Caught at Sea in Jungle Beach
This morning, paddling back to shore from Jungle Beach's ocean break was an emotional experience. I was proud of myself for sitting so far out, watching a big, glassy left and right break on either side of me. The fact that I didn't even attempt to paddle into a wave was not a problem. I'd been hanging out in the deep water where the face of a wave would come barreling in from the sea and then melt down just before it reached me. My attempts to sit on the board without it flipping out from underneath me were laughable.
Despite being constantly reminded that I need to sit up on the board and face the waves to see what's coming, I wasn't doing it. It seemed fine. Then a big set came, one that broke across the whole face of the wave instead of fizzling out, and I wasn't ready, not that I ever really say I am. I was a bit too far left to avoid it and too caught off guard to catch it, so it pummeled me. I gave in, one hand holding my nose (because I can't hold my breath) covering my head like I'd been taught. The second wave was coming fast, so I pulled the board closer to avoid smashing into the fins as I accepted the next blow. By the third wave, I had it pretty figured out and dove into the whitewall.
Surviving was enough. Every wave that doesn't kill me proves that I'm not going to be instantaneously murdered by the ocean. In fact, I wasn't even phased by being unable to sit up on the board without toppling over, not catching a single wave, or the knowledge of the terrifying vastness of the blue world I was hovering over. Getting back to shore was the real test.
I paddled and paddled and paddled and paddled... and got nowhere. Just to my left I could see the ticket in. She was a long, fast, but gentle ride toward the shore where I could paddle along the current instead of perpetually being pushed back into it. But I saw the massive rock face that I'd realistically never hit, and I turned away from the wave. I saw the frothy whitewater seething with power, and I turned further from its helpful push.
My arms were utterly exhausted, more flailing than paddling. My friend in the water could paddle toward me and then 10 meters ahead in the time it took for me to gain 1 meter. My hands were cupped, chest lifted, forearms pushing water, but I couldn't get any closer to the beach. The board wobbled and I spent my energy trying not to fall off the board as I willed it forward, all the while checking over my shoulder for another surprise wave. Salvation and the sweetness of a long, deep breath felt days away. Desperately looking to the shore, I felt the breakdown coming on and wondered how long I'd survive if I gave up and let the current pull me out to sea. I'd live there.
It took forever and I'd completely exhausted my courage, determination, patience, and arms by the time I finally collapsed onto the sand. I can't express how long it took - probably nearly 20 minutes - but it felt like a hopeless eternity. Stuck, out of control, trapped - all my worst enemies.
Anyway, there's a lesson in this, obviously. I thought it would be about learning how to gracefully fall, face fears, adjust...but it was harder. More challenging because I didn't expect it. This time it was actually a new, difficult, unanticipated challenge. In fact, I haven't quite sussed it out entirely - the lesson is still percolating.
Real growth doesn't necessarily happen on our own terms. Like being robbed, raped, or ill, we are at the mercy of the Universe's greater plan. In the moment, we are struggling to survive - and we must - but the process of that struggle and our Soul's determination to continue is where the expansion happens. The pain of the comfortable edges being stretched. Muscles tearing in order to be rebuilt bigger and stronger. Truth is, there will be pain, or at least discomfort. Struggle, confusion, denial, and even a moment where you give up and resign yourself to being permanently lost at sea.
You must persevere. You must trust this process. You must breathe - even if you first cry, scream, panic and shut down before you muster enough faith to release a deep exhalation. Your inhalation will come. Your torn muscles, broken heart, and crumbled walls will rebuild and heal. The path to your growth is not yours to choose, but you can direct how you react to it.
Keep paddling, G. You aren't destined to die at sea.