Sitting on the inside: stories from a slow learner
I haven’t been writing much lately. The thing is that every time I go to write, it feels like I am simply writing the same story over and over again. I feel like all that each tale achieves is to reveal what a slow learner I am and lets you all see more than you should. Are stories supposed to be that selfish? To be honest I’ve lost perspective on what I have and haven’t said, but this one has been sitting inside my chest for a couple of weeks now, so I suppose I might as well let it out…
A few weeks ago, I went for a surf. It was my first time on a board in over 2 months. Exciting.
I decided to paddle out at my love, The Pass. Conditions were pretty wonderful - the sky was clear and blue, the water was warm, there were peelers galore and it wasn’t too busy. I wasn’t looking for much anyway. I intended to sit wide and get waves further along. I just wanted to catch some waves and spend some time in my body, not my thoughts. I wanted to feel all the things you feel when you’re in the water – the rhythms, the temperatures, the water, the salt, the joy, the calm. I wanted to sit wide so I could focus on these things, and not the hassling for waves that is so common off the rocks.
As I walked down to the water I saw my friend, Jules. I called out and ran over to her, hugging her as we stood knee-deep in the water, rubbing the sunscreen from our hands with wet sand we scooped from beneath the surface. Jules is a dear friend of mine. She loves The Pass even more than I do, and you can guarantee you will find her there on her days off, surfing all day. Her approach to surfing and to life is generous, kind and full of integrity. I have known her since I was a child and she is someone I look up to as a surfer, a woman, and as a human being.
We paddled out together but after a few waves we ended up in different parts of the break. You know how it goes. And anyway, even within that crowd, I needed to surf on my own.
But it went to shit. Even before paddling out I was irritated, confused and frustrated, so those feelings were always going to transfer themselves into my surfing. I’d deluded myself that surfing would provide me escape from my thoughts, but it only served to help me embody them in a whole new way. Nothing was connecting or linking, and I felt like my whole surf was spent underwater, caught on the inside.
It wasn’t the ocean that was letting me down this time. It was me, it was my own fault. I knew that and it made it worse.
I extracted myself from the white-water and paddled over to Jules, who I knew had seen my childish frustration acted out as I paddled into anything that came my way.
It’s okay, Bec. Don’t get frustrated. Just be happy you’re out here. Some days are like that, you know.
Her kind and patient words filled my eyes with tears, which I made my best efforts to blink back.
Oh Bec. No, you’re not okay.
Her hand reached out across the water and grabbed my arm, consoling me.I crumbled at her care,
I thought I could come out here and it would be easy. It should have been easy, there’s no reason it’s not. I thought I could come out here and get away from all the other things, but I can’t - it makes you too vulnerable. Surfing’s where it all comes together, isn’t it?
Jules patted my arm.
Yeah, babe. And you’ve just gotta go with it. You’ve just gotta let it happen.
Historically, ‘letting things happen’ is not the easiest of goals for me to reach for, but it is good advice and I am trying. We lay on our boards and Jules held my arm as we talked about pain and friends and loss and surfing and love, and my tears fell into the ocean. I was in the lineup, in a bikini and t-shirt, crying. I was exposed. It was the worst.
But then I caught my breath. And with Jules’ help, I caught waves. Lots of waves, as it turned out.
Come on Bec, go for this one. Look at it forming up, it’s gonna be nice.
And it was. I let all of those things – all of my frustrations – swirl within me and I went with it, I let it happen.