I can’t control the sea but I can learn to ride the waves.
With two young children, I have finally started to accept that beach vacations are no longer what they used to be. Long gone are the days of getting lost in a good book, relaxing in the sun and dozing off to the rhythmic sounds of waves hitting the shore. Beach vacations are now all about the kids and giving them the space to explore ― build sandcastles, look for seashells and play in the waves.
Play in the waves. Sigh. That’s the worst part for me.
You see. I hate going in the ocean. Always have. I actually can’t recall a time when I enjoyed playing in the water. To me going in the ocean is purely a functional means to cool off or avoid finding a restroom.
Waves scare me. I don’t like their force. I don’t like their unpredictability. I don’t like their enormous power. I don’t like the feeling of losing my footing when a wave takes me to shore.
As a single mom I have to face this fear of mine.
My children want to go in and play. It’s not fair to deny them that opportunity. Fortunately, last week on vacation I had my best friend and her two kids accompany us at the beach. Not only could she lend an extra hand but she’s also savvy on navigating beach conditions. Before each day she looked up the low tide schedule and recommended we wait to hit the beach until the tide was at its lowest.
Holy cow. Game changer. I admit I am pretty ignorant about this stuff but waiting until low tide shifted my whole outlook on my fear of ferocious waves. I never stopped to think about the changing conditions of the sea. When the water receded during low tide, the ocean was less scary and more approachable. The waves were gentle and I felt at ease. I was able to play with my kids in the waves while enjoy the sensation of my body flowing in the water.
And then my vacation came to an end.
Re-entry back to the real world post beach was tough. I had a lot to juggle between a busy work week and home demands. Anxiety mounted as I looked at my calendar and what lied ahead. The next few weeks will be extremely busy between back to school activities, work projects, personal projects and some travel.
I felt myself brace for the impending impact of what the month has in store. Even though in isolation each event, project and activity is a positive, the culmination of all them felt overwhelmingly powerful. I have too much going on I thought. I can’t handle it. I became plagued with stress and my entire body tightened.
And then I closed my eyes and went inward. What was I feeling in that moment? My mind drifted to waves. I recognized I was feeling that same fear of a big powerful wave crashing and hitting me. The fear of unpredictability. The fear of losing my footing and being knocked down.
But the truth is waves will only knock you down when you put up resistance and stand still.
I breathed and let my body relax. The feeling of overwhelm started to retreat.
It was in that moment that I recognized that I have the capacity to change the conditions of my life from high tide to low tide. To bring a gentle ease and calm to my being.
I know I am wired to get overwhelmed. It’s a natural byproduct of my A-typeness. That’s a truth about me that will likely never change. But what I can change is my response. Rather than brace and tighten, I can release control and allow myself to go with the flow and ride any wave that comes my way.