It’s 6 in the morning at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. From our hotel window, nature puts on a show by painting the sky in shades of blue, pink and orange.

I nudge our youngest son, who made me promise to wake him up for the sunrise, awake. He gets up long enough to see the colors and then lays back in bed. It’s OK, as I like my morning alone time.

Sleep — in particular, the calming rest that it provides — is more important for this family.

Exploring Jockey’s Ridge.

The youngest boy’s bigger and only brother seems to have been brought back to life here. He laughed, a lot. He climbed Jockey’s Ridge, a place he’s wanted to visit for a while. His smile brings smiles to his siblings’ faces. And that makes me smile.

I, on the other hand … let’s just say everyone was on my last nerve. That is until we walked on the beach.

The beach in winter is cold, super cold. You know how you have no shade at the beach during the summer? You have nothing to act as a buffer against the strong winter winds that whip off the water. You can’t go into the water. It’s too cold.

You could wear shoes in the sand, but come on, you’re at the beach. Sand in your shoes is not fun.

As we started our reset, I had to work. So I drove home, worked and came back. For some reason, I was wound up, not at all in beach mode.

You see, I’m the type of person who likes quiet more than chaos. I like being with my family, but a like being alone with them. Each of us engaged in a TV show or reading in the same room. Just give me my space and I’ll give you yours and we’re good.

The youngest kid isn’t like that. If we’re doing something he doesn’t want to do, he makes sure everyone knows. Tactics include making and testing paper airplanes in the living room, practicing flips in the room next door, intentionally getting in other people’s way, etc.

I was not in the mood for these antics when I got back to the beach. It eventually got to the point where I just walked to the far end of our hotel room and silently screamed for a few minutes. Being able to instantly go to a gym with battle ropes or a punching bag would have been perfect at that time.

Now that I slept and processed the day, I see where I need to reset.

First off, I’m not an expert in anything other than stringing words together to kind of make sense. I have no idea whether my plan will work, but I’ve read enough self-help books and participated in enough seminars to set a starting point and plan into motion.

I just am horrible at following through and sticking with it, because I find it hard to consider my well-being a priority.

The youngest son asked why I drink alcohol. If it doesn’t taste good, why drink it? I told him so I can tolerate days like today and relax.

My mind’s mute button doesn’t work. Except when I’m on the beach. The sound of the waves, and the feeling of the wet sand between my toes just does something to me. There is just so much going on that my mind has to shut up and be present. I have to watch my oldest children throw sand at each other or compare shells. At the beach, absorbing those moments becomes my brain’s priority.

A trail at the beach.

As a child, my mind found that quiet in certain sports. Not basketball, though, because you have to work with your teammates and read what the other team is doing.

Running, hiking, gardening, lifting weights to some extent, the pool. These activities, you concentrate on your form, pushing your body. My mind shuts off and goes on auto pilot.

I need more of that and less reliance on alcohol, TV, video games, etc., to keep me happy.

Last month marked nine years of my adult fitness journey. I have fallen off that path more times than I can count. I frequently let self-doubt and other things take priority when they shouldn’t. Those things were insignificant — meeting a deadline an hour early instead of on time, having extra time to zone out in front of my favorite gaming app (State of Survival).

Our family decided we need a reset but didn’t really consider what that would look like when the vacation was over.

We head back to the real world and deal with real problems that have always been there. We have been tired and overwhelmed for far too long.

For me, the reset means tackling the stuff I’ve put off because I’ve been scared, too lazy or whatever excuse was the fad at the moment.

For the kids, we’ll keep encouraging them to follow their true path, but maybe better equip them with the skills needed to cope with their ever changing world.

When I asked a friend about how his profession would return to normal after the pandemic, he stopped me.

Because of the pandemic, we won’t be going back to the way things were. The situation reshaped how things are done. Moving forward, we must take the best of what the situation has taught us and move forward.

A year since the pandemic closed everything down, my kids want everything to go back to normal. That normal has changed. As a family, we have to move forward and find our new normal together.