Maybe it’s because this week’s cold days and gray skies have me longing for summers on the sand, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the ocean this week. Specifically, about surfing.
I’ve never been and probably couldn’t do it even if I tried, but it looks like a sport that’s breathtaking, if you’re a participant. There’s something majestic about the idea of riding a piece of sculpted wood while water rages on all sides, and it’s been on my mind this week because I think it’s a good analogy for life in general.
When I first came to recovery, I was beaten down, demoralized, degraded and hopeless. I finally became ready to put down drugs and try anything to find a new way of life. For me, that new way was a 12 Step program, and I give it much of the credit for all of the life I’ve lived since I truly surrendered.
A lot has happened to me since that time, but one thing that hasn’t happened is me getting high. I’ve experienced a lot of joy and heartache, but nothing in my life has occurred that getting high will make better.
Have I thought about it? Sure. I’m an addict, and even recovering addicts can’t help but recall the euphoria of getting high from time to time. But being involved in recovery has helped me to stay in touch with the dark side of addiction as well, the things I did that hurt myself and others, the depths of depravity that those who didn’t know me back then can hardly fathom.
I remember the bad times because I don’t want to go back to them and because they give me a sense of perspective — as hard as life can be sometimes, it’s a piece of cake compared to the day-in, day-out destructive lifestyle of active addiction.
Life is just like surfing — some days you catch the right wave and ride it all the way into the shore, adrenaline pushing your senses into a sort of hyper-alertness that makes everything around you seem so much more joyful, so much more triumphant, so much more alive. Other days, you can’t seem to get your footing at all, and every wave pushes you below the surface where you struggle to keep from drowning, banging over rocks and stones and coming up for air with all the desperation of an animal that doesn’t know how much longer it can keep going.
The thing is, those successes and failures don’t happen one right after the other. Most of the time, life is like the surfer sitting astride his board, watching the horizon and marveling at the stillness and placidity of the water around him. In other words, it’s not good or bad — it just is. It’s getting up and going to work and taking comfort in being a responsible and productive person. It’s being at peace with who you are and your place in the world and the little things you can do to make it better for yourself and those around you.
Because you know that, sooner or later, the waves will start rolling in, and you’ll ride some and get knocked down by others. But in the meantime, you sit and watch and enjoy the sun on your face and the wind in your hair and the communion you have with life itself.
I wish I could say I consistently maintain that Zen-like outlook, but I’d be lying if I did so. As much as I want to face the incoming tide with stoic resolve, I’m often impatient, restless and distracted. Sitting still as life happens around me is difficult, and I’ll often find myself paddling out to meet those waves faster. The thing is, I get knocked down much more often when I do so than if I had just let them come and accepted them with open-mindedness and willingness.
It’s a lesson we all have to learn, but with time and effort, I’m able to stay on that board a little longer each day, and for that, I’m grateful for it all — the good and the bad and the serenity of the in-between.
Here’s your Friday motivation, friends. Catch it, and catch it well.