Let the Waves Come, Let Them Wash Us

The anxiety was overwhelming. I’d tossed and turned all night, only to wake up to the all-too-familiar feeling of heaviness throughout my body. Life had become increasingly challenging in the last few months, and the last week had tested my sanity, pushing how much I could bear. The events in my life came in a snarky way, as I had boldly and recently declared I was no longer afraid of “bad” things happening to me, confident I could transform everything into a learning experience. I was beginning to doubt it.

It’d been over 2 years since I’d surfed and my friend was pumped and ready to go that morning. My pain made me reluctant, but something beckoned me out the door. I found myself in the water an hour later, the icy waves greeting my face, my arms warming up with the once-familiar strokes, making my way out to the break-point. My friend swiftly gained speed ahead of me and I watched the distance grow between us. An applaudable 15 minutes later, I felt done. Essentially pushed back to shore, I stood up and watched the waves and other surfers in jealousy. Feeling defeated so easily, I started bemoaning why I’d even come out. Man, I’d rather be playing guitar or something. Why did I waste so much time surfing all these years? My negativity spiraled and I froze in frustration. As I stared out at the horizon, an unperturbed voice in the corner of my mind finally retorted — You haven’t surfed in over 2 years, so relax buddy. Alright, I said. You’re annoyed and exhausted and have been for weeks. But feeling negative didn’t have to be a bad thing. My self-pity dance reached its finale with this newfound acceptance and I decided to start small — just get myself past the next oncoming wave. And so I got out there, focusing on each stroke, on each wave, until I was suddenly past the other surfers. I looked back and saw my friend waving at me, laughing and telling me come back in a bit. I guess I’d gotten overzealous.

We rode the waves to complete content in those few hours. Yelling, smiling, simply sitting in the water, letting the waves wash over us. My feeling of peace grew with each successful attempt, focused and present, with nothing else on my mind. After the swell retreated, we said our goodbyes, and I was left in a satisfied glow driving back to the city.

The sense of calm was intoxicating. I was reminded how rejuvenating, how healing surfing had been for me. The feelings of crippling anxiety and tension had, for the moment, been cleaned off, transformed. But this time around, I noticed it wasn’t just the act of surfing, but the nature of the waves themselves. They didn’t care whether I was happy or sad, overwhelmed or joyful. I was treated no differently than anyone else out there, and I felt compassion in this equality. With a quiet constancy, they continued their ebb and flow, only asking that I show up and join the dance. Their non-judgment to my suffering and their relentless consistency evoked my own stability and grounding. Despite whatever was going on with me, they would always be there, rising and falling. The notion was comforting.

Watching these incessant waves, I saw how the waves of my own life were crashing on me, calling me forth to action or paralysis. Calling me forth to dive in regardless of who I was, regardless of my circumstances.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hoping certain waves wouldn’t come, fearing their arrival. Time I could have spent riding, time I could have allowed myself some peace between the sets.

We say the Universe is cold and indifferent and it saddens us. Maybe that it’s even cruel, letting good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. It doesn’t seem fair. But when I saw those waves coming towards me that day, I felt differently. I felt their absolute fairness and it bathed me in compassion. Being treated equally despite my pain was the greatest support I could have been given. Their quiet acceptance was all that was needed.

The waves will come, and we can let them wash over us, again and again. Cleansing us, presenting us with timeless questions and adventures.

I seek natures compassion, its loving embrace.