” because it’s always ‘there’ – just sometimes it’s further away than others because of the choices I’ve been making or how caught up I might’ve got in my head and my past.

Sometimes, I’m “far away” because the tide is OUT and I guess all that really means is that I’ve become disconnected in some way – caught up in those natural cycles of tension and release that we all get lost in (so that we can eventually find ourselves) and living a life where I’m just acting on autopilot and doing what needs to be done (or so I think) as I force life to the little ideas in my head and the image I think I need to live of myself to make things ‘work’.

When I’m close to it, it’s because the tide came back IN – almost like a tsunami sometimes…unexpected, sweeping, overwhelming in how much power it brings and how surprisingly consistent and beautiful it is in the sense that it ALWAYS comes back and so “that tidal feeling” is going to come with it.

These “tsunamis” are never as grand as sweeping as the word tsunami might suggest but they’re little moments that have big consequences in the sense that they bring back that tidal feeling and bring me back down to earth.

Maybe I should give some examples of times that I remember so that you can see what I mean.

I know you’ve felt it too. It’s what makes us human.

The Storm

One example was a few summers back.

This girl I was seeing came back to my apartment after we’d been out hiking – it was the end of a long hot day and the humidity in the air was growling and getting ready to turn into a storm.

At that time, we were starting to think that we’d found true love and that it might last forever (well, until one of us died) but that didn’t really have anything to do with “that tidal feeling” – that just came by itself in waves.

We’d set up a mattress on the floor in the living room. It was maybe about ten or eleven pm at night and even though I wasn’t physically alone, “that tidal feeling” came sweeping over me and I had a moment between myself and life.

I think a lot of these “tidal” moments are like this…whether we’re alone or we’re not alone, we’re kind of alone. It’s like life is washing away anything that’s not connected to our own soul, shaking us back to our senses, and saying: “Look! This is it!”

In this tidal moment the clouds opened up and the rain started to pour. The window was still open so I could hear that rain fall like I was living in Dolby Surround Sound. 

Then the lightning started to do its thing and I just sat there in awe – basking in the blue lights of the night time, watching the majesty and power of the electric lightshow in the sky whilst this person I loved stay there oblivious, breathing right next to me as time passed by and we both moved an inch or two closer to the great unknown.

Personally, I’m all about embracing the cringe and romanticising things in moments like this:

I thought about how crazy it was that over the billions of years since the beginning of the universe – and through all of the things we’d been through individually since then – me and this girl had somehow come together to live in this lifetime at the same time and to be here right now, breathing and getting older, as the storm raged and the Dolby Surround sound raindrops smashed against the carpark outside.

We broke up but I still think about that moment and the tidal feeling that came with it. It was real.

The Petrol Station Carpark at Night

These tidal moments don’t have to be romantic or involve epic clichés like storms.

I experienced it another time once when I was working in a petrol station when I was younger (like, a lot younger, nineteen or something).

Again it was the summer – and maybe there’s something there because it seems like a lot of these tidal feeling moments are an indistinct nostalgia for an indistinct summer long back when.

This particular night it was mild and the sky was black. I was taking the bins out or something like that and I suddenly found myself alone in this petrol station that I had somehow become responsible for.

Back then, I had an attitude (I actually got fired from this same petrol station for “having an attitude problem”) because I felt like there simply had to be way more to life than bumming around in this petrol station and selling people Cornish pasties and canned drinks.

In that moment out there by the bins, though, it hit me – there really WAS much more to life… but it was already right there, waiting for me. I just had to look at it.

Out there by the bins, this tidal feeling swept over me. Everything looked so artificial and unreal under the bright lights of the petrol station signage and the forecourt lights blazing.

I felt like I was in “Toy Town” or something – everything seemed so beautiful and slick and aesthetic. Even though it was just a petrol station.

There was something about how artificial everything seemed that woke me up to how REAL I was… Like I’d just landed from another planet or something and was exploring this place for signs of life (by which I mean myself).

“That tidal feeling” crept up in this moment and swept away all the things that were keeping me from myself and life.

I guess it can happen anywhere. That’s the whole point. It’s a kind of beautiful loneliness and when it happens you realise you’re never really alone.

Naturally, the world crept back in but I still think about that moment.

The Retail Park by the Ocean

Another time this feeling crept in was when I went to meet some friends one weekend by the beach.

I got there early for whatever reason and so I had some time to kill – I drove around this seaside town wherever it was (I think it was Southport…can’t even remember) until eventually I came across this kind of complex with retail stores and hotels on it.

In all honestly, this place could’ve been absolutely anywhere in the UK because it was just a bog standard kinda place (a big carpark with shops and stuff around the perimeter) but it seemed ‘special’ because it was next to the beach.

I parked my car up and then just went to stare broodingly into the ocean (to fit my self-image as a brooding kind of guy back then).

I stood under a bridge, looking into the blackness of the waves and listening to them crash against themselves as the wind kept howling and I basically froze my ass off because it was so cold.

Again, this wasn’t a ‘big’ or ‘special’ moment but – for some reason – “that tidal feeling” swept over me again and I felt completely disconnected but connected to everything at the same time.

I think it was something to do with the artificiality of the retail park (with that same “Toy Town” vibe as the petrol station) meeting the realness of that ocean sound and the black nothingness of the ocean itself as I tried to grasp it.

In the story of my life as a whole, this moment was completely insignificant: I didn’t share it with anybody, it didn’t necessarily ‘mean’ anything, and I didn’t learn anything or have big epiphanies or anything.

When I die that moment will go with me but for whatever reason “that tidal feeling” came creeping in and it reminded me that I’m something ‘more’ than just how it seems when I’m running about the day on autopilot.

I got back in my car and whacked the heating up and drove back into the world to re-join civilisation and forget about such things.

That Tidal Feeling

I don’t know exactly what “that tidal feeling” means in the grand scheme of things. I know it has something to do with the beautiful solitude that we all feel in our lives – we’re all born alone and we all die alone with some moments of connection in between.

I know it has something to do with the two lives that we all live:

One as a kind of ‘artificial’ creature that’s a product of our time, space, and culture and then another kind of creature that’s more timeless and REAL – the universal man or woman that could exist at any time or any place and still have the same ESSENCE and power.

Sometimes, these two world collide and you crack open the gap between the two to see who you are as both a product of time and a consequence of timelessness…a kind of formlessness that takes away the form you think you are (only for it to form itself all over again).

“That tidal feeling” can creep in anywhere at any moment because the REALNESS behind it is always there, just waiting for an opportunity to seep in and wash over you.

I’ve had it when I’m hiking.

I’ve had it when I’m driving my car down a country road and getting hypnotised by my own headlights.

I’ve had it when I’m half asleep but the birds are outside my window singing and keeping me awake.

I’ve seen it when I’m in the supermarket and I see a ‘perfect’ red apple that looks like it could be in a cartoon or something.

I don’t know what it means but I know it’s real – the murmurs and whispers calling us back to who we are.

We all feel it. It’s what makes us human.

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