Monday, April 17, 2017

A View of the Ocean

I’ve always enjoyed gazing out at the ocean and feeling a sense of peace...doesn’t everyone? The warm sand on my feet, the relaxing sound of the water flowing in and out, in and out. No wonder there are thousands of paintings, songs and poems about the ocean. What’s not to love?

I started to reflect on why a view of the ocean provides such a peaceful perspective. I used to think it came from the ebb and flow’s literal representation of impermanence; a multi-sensory reminder that the life keeps moving and the world is ever-evolving, one tide at a time.  Or perhaps it's due to the horizon-wide expansive view that reminds me that I’m only a small part of a much bigger world.

But that view doesn’t include the waves.Those damn waves. I’m not a surfer and only an adequate swimmer so large breaking waves, coupled with a strong undertow, is a recipe for anxiety for me. Wouldn’t it be so much more peaceful if there were no waves? Why do the waves have to ruin the serenity of the scene!

As I thought about what draws me to the ocean, I realized it’s the whole scene together: one gigantic, crashing, flowing, dynamic portrait of life.  I’ve had my fair share of monster waves that have come crashing down and left me gasping for air.  I loathe the feeling of panic when I’m frantically trying to push back to the surface for air.  Half of the time I’m wondering how I didn’t see the wave coming in the first place!  In particular, I really resent when waves break right in a row, leaving barely enough time to catch a breath in between.

Yet each time, I optimistically pull myself back up to try and judge the next wave to successfully dodge the onslaught of upcoming crashes.  But that’s the trick, isn’t it?  Learning and growing;  becoming a better judge of how the waves break, which ones to gracefully float over and which to gleefully splash through.

It takes practice to learn how to most efficiently get back to the surface to catch your breathe when you’ve misjudged a wave that has sent you crashing under. But the beautiful thing is, when you resurface, you never find yourself in the same spot where you were before, you always land somewhere new.  Always a new starting point, always another chance.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the experience is knowing when you need a rest. When it’s time to head back to your beach chair and simply watch the ebb and flow of the tide.

How I love sitting in my beach chair, watching the ebb and flow, so peaceful and calm, ebb and flow. I’m tempted to stay in my safe chair, wrapped in a warm, sun-soaked beach blanket.  But...I can’t be one of those people who merely observes the ebb and flow of life pass by.  Getting back into the wild ocean of life is the only way to experience the joy of splashing through waves and share the thrill of jumping over waves with loved ones. It’s the only way to truly know the uplifting feeling of floating over a big wave and the sense of accomplishment when you are safely delivered to the other side.

I could go on and on with the ocean metaphor, and tell you how, for me, it applies to parenting, friendship, dating, and career. The truth is, the ocean is so universally appealing because it is what you make of it. For me, it's brilliance is in the unfolding of challenges and responding resilience, a constantly changing landscape of joy and fear. It isn’t always safe, and it's never predictable, but with keen observation, learning and experience, I’ve become a better judge of the waves and what it takes to recover from the misjudged, unforeseen and sometimes mighty crashes.