Life is a Continual Struggle to Survive in the Ocean…

It is so not like a quick soak in a hot tub, mimosa in hand.

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

I hate to sound negative, but in order to live without going insane with worry, you have to approach life with a certain amount of pragmatism.

Yes, there are ups, lots of ups. Days when your heart is so light with joy, your feet are barely tethered to the earth. Happiness with the blush of love, the feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, the wonderment of your first child.

But life is not a one-way street in Nirvana, where the sun always shines. It’s not a quick soak in the hot tub, mimosa in hand.

You can’t legislate happiness, and you can’t expect it — ever.

Like swimming in the ocean, there are days when the strokes come easy. The surface is smooth and you might flip over on your back and float in the sun and revel in the wonderful world.

But other days, it’s all you can do to keep your head above the chop. Storms brew, turning the sea into a cold gray stew you must fight with all your strength. There are sharks, creatures that sting, man-made hazards you must navigate. Your limbs tire, you want to give up, and the riptide threatens to drag you out to sea.

You’re angry at the ocean, mad at the current. You want to kill the shark, or at least blame God for putting him there. You think if you rage long enough and hard enough, you’ll triumph.

But you won’t.

On those days when you are overcome with grief or sadness or anger, let go. Give yourself to the rhythm of the sea. Don’t give up, but stay parallel to the shore. Gain strength until you free yourself from the current.

You’ll need that strength to survive another day.

From Words to Live By, an illustrated work in progress.

Joanne Huspek lives in Southeastern Michigan, where current temperatures rival those of the Deep South. Along with her husband Brad, Boston terrier, Millie, and the very bad orange tabby, Purrby, she writes, enjoys cooking, and creating twisted wire jewelry. This means her housekeeping skills are practically non-existent.

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