I think life presents many many waves to us. And, just like standing at the edge of a vast ocean, some of these waves come in small and gentle – yet have their swells and peaks and whitecaps and tumbles too. Some of these waves come in so high, they are well over our heads and it might take months or years for these to peak. It might take years before we feel the release; the immense crash.
But grief is not the only kind of wave. Each experience, painful or joyful is a wave. Each moves us in the direction of its choosing, not our own. If you’ve ever stood – or tried to stand -- in the real kind of powerful waves and if you’ve ever played in the real kind of small, sweet little waves, you understand the difference. A painful wave can come in small and (bitter)sweet. A joyful wave can come in so high and strong that it scares you. But they are often reversed. The joys are playful. Sometimes you don’t even pay attention to them. They tickle. They turn around your feet. The pains are powerful. They are unmistakable. They strike you. They may even knock you to your knees where you cut yourself on a jagged shell.
I think you get the metaphor I’m trying to build here.
When I originally sat to write this post, I was full of my own stories of pain and loss and struggle. I write to you, always, to heal myself first. But, I write to you, always, with the hope that while I’m healing myself, I am helping you heal. So, I often tell my own stories and often those stories are written on the brink of the crest of those powerfully difficult waves. But, I’ve cut what I originally wrote in the rest of this post because here’s something I remembered: it is useless to fight with waves. And, pouring over my own pain at this moment is just one more way I am struggling hard to stand strong against waves that are determined to push me over and roll me.
We should stand strong. We are all a bunch of badasses. Do not misunderstand me. Standing strong is absolutely necessary in a thousand ways, a thousand contexts. There must always be a part of us that stands strong. But, hear me out: There should always be a part of us that swims through every wave that comes. Every single one. Whether they look like they are going to kill us. Whether they slide up our calves in a playful foam. There is a piece of us that must move with them, must take them into account, must remain pliable to their touch, must allow ourselves to be tickled, to be rolled, to be moved. To do otherwise – to stand strong in the face of waves and refuse to be moved – is a kind of arrogance I no longer want to be guilty of. To deny the unending, natural, constant power of these waves is to behave as if I am the center of the universe; as if I am not simply an extension of all that is. I am connected to you, to this French café where I write, to the ocean a few steps away, to the baristas, to the sound of the water under the sunrise this morning that moved quietly under a quiet fog (I know, sounds like a rough life, right?). I am but one small piece of this puzzle. When I deny the power of waves, I behave as though I am bigger, more important, more powerful than all of this that breathes me. And, thank goodness, thank the Universe, thank Everything, I am not. I am not. I wouldn’t want to be.
Today is the first day of this New Year. Since I was a child, I have been pushing hard against these waves. I have been standing SO strong; have been SO arrogant. I believed I could make resolutions and, no matter what, stick to them. I believed I could make rules for myself, lists of things I must do or must not do. Contracts. And even when I have been successful – wildly successful in some cases – of following through on these contracts, I have failed them. But very little of my success has ever come from following the rules I’ve made for myself. Very little of my success has ever come from believing my “shoulds.” Even when I have achieved exactly what I have set out to achieve, I have usually done so because, at some point, I allowed a wave to take me where it wanted; I followed a path I didn’t create. I trusted the Universe. And it was always in that moment where I tumbled, cried, laughed, felt total release.
But in those moments where I stood strong against the wave, refusing to yield, I only felt more pain or I missed some joy. From the little that I understand of this Buddhist concept, I believe I was causing myself “optional suffering” by not yielding. Thus, let this first day of 2016 see my most gentle “resolution” to date – we could maybe even call it a non-resolution – to stop fighting the waves as much as possible; to cause as little optional suffering as possible; to trust the Universe.
I have written in a lot of metaphor and abstraction this morning. It’s not my favorite method because I’m aware that it sounds preachy and lofty. I don’t mean for it to, Dear Reader. I mean to reach out to you in a real way. I am lucky to have spent the last two weeks in a little paradise on the Gulf of Mexico. My recent days have been filled with the absolutely real and visceral experience of being pushed and pulled by waves. I have seen wild dolphins swimming from the beach and from boats. I have basked in my children’s endless smiles. I have felt the soft wet sand under my feet. These have been days where my head fills with the words, “thank you thank you thank you” every time I watch a sunset or a sunrise. I have tried to watch as many of both as possible. It has been so easy, in these moments, to trust the Universe.
I am aware, though, that in my real life, it is very hard to trust the Universe. How do I trust a Universe that takes everything and everyone away eventually? How do I trust a Universe that brings these waves of pain along with these waves of joy? I do not have a complete answer to these questions yet. Of course, it’s doubtful I ever will have a “complete” answer to these questions – but, I’m working on them. I am. And I’m going to save the beginnings of these answers for another post.
For now, I want to tell you a little marvelous gift I have noticed the Universe giving me these past two weeks. My children are grateful people. Like all parents, I worry a lot over all of the things I do wrong every day by my children. I worry that if I do it wrong I will raise bad people. And I don’t want the two people I love more than any other human on the planet to turn out to be bad people – especially if it’s MY fault that they do! And, I worry about this. A lot. But, every day these last two weeks, with every new experience, every little trinket bought, every treat, every beach, every wonderful thing we’ve done, my children – with no prompting at all – have thanked me and their father. They say thank you all the time, in fact. They are so grateful. This – this realization that my children are grateful people – is one of those tiny, quiet little waves tickling my calves, my ankles. It is a sweet joy. I could let it go unnoticed or I could move with it. I could follow it. I could choose to hear the Universe telling me that I can trust that I have two great kids. I could let this quiet wave guide me through – maybe even away from – those darker, more threatening waves. I could Trust the Universe.
And, I think I will.
Swim, in love, Teammates.
Swim into 2016 with hearts filled beyond every brim with love.