Hello, dear readers!
I haven’t forgotten you. The last month or so has been consumed by preparing for two major events: moving back home to Winnipeg, and going on vacation with my boyfriend. I write to you from South Cocoa Beach, Florida, where I have been wrestling with my attitude toward high heat and humidity while revelling in the company of my favourite boy. We’ve so far enjoyed the beach a fair bit, which is a block and a half from where we are staying, as well as the Kennedy Space Center and local gastronomical landmarks like Taco City.
I’m not here to give you a log of my vacation activities, though. What brought me out of my blog-hibernation, what tugged my writerly heartstrings and made me crave to talk to you, dear reader, was my first surfing lesson, which I had yesterday.
Boyfriend is a surfer-boy; the ocean will always be his first true love. I wouldn’t ever dare trying to compete with her; seeing him so at ease, so happy, so comfortable and in his element as he floated and skimmed over the water’s surface on his board, I felt privileged simply to share her with him, get to know her a little better, learn and observe the nuances of her capricious rhythms. At least, those are the feelings that I struggled for dear life to hang on to while I was constantly falling off my board and losing my balance and failing to catch wave after wave.
You see, I’m not really the athletic type (*cough*understatement*cough*). I’ve never done well at sports, never had stamina for athletics. I came in last in every event when I was forced to participate in Track and Field day back in my schoolgirl years (until I got a little older and found shot-put, which I was surprisingly okay at). I have a virtual Mormon Tabernacle Choir of voices in my head from my past mocking me for my poor performance, laughing at me for how slowly and clumsily I ran and jumped and threw and (rarely) caught, exasperatedly urging me to try again, try harder, do better, when the frustration of failure overtook me and dissolved me to hapless weeping.
This has been my experience participating in most athletic activities (except the occasional pick-up game of volleyball or basketball); water-skiing and snowboarding were especially catastrophic failures. I can’t remember if it was my idea or Boyfriend’s to try surfing, but decide to try it I did. I must be insane. Why on earth should I imagine succeeding where I’ve failed so many times before?
I’ve developed this tendency, because of my history of not taking failure well, to not even attempt to do things I don’t think I’ll be able to do well at. “Leave it to the athletes,” I figure. “No point in giving myself yet another thing to fail at and beat myself up over.” But with Boyfriend’s coaxing, and some positive thinking on my end, I decided that there were enough reasons for me to at least make an attempt. And so, yesterday, I had my first surfing lesson.
I am not very good at surfing.
It took me at least an hour out in the water to even be able to lie on the board without tipping over and falling off. I didn’t stand up a single time. I paddled like a flailing toddler, had Boyfriend pushing me into waves, but couldn’t catch them, couldn’t go fast enough, couldn’t shift my centre of mass properly. I cried a lot. I screamed many times. There were several instances in which I emerged from beneath the water screaming FUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCKKKKKYYYYOOOOOOUUUUUU to the ocean, to the board, to Boyfriend, to myself, to everyone who had ever caught a wave ever. I had to take several breaks.
Boyfriend assured me that everyone fails spectacularly on their first day out, it’s rare for someone to even catch a wave their first try, never mind stand up on it, and that I was doing spectacularly well simply for not having been clobbered and concussed by my board (yet). I pouted and whined.
Then I got up and tried again. I pulled that goddamn board into the water, just far enough out to where the waves were preparing to break against the shore, spotted a promising wave approaching, and launched myself onto the board. I felt the wave pick me up and carry me and suddenly I was flying, skimming over the surface of the sea on my belly, speeding toward the beach. I flew until the fins dug into the sand, and then rolled off and cheered.
I caught a wave. I caught it all by myself, and I rode it to the beach, even if it was a short ride, without falling off the board. Apparently this is quite an achievement, boyfriend tells me. I feel proud. I managed a success. I persisted and I didn’t allow depression-brain’s tape-recordings from the past dissuade me from trying just one more time.
In the learning curve of surfing, this may be a small victory. In the learning curve of managing mental illness, I feel like Recovery-brain has made significant advances against Depression-brain in my cerebral civil war. Just because I kept trying, because I decided that the voices of my past can just go fuck themselves, I’m gonna flail around on this surfboard, literally or figuratively, and keep trying. I am going to go out again, and I’m gonna go after those waves and fall and cry and scream and get frustrated.
And I am going to go again. And keep going. Because that surfing lesson taught me far more than how to lie on a surfboard; it taught me that persistence is a much more significant success than falling off the board is a failure.