Life in Transition: Surfing & The Art of Equilibrium
I learned to surf when I was eight years old. My dad got me a tiny wet suit, fixed it up with a small canvas life jacket (because I couldn’t really swim) while my grandfather made me a perfect wee surfboard. My dad and I went out early one Saturday summer morning, and I rode the dawn waves for the first time. That is, I rode about three feet before I crashed. Unfazed, I bobbed back up, caught my board, and rode into another wave and crashed again. It would be a few months of this experience before I finally listened to my father and the other older surfers, and let them teach me about how to manage my board and stay balanced, all while moving forward in the midst of the constantly changing movements of the waves. I also learned how to fall off my board and stay safe in the ocean. The most important thing, my dad told me, was to remember that with surfing, every day was completely different.
Constant unforseen change was the rule of the ocean. There was no real way to predict what a wave would do or the best way to ride it—you just had to catch it, and ride ‘em out as close to the beach as you could. Over time, he said, you have a intuitive sense of how to catch and ride in different kinds of surf conditions. But it takes a long time to get there.
Change is everywhere around us, within and without, all the time, day and night. It may be subtle and slow, like the early morning surf, or it might seem at times as though it’s hiding just around the corner, waiting for us to arrive and discover it, as if it were a child playing hide-and-seek. Other times, it crashes down on us like a grand piano dropped from the sky. Whatever its roots, however it appears in our lives, welcome or not, ready or not, change is happening all the time to us and around us.
Years ago, I reached a point in early adulthood where I needed to call a time out in my life and evaluate what direction my life was actually taking versus the direction I wanted to go. I traveled across the globe and back, seeking out and stumbling into people who became my teachers and mentors in the fine art of becoming a (mostly) mature (sometimes) critical thinker, able to create an abundant life for myself in the midst of the hard reality that everyday life is a transitional state of being, with occasional pauses to rest and regroup. So, here is the bad news: the only way out is through. Most of us really don’t like it when we are facing the unknown and/or the uncertain; we want to know how much, how long, how fast and where the fire exits are. Some folks aren’t bothered facing the unknown, and some prefer being surprised by changes and still others pretend to ignore any changes until their situation becomes untenable.
The most intense and long-lasting transition I have personally experienced is my gender change, which began at the tender age of 49. I want to share with you a few things I learned about facing an unknown, uncertain future.
Break the Habit of Caring What Others Think of You
Be who you genuinely are. Don’t judge yourself, or project that judgement onto others. There’s no telling what others might really be thinking of you. If someone asks you a question about what you are up to these days, tell the truth. Don’t try to impress with what you think you should be doing; stay in the moment, look at them and answer their question. Their response to what you tell them is their issue, not yours.
Learn to Just Hang Out. Wherever You Are
Stop for a moment. Stop over-planning, put away the self-help books for a bit, quit looking for answers. Turn it off, whatever it might be. It will wait for you. Just pause, and breathe, and drop your shoulders, relax your neck. Just be the warm, intelligent animal that you are for a few minutes.
Accept That There Is No Quick Fix
This is a personal favorite challenge of mine. I get caught up sometimes looking for/chasing down the next great opportunity (whether personal or professional). I have sometimes gotten myself into a mess because I will head into something, anything, just to end the search and the uncertainty. Over time, it always happens that I end up right back where I started, only more discouraged. What I learned from making this mistake (more than once) is that it takes time to find the real thing, the right thing. The real thing is worth the wait.
Do Things To Keep You Centered and Grounded
Don’t obsess over what isn’t happening (yet, or at all). Call a friend and go out for ice cream, or a walk. Don’t waste time on Facebook feeling overwhelmed: go take a shower and sing loudly while you scrub. Bake a cake, dance to the radio, read a favorite book. Do whatever makes you feel centered within yourself, and do something that makes you feel authentic. Do it at least every day.
Friends, I am far from perfect. Surfing remains a hobby for me, and I am still thrown from my board by unexpected Ocean Beach currents. Transition is a daily challenge for all of us, and at certain times in life, it can be difficult and lonely to face the unknown. These few things I mentioned here are intended to be simple supports for you to try while you surf through the constant sea changes life presents to us all. +