Last Monday, I slung on the broad straps of my tote bag and slipped my bare toes into the welcoming cork beds of strappy Birkenstock sandals. Mid-morning slid into its 10:30am time slot and I was determined to relieve my busy thoughts with a panoramic view of the Coral Sea.
Never before Australia did I know the pleasure of living within walking distance of the ocean, which means that I am truly, an anxious sea-swimmer.
Now, with the privilege of additional time and a heavier dose of feelings on my hands than I am typically comfortable with, I am slowly acquainting myself with the South Pacific tides. Although I couldn’t tell you what her highs and lows are at this point, I am counting on my subconscious brain to pass along her secrets to me someday after many hours of gazing steadily into her sparkling blue eyes.
So, after a leisurely walk from my apartment building over to the foot of the waves, I tugged my monstera-print towel out of the confines of my beach bag and delicately laid the lightweight fabric against a bed of warm, pale sand—preparing the dry cotton for the absorption of my damp return.
Can you be lost at sea before dipping even one toe into her waters?
The cascading shades of blue invite the riddles of my mind to unravel.
The ocean. Is there any purer depiction of life?
Knowingly, the sand guided me to the edge of the waves and watched as I broke the boundaries of dry by plunging my first limb into the Coral Sea. The taste of cool water was unpleasant for a brief moment before thermal adaption grabbed ahold and begged for more sips.
In these situations, it is always best to walk a few steps further into the depths before throwing your entire being into the ocean’s chest. Once you are fully immersed, then you are held, carried, but promised no guarantees.
I hate the ocean because I can’t control her.
I love the ocean because I can’t control her.
As soon as I succeed in swimming through the white walls of one lick—blowing bubbles from my nose and wiping saltwater out of my eyes; suddenly, I am shocked to see another peak of water only a few seconds away from touching down again. Really, it’s funny. For some reason, I expected her to understand how much I struggled to stay afloat. Somehow, I thought that swimming against the currents would be easy— couldn’t the sea see my vulnerability? I wanted her to soften towards me. And I was almost offended when her currents swallowed me whole and her breaks chopped me in half.
I’d fall down and get back up to receive more cheers. I’d rock a small baby to pacify his tears. I’d smile at a stranger to elicit a grin. But I could kick, yell, and scream and never calm the wind.
This is the way of nature. This is the way of life. When you choose to fully immerse into living, you relinquish your control and greet each new challenge with the skills that you’ve diligently acquired with each passing stroke of experience.
One by one, challenges of varying degrees will arise—I may duck, get sucked under, or ride each one with graceful ease. And here I thought that the most important part was how I dealt with each wave.
But now I understand that it’s not about how I dance with each wave but how I choose to push back up and move forward out of each wave. Whether or not the moment was smooth or absolutely soul-crushing, the rhythm of nature will continue to pull. And it is all too easy to ride back to shore on the waters of fear or nostalgia. These will prevent your life from going anywhere. They will ensure that your butt is soaking and planted firmly on the banks of the shore for further rumination.
Still, yes, feel them when the wave hits. Maybe you ride the wave of nostalgia with ease or struggle to hold your breath under its rip. Either way is good. But do keep moving forward with self-grace. Adapt and swim towards the depths lest you be fatefully tossed back onto the sandy banks of yesterday’s what ifs?.