I was at the beach, as I am most Sundays, and I was watching the surfers go at the waves over and over and over again. Their sensual relationship - each body moving in time and tempo to the other. My attention drawn to the crest of the wave, the point in time where the surfer commits and begins paddling hard, fully committing to that wave - with each stroke, the wave and surfer become one. I began thinking how much of life happens and doesn’t happen at that commitment point. The place where everything in us either compels us to take the next step or resists what comes next...whether it be the dishes, ending a relationship, getting a new job. The possibilities are endless - there are so many commitment points in our days, these minute decision we make that shape, alter and create our lives.
Returning to the surfing metaphor for a minute, as I watched today I saw how each individual handled the commitment point differently: some madly paddling early so that they would not miss the critical point, others were a little late to the game and had to frantically paddle to just barely have a chance and still others seemed to know instinctively the exact right moment to hang and then paddle making it look so easy.
I don’t think any of us fall into the early, late or right on time groups in all aspects of our lives but I did find it interesting that in every surfer and in every wave there came a point where you had to paddle like hell or let go.
Seems this is what I have been doing all my life. Paddling like hell and letting go. More recently I have become aware that most of my life occurs right there on that proverbial wavecrest...that moment in time where I am presented with the opportunity to do or not do the habitual response. Where I am able to paddle like hell and push through to the other side of my own resistance or pause and allow that wave that is not mine to pass on.
I have been an observer of my own mind for a long time. Early on, my mind told me things and I believed everything it said. After being led astray more times than I would care to admit, I began looking at my mind a little more skeptically. What I learned is that I have a story for everything...I mean really everything! Most of these stories my mind creates are loosely based on fact. Middle age has allowed intuition to play a much bigger role. I have enough life experience now that I have come to trust my gut more often thus I spend a lot less time chasing shadows and making shit up. Well, at least blindly believing all the shit that I make up anyway...
It has only been recently though that I began to see that there was this commitment point that had existed all my life but that I had heretofore paid no attention to...that place in my life where I am present with the wavecrest and have to make a decision to act or refrain. Sometimes, I am being asked to push through my own resistance and move toward something foreign and new and other times I am asked to pause and allow my habituated response to pass through like a wave front that no surfer paddled for...
What has baffled me all my life is knowledge of which action I should be taking - pushing through my own mindset that says act or equally often, not act or a much harder course of action which entails waiting, pausing and holding my breath long enough for something completely unexpected and new to occur. Something that is not Erin-driven.
It has only been within the last year (well 18 months - but who is counting) that I have been able to see myself from this watcher position - not all caught up in myself so much that I can only see myself in retrospect. I don’t know why heartbreak gave me access to this place in myself, I just know that it did. Something about the pain of being forced to let go of someone that I so desperately wanted provided me the unexpected access to seeing myself as I was acting instead of only post-action. Something about grief slowed me down to force me to experience my current, unfolding reality regardless of whether or not this is what I really wanted to be doing.
What I have learned is that I have these commitment points all day, every day. I am in the ocean of my life and I am committing to chasing or as the case may be, not chasing the wave. There are two things that I have no control over: the waves (their timing, size, magnitude, temperature and constitution) and being in the ocean to begin with. Ok, I guess I could decide not to be in the metaphorical ocean here but that would mean that I have decided to off myself and I reached that particular commitment point more than 24 years ago and while most decisions are up for future review, that one is not. I made a decision and I continue to make that decision again every day. So I am in this ocean of life and I am not taking myself out...ever. I do get to watch from the shore on occasion but "leaving the beach" not gonna happen.
So, there I am in this sea of my life having little to no power over what rolls my way. My only real choice is what to do with each wave presented. I have tried lots of methods for dealing with the relentless waves in my life: paddling hard at all of them. This is exhausting and not sustainable. Not paddling at all and just allowing the waves to pass me by. While initially pleasurable, I have on occasion been completely wiped out due to my lackadaisical manner of dealing with the coming tide...this is also not sustainable. Which has led me to see each new wave contains a commitment point - a place in time where I have to decide to paddle or float.
What I have learned most recently is that if I can acknowledge this commitment point in the moment, I can see that I am, for the most part, riding on the verge of performing a habitual response: in this metaphorical tirade - paddling or floating. Once I see that is what I am doing, I am sometimes (it is becoming more frequent) able to push through and select a new behavior that leads me to a new reality. And that new reality is super simple: no matter what I do with the current wave, the next wave is likely going to demand something different from me and I cannot control, manipulate or trick the wave into being different because that is what I need in that moment.
The pausing, brief, but paralyzing reality is that fear has always been the decider of my action or inaction. Fear has always led my life. Riding the waves of my life through these commitment points has always been on my surfboard of fear. However, living through a decimating heartbreak has given me a new freedom from fear that is both unexpected and a fantastic gift. The thing that I feared most happened. I loved with all that I had and he left me. The thing that I spent my whole life avoiding, happened anyway. My reaching the commitment point of loving with all that I was and coming up short occurred and guess what? I survived, hell I even thrived!
So today as I ride the waves of my life, I am less concerned with what commitment I make and am paying more attention to the point in time where I am being asked to commit...I find it especially fascinating that I have lived 49+ years of reaching these commitment points every moment of every day and completely missing the point...with every wave I am being asked: is this your wave? And in every moment, I get to chose. This is what it is really all about - that in every breaking wave I remember that not all waves are meant for me and that with each new wave is the promise that there will be one more.
May you see, as you ride your own waves, that regardless of your decision to paddle or float, the commitment point is yours and yours alone.