Just after being diagnosed with an incurable progressive brain condition called Parkinson's Disease, I lost five close friends and skidded without any cover into the painful demolition of a marriage spanning almost two decades. During that time it was a challenge to avoid breaking down in front of our children, who were the reason we'd tried so hard to make it work. I had bite marks on my tongue, a new tremor every day and family friends (bless them) taking turns stabbing me in the back when they had no idea what was happening in reality. I was a ranting lunatic, a silent witness and a saint of mythic proportions, all in the same day.
The loss was overwhelming and incalculable, but I had no time to mourn because life was overfull-none of this happens in a vacuum. In my weakest moments I had learned to check out of my body for a temporary feeling of normalcy and relief from the chronic pain hammering every second of waking experience. Sleep and schedules were particularly discombobulated, but I kept going until I could see the glow of lights and find a clearer path again.
I only mention this in solidarity, as PwP and many with chronic conditions struggle with the dreaded pit we refer to as depression. Anxiety and depression are common when you are isolated by disease. The idea is to allow it to move through and away from us. This may not be easy, but the human spirit is vast and powerful beyond our full realization. Some inspiration:
After watching this five minute clip I considered how many times I've muttered, "I can't." or "I'll never be able to do that."
The waves keep coming, no matter how we limit ourselves or who we think we are.
I tried surfing on the West Coast without any lessons. I had no idea what I was doing (still don't) but wanted to prove that I could leave my comfort zone and test limitations. You see, I am absolutely terrified of waves because I was trapped in a riptide as a child. Not like, "I don't want to fall off the board and look silly," closer to, "Oh My God I am going to die, this feels like a 20 stories of glass infested with sharks and jellyfish coming down on my head!"
During my first return to shore after a failed attempt at surfing, standing in less than 3 feet of water with my mammoth surfboard still tethered to one skinny ankle. I made the mistake of putting my back to the incoming waves, which isn't the sharpest move. It turns out beginner boards are rather heavy and cumbersome when waves are knocking you around like a beach ball. Sand does not taste good, and is rather uncomfortable in you nose or eyes. I managed to pull myself away from the crashing waves and crawl toward shore until I was in less than 20 inches of water, and BOOM...it happened again! Live and learn.
A middle-aged woman tied to a board rolling around in the sand just beyond dozens of semi-pro surfers watching in hysterics, would be entertaining if it hadn't been me. The mellow surfers perched on their boards shaped by Danny Hess or Ward Coffey watched with amusement with wetsuits pulled down to their navels and sun-kissed faces. These are surfers with "Eddie Would Go" bumperstickers on their Hummers, not the old pros with VW's. They called me a "frube" and I thanked them, until I realized they meant "frube", as in awkward amateur, who fails to catch a wave. I can do 50 pull ups in only 2 sets, and have no fear stepping into a cage to spar in a fight club, but when Mother Nature catches me unprepared with her wall of salty water, I am clear about just how small I really am.
Since I am a glutton for punishment, I returned to "The Hook" with a friend who does not surf. He watched from the shore, grimacing and shaking his head as I paddled out into the waves of Santa Cruz. This time I got up, just beaming on my ride, but ended up turtling the next hour until I could return to shore safely and without falling on my face. Now that is progress! Oceans scare me and I have a habit of returning to places that scare me until I master the heart-palpitations and fear.
That voice that says, "Get up!" and "Try again!" is the one to listen for. I implore you to keep listening to what motivates and inspires you to be better and keep showing up. There is no place to go without struggle, so we must show up with courage and tenacity if we want progress.
The power to endure and an ability to face defeat or potential humiliation requires more than physicality or mindset, it requires a fierce spirit and soul. I propose that in movement and our push for progress we can design our own sacred rituals. Do not give up. Instead remember you are connected to an infinite love and can tap in anytime. There are endless inspirations in our communities, and I will be highlighting a few of these warriors next. You will fall, but you will get up again.
I'll be over here cheering you on, and when you need to rest, just allow it then start anew. Depression, despondency and disconnection are all liars. We are in fact infinitely connected. Isn't that cool? Carry on, soldiers, and as trite or simplistic as it may sound, remember to love yourself first. Everything else will become richer with that in place first.
Catch a wave and enjoy the ride!
A playlist for riding your waves, from djdancingfool: https://open.spotify.com/user/121907452/playlist/6zX2LpUIhWDpsOgD5srdRM
P.S. Until our hosts fix this tech glitch, you may need to copy and paste the youtube and Spotify links into your browser. it should be fixed after they return this afternoon- just another little wave!