Some of my fondest childhood memories are from the beach. My siblings and I would body surf day in and day out. The best days were before or after storms, when the waves were extra big. These days could also be a little scary. Each of us could tell you stories about being tossed around more than was pleasant by a particularly vicious wave. We learned that to fight these waves was futile – you would only start to feel panicked and exhaust yourself. It was far more effective to go limp until these waves passed – whether we were being pushed down to the ocean floor or pulled out deeper. Surrendering until the wave let you go was the easiest way to get back in the game. And getting back into the game – and on that next wave – was the only goal!
I hadn’t thought about the lessons I learned in the ocean for a long time, but the beginning of this new year has brought them rushing back. This time, the waves pounding at me were from life rather than the sea. Just as when we were body surfing, they haven’t all been whoppers. Some have been average. Others have been puny – not even worth diving in for. But a couple have been humongous. Looking back, however, it’s clear that the size and frequency of the “life waves” wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was the way I was approaching them.
My husband left for a two-week business trip on January 2. This left me solely in charge of de-decking the halls, shifting the girls from vacation mode back into school mode, moving our son out of his college apartment and hitting the ground running for the annual January spurt in business at my studio. To say I was driven would be an understatement. Remember that old Helen Reddy song, “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar?” That could have been the theme song to the way I was approaching life.
Seriously. I was attacking each wave as if I could defeat it. And continued to do so when bigger waves started rolling in. One of my dogs got deathly ill. Then I got deathly ill. Still I fought on. Until my daughters were in a car accident on the way to school. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Thankfully, we have car insurance. Thankfully, we own other cars. I attacked the labyrinthine process of gathering the paperwork, filing the auto claim and getting my gal to the chiropractor the way I’d been attacking every other wave that came my way.
Only this wave pulled me under. In fact, it slammed me to the ground. The night of their accident, I woke up with a muscle spasm in my hip and low back that left me breathless and crying. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t lay down. I’d never felt anything so painful in my life (and I’ve had three kids). I was totally crippled. I had no choice but to stop fighting.
I had to surrender to this one. Multiple trips for acupuncture, body work and chiropractic care have helped me to physically “go limp” as I learned to do when in the grips of a wave in the ocean. I also found that had to “go limp” in life. I had to lay on the kitchen floor on an ice pack for 20 minutes every hour for the first two days. When I wasn’t on the kitchen floor, I wasn’t doing much. No walking the dogs. No driving. No prolonged sitting.
It took a few days for this wave to let me go. A week later, the spasm has released and I’m slowly regaining my range of motion. My return to my mat has given me the opportunity to practice surrender in every single posture I take. There are no goals. There is no agenda. There is no plan. There is only my experience breath by breath. Through my healing journey I have found that to fight when I feel pain in a posture leaves me as breathless and teary as the spasm did. So I don’t fight. I surrender to what is and I stay there.
I stay there and I am literally awash in a wave of gratitude for what is. Because I can move and breathe. Because I am feeling better. Because I know that I don’t have to roar. Because I have remembered the lesson the ocean taught me as a child – that, when the waves get big, to surrender (your plan, your agenda, your timeline) is often the wisest thing you can do. In life, as in the ocean, it leaves you in a much better position to get back in the game.