I am not a good surfer, but I sometimes brave the winter weather and water, driving to the beach with a crazy friend named Captain Rob. He lets me borrow his long board. I thrill at the fact that the air, bullied about by the wind, is much colder than the water. We have to tread through the unplowed parking lot just to get to sand, another element that adds to the experience. That first shock of cold ocean water seeping into my wetsuit reminds me that my heart is still pushing warm blood.
The Captain surfs while I realign my chakra. I lay on the long board, letting the thick hug of my wetsuit, the cold salt spray against my cheeks, and the low thunder of the waves nourish me back to health. From time to time I ride a wave in to shore, but never do I ride very well. Still, it's fun. It's more than fun, it's living.
June 7th, 2009. A Sunday evening. I stand to speak before a small group of young, single adults. Although the talk had been planned for some time, most of it had written itself over the course of the past several days. My chosen topic? "Living." The stiff collar of my shirt floats around my neck on a layer of sweat, and my heart batters at its cage, threatening my chest.
I had spent the afternoon before my talk walking the abandoned railroad tracks near my brother's home. Elizabeth had walked them with me, in spite of her belief that we were looking for Jared's body in the wrong spot. She had a feeling he would be closer to his home, that he would have wanted to be found. I was not sure at the time why I wanted to walk the tracks all the way out to the beautiful Great Bay, but subsequent therapy has led me to believe that I simply didn't want to be the one to find Jared, yet needed to feel that I was making every effort to do so. The mind is an expert at tricking the body and heart into all sorts of madness.
Some of what I said that night:
"A few weeks ago I headed down to the sea wall on 1A North in Hampton. I sat on the wall and started to write this talk, but was soon distracted by a group of surfers that bobbed on the water like a string of black lobster buoys. I counted twenty in all, but of the twenty, only one was actually catching waves. I watched as he rode wave after wave, riding anything that even hinted at curling over, while his peers sat on their boards, feet dangling in the water. The nineteen of them just sat there staring out to sea, waiting for that one great ride, a dream wave that would carry them towards the rocky shore at a blistering pace, providing them with the adrenalin rush that only those who have caught such a wave can truly understand. And so I watched that single surfer. He was something to see, riding his little waves, happy as it gets, grinning like an idiot the entire time. He ate it a few times, but he popped up out of the water and jumped right back up onto his board, paddling right back into it with that silly grin of joy on his lips.
That night twenty surfers came down to the beach with one purpose in mind; to surf. Twenty came down, twenty donned wet suits, twenty walked into the water and paddled out, but only one of them actually surfed. Only one was willing to ride whatever the ocean sent his way, while the other nineteen sat on their boards, drifting with the current, staring out to open waters as they waited for that one big wave to come and make their night complete.
Much like those surfers, we came to Earth to live. We came, we donned this mortal coil, and we paddled out into the open seas of life, but not all of us are truly living. Have you ever know someone that is happy to be here, thrilled at the taste of the salty sweet waters that life splashes in our face? I have, and I marvel at their tenacity, their attitude, and their contagious laughter.
On the flip side of things, however, are those that are miserable in life. We all know someone like this, or perhaps we are that someone. These are the people are afraid of life, angry at living, frustrated at every inconvenience, halted by the events that surround them, and intimidated by experience. We cannot always know or understand why they are this way, and it is not our place to judge them. Although we love them and wish the best for them, they are generally not fun to be with."
Did I really say all of this? How bold. Stay tuned.
The following morning Elizabeth was proved to be right. We found Jared not more than a long stare's distance from his back door. His still and restful looking, nonetheless lifeless body was hidden by the bright green shag-carpet of ferns that surrounded his chosen spot.
Not a sight that the two of us are ever likely to forget.
Since that day, the waters around me are often in turmoil, the heavy rollers towering above vicious undertows. I have clung to my board, the thought of hanging a perfect ten as far from my mind as I am from the shore. Made stronger by my guilt, anger, and regret, the waves look white, explosive, crushing. I close my eyes and fear them. I cannot overcome them. I am not ready, and feel I never will be. My chakra needs more than alignment, it needs a lube job, a new belt, and a jump start.
Just a few days ago, I was speaking with one of the single young adults that was present for my talk about "Living." Married just a few weeks now (to a young man that endeared himself to me for all time with his uncommon sincerity), she told me that she had not forgotten how I encouraged the group to ride even the smallest of waves in life so that they might be more prepared for the big, bad curlers that hit without warning. (Not all the big waves in life's ocean are fun to ride.)
This week, compelled by her recollection of something that I said, I dug out and then read my talk from that night. As it happens, I didn't write it for the young, single adults. I wrote it for me.
Captain Rob, wax up the boards. It's time to ride some little waves.