In the heat wave we’ve been having lately, I’ve often gone to the ocean to cool off and enjoy one of my favorite childhood pastimes — riding waves. As a kid, I body surfed, and occasionally used a kick board or inflatable raft to catch a wave. A few years ago, in Hawaii, I discovered the added power of a boogie board. Then, 2 years ago, I finally bought a wet suit, so I can play in the surf in northern California. As I was floating in the ocean the other day, I reflected on a few things it has taught me:
*You can’t hurry a wave. All you can do is enjoy the wait. And if you don’t enjoy the wait, get out of the ocean. Life is like that, too. You can get in position, like you do waiting for a wave, but you can’t make everything happen. You might as well enjoy life while you’re waiting for the wave — enjoy the rocking of the ocean, the sun on your head, the taste of salt on your lips. If you’re waiting for a life wave, enjoy your family, your friends, the sun on your face, good food, a comfortable bed.
*Some things are worth waiting for. There is nothing like catching the perfect wave just right — the rush when it catches you (or you catch it?) and the loooooong ride, really being part of the wave, feeling it flow through you. Some things in life are worth waiting for, too — the right partner, your life’s work.
*Some things are worth working for. It takes a lot to get into that ocean — I have to get the wet suit, booties, boogie board, and towels into the car, drive 11 minutes to the beach, find parking (quite difficult on a warm day!), tug on the wetsuit, which is like pulling stiff casing on a bologna, and wearing this stiff thing, tug on the booties, find a place to hide my car key, creak in the wetsuit down to the ocean, dragging the board, and endure the leaking of icy water into the wet suit. But that first ride is so worth all of it!
* We are connected to all of life, no matter how protected — or separate -- we think we are. That wet suit insulates me a bit from the cold, but it doesn’t protect me from sharks. And it’s a wet suit because the sea does get inside it. As I’m there in the sea, I’m always reminded that we, as humans, are mostly water, with a proportion of salts something similar to the ocean.
*Being part of something is magical. When you body surf, and you catch a wave just right, you are part of the wave, in a way that language can’t capture. And it is amazing, magical, cosmic — everyone should have the experience at least once. Being part of a positive group’s energy is magical, too, though in a less physical way, and everyone should have that experience at least once, too.
* Life is a series of tradeoffs. I can ride a wave with a boogie board, in which case I get more, and longer, rides, but the board keeps me a bit separate from the wave, or without a boogie board, in which case I’m more part of the wave, but I get fewer rides, and they’re shorter. Both are terrific, just in different ways. And I can choose differently at different times.
* You don’t control the waves, you only control your response. I can choose where to wait in the ocean, when to push off, how hard to paddle and kick, where my body weight is on the board, and my equipment. But the waves come when they come, break where they break. Period. Such is life.