I wanted to break my surf board in half.
The frustration building up inside of me was so heated after my 5th fall, I think I genuinely had the adrenaline-based strength to actually break my board in half.
How can I be sucking at this so hard? I'm a dancer and a yoga practitioner...how is my balance so undeniably bad on this board? And why the hell am I shaking so much?
When I checked in with myself, I was forced to ask the important questions of; Why are you being so hard on yourself and why is this making you so nervous/scared/insecure?
The answer was clear. About a year ago I went to Hawaii on a last minute trip with a guy I was dating for a few months. To summarize the epic failure of the trip, I will tell you we ended our...relationship? I'm not sure it can even be called that...about a week later. The trip wasn't actually all bad (I am still very grateful for his generosity and the laughs shared), but it was mostly eye opening to not only the vast differences of our personalities but also the enormous amount of doubt we both carried in ourselves as individuals and as a couple. To put it simply, we were not ready for each other.
During this trip my travel buddy insisted on my giving surfing a try. Why not? I thought, surfer girls are super bad ass. I wanted him to have a good time, too, and so I squashed my nerves and agreed to give it a shot.
My friends...I was anything but "bad ass".
Embarrassment #1: The rented long board was so heavy I couldn't carry it to the water and was left behind to struggle, dragging it awkwardly thru the sand like a small child, much to the horror of the other "real" surfers.
Embarrassment #2: My only instructions were to "paddle when I say and then push yourself up". Um, hi. Have you seen my scrawny arms? Picture Paris Hilton and Popeye's Olive Oil attempting to row a raft to shore with just their arms. This scenario is neither cute nor effective.
Embarrassment #3 (this actually cracks me up to think about in retrospect): When I finally made it up on my board I had a mild panic attack, shocked at the sensation of standing on a wave, and thus reacted by running straight off the tip of the board, full steam ahead, opposite-of-gracefully face planting into the water. When I emerged from the sea my travel companion looked at me, blinked and said with the straightest of faces, "I...I don't even know what to say. I have never seen anything so awkward in my life." Quite the ego boost, right? (Though I am now giggling at the mental image of myself).
Embarrassment #4: I felt completely unattractive in my bathing suit and if I'm really honest, my partner did nothing to make me feel otherwise. While I know it's never smart to put your self confidence in the hands of another, let's be serious--what girl wouldn't want her man slice boosting her self esteem on an exotic vacation by letting her know he thinks she's beautiful as she is?
So there it was. My fear of surfing stemming from residual hurt and insecurities of my first attempt almost exactly, to the day, one year ago.
Thankfully, in it's ever so beautiful way, the Universe helped me by sending the following messages:
1. One of the amazing coaches leading my retreat met me at the shoreline and, after asking if I was OK, reminded me to trust the process. She reminded me that, in the end, it really is totally OK and acceptable if I don't stand up on the board today; that I should applaud myself for giving it a try and respect where I am in this learning process. It was a reminder that I am calling the shots--if the activity was proving to be too frustrating or anger inducing, I had every right to stop whenever I wanted. There was no need to give away that power. There is no need to really ever give away our power.
2. I had witnessed a fellow retreat participant pop gracefully up on her board a number of times in a row, celebrating her victories as a first timer while also brimming with jealousy. Then on one particular attempt this wonderful woman had a slip of a hand that caused her to falter on her stance. Instead of rolling off her board or continuing to push thru and inevitably falling due to lack of balance, she simply posed in Cobra (yoga position) and rode the wave in on her belly with a huge smile on her lifted-to-the-sun face. Duh, Trish. Smile a little. Have FUN for gosh sake. Don't be so damn hard on yourself. Everyone...EVERYONE...is a beginner at some point. We only get one shot at this specific life and we are all, always, beginners at it.
3. My surf instructor, Adrian, had marked our boards with wax in the positions where our feet should go. I realized I was focusing so hard on placing my feet in exactly the right spots that I was forgetting 2 key elements--1) when you look down, you go down, so keep your eyes ahead of you and 2) surrender to the wave. Surrender to my instincts. Surrender to knowing my body and my balance and my comfort zones better than marks on a board ever could. Surrender to the knowing *feeling* of when and where to pop up. I had forgotten the importance of giving up the planning, getting out of my head, going with the flow (literally, the ocean is always flowing!) and just surrendering.
I took a deep breath and paddled back out.
I stated, out loud, "I am so grateful to have caught a wave!", smiled at the immense sea and...well...
As you can see I was quite surprised (and delighted!) to be standing :)
I'm proud to say I stood up a number of other times, feeling exhilarated and vindicated and just...well...bad ass. If you'd like to see any of the other surfing photos, you'll have to kill me first (or pay me $100 per photo). I cried from laughing so hard at them yesterday--I look as if I'm either horrified, about to drown, trying to go to the bathroom or a combination of all three. Hysterical! And also never seeing the light of day.
We are all beginners.
Eyes up. Look forward. That which you manifest lies ahead.
Affirm what is yours.
Respect and trust your process.
Get out of your own way.
Stop the judgments and comparisons.
Don't give away your power.
...then surrender some more.
You will live quite the bad ass existence when you do.