Tuesday morning, I had an anxiety moment that made my head spin. I had way too many thoughts in my head swirling together in a huge mass of chaotic confusion. I couldn’t get ahold of any one of them long enough to make sense of anything.
…So, there I was, trying to make some 2019 business decisions, realizing that I was spiraling towards a panic attack when I heard a familiar voice. “Just stop working. You don’t need to do this today. Eat a cheeseburger. Greasy food always helps. A pint of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream would be pretty tasty right about now. Put on your PJs. Stream some Law & Order. Get comfortable, Girl. You deserve it.”
I am well aware of that soft, ASMR-ish, comforting voice that tells me that the best thing to do, is to simply shut down. To simply surrender into a mass on the couch. I imagined all of the bones in my body suddenly disappearing, leaving all of the soft tissue with no choice but to collapse into a puddle right where I stood.
While I do think that there is a time and place for comfort food/Olivia Benson therapy, I know myself well enough to know that this past Tuesday morning, shutting down was not the solution. It would only be delaying the inevitable and that in itself would just create its own additional stress. However, the circles I was walking in were gaining a frantic speed that I can only compare to the Looney Toons Tasmanian Devil. I wasn’t making progress. I was moving just to move, trying to trick myself into thinking that I was being productive. With every step, a new worry popped into my head.
I had to go to the beach.
Going to the coast requires a good bit of preparation and frankly, Law & Sofa sounded easier, but I roasted all the veggies in the fridge and threw in a load of laundry which was still dirty from my last day trip to the coast. I packed up my warm layers, wetsuit, booties, wax and board and took off down the Redwood Highway to the coast. As soon as I smelled the salty air, I felt my heart beat finally slow and even out. It picked up again (as it always does) after I put on my wet suit and walked to the water line.
Then I started paddling, my inhale and exhale synchronized with my paddle strokes. I got in place and almost immediately, I caught a wave and stepped to the front of my board for my first ever successful nose ride. I already felt better. I mean, I accomplished a nose ride!
I surfed and allowed my brain become still. I waiting for answers to come rather than chasing them down. In fact, I forgot that I was trying to make hard decisions. In that moment, it didn’t matter. I let Mother Ocean remind me that I am small. My chaos is not anywhere near comparable to the ever-shifting state that She lives in. I can choose to be still. She can not.
And the answers, indeed, did come; coaxed out of my head while sitting on a surf board, bobbing up and down in the deep grey blue of the Pacific Ocean. I know I’ve talked about this before; how the ocean forces me to be in the moment. Sometimes, it’s only after being rocked lovingly by her waves, that I am able to see clearly. I use the word “rocked” in a few different ways here.
Sometimes Mother Ocean rocks me back and forth, tenderly and with care, like she is comforting my soul with a soft voice that says everything is going to be alright. Other times, she rocks me by kicking my ass, tossing me around like a rag doll until I have water draining from my sinus cavities and absolutely no awareness of anything other than the next wave bearing down. During those times, she is sternly telling me to, get my head out my ass. My problems are not so big. The choices are not that dire. The minute I choose to fixate on my own shit, she says, “Watch out for that next set wave. Here it comes.”
Over the next few days, She dished out a little of both. It’s like she knew that I was raw and sensitive so she gave me a big win right at the start. The next few surf sessions weren’t quite as easy. As if after that initial, “Hey. Welcome back. I missed you.”, She said, “Let’s see where your fear level is at. What can you tolerate today?” The answer was not really all that much. I allowed fear to create hesitation during critical moments and I got my ass handed to me a bunch. But that’s ok, because during every session, whether scary, blissful, or both, I learn something new.
Why is it so easy for me to accept these lessons while being at the mercy of Mother Ocean but in my terra firma life, fear creates stagnation?
Possibly because stagnation in the ocean may mean drowning. I mean, not to sound dramatic, but a large wave about to break on my head is a pretty motivating situation. Maybe I need to think less in my dry life and act more. Maybe I need to just keep moving and making decisions even if they aren’t the right ones. Maybe it is the option to be still while on the ground that makes jumping off into decisions so hard.
For now, I just have to be ok that these last-minute, “I’m about to lose my mind”, surf trips are actually part of my work process and let go of the notion that I am wasting time because I’m not at my desk on in my studio. Without surfing, there is no work.
These days, we are so inundated with efficiency. There are apps and project management software with the sole purpose of making us more efficient and to be able to multi-task to an even higher extent than we already do. However, maybe there is a line that we can cross where all the productivity actually makes us less productive.
We need to be able to stop, and take a look from the outside of the onslaught; away from our self-induced chaos and the self-imposed deadlines. And for Pete’s sake, we need to do this without feeling guilty about it. From here on out, “go surfing” will always be on my to do list. Maybe then, when I can mark it as a completed task, it will feel more like part of my productivity and less like I'm playing hookie.
I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes. To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.