I ran a 7-miler this morning. It’s the longest distance I’ve run since last November when I got injured. I left Ashok at home. It’s just too hot down here for her. It’s so hot that she won’t even get in the lake anymore to cool off. The warm water doesn’t do a thing for her comfort. So, I left her at home and went on my own. It was dark when I arrived at the levee downtown. Runners and bikers with headlamps populated the paved flat path that runs on top of the levee. It started to get daylight about the time I passed Tiger Stadium with tailgaters already populating the parking lots outside. A group of ROTC students with backpacks crossed the levee path and headed toward the bank of the Mississippi. The humidity hung heavy and dense and a slight breeze chilled my skin heavy with sweat. I fought my negative attitude about the heat and caught myself drifting off into a dream.
I was sitting in the ocean on my surfboard. The whitecaps were lapping at my knees straddled over the edge of the brightly patterned but well worn board. The sun sprinkled glitter and sparkles amid the deepest blue I’d ever seen. A seagull called overhead as if it was just a normal day. I was part of the ocean. A porpoise surfaced playfully in arcs and spirals just beyond the farthest wave. He seemed so at ease and at home in the water. I was nervous. I’d made the decision to come out and try these big waves to see if I could do it. I had gotten bored of the smaller waves toward the shore, and, even though I hadn’t fully mastered surfing, I got the urge to up the anty. Now, I was questioning my sanity. Herein lies the problem. The only way back to the shore is to surf.
Jessica in her youthful exuberance swam out and caught the first wave back to shore. She had already gotten out of the washing machine and was pulling her hair back. Lisa had surfed in awhile back and was sitting on the beach waving at me. Come on, her hand signals beckoned. I just grinned and shook my head. Me, Nancy, Jascia and Alayne were sitting in a group in the sea. So, this is what surfers do, I thought. Somehow I thought that they spent most of their time surfing, but I realized that when you get out in the big surf, the waves come less frequently. They are bigger and crazier, but you spend a lot of time waiting. We chatted about nothing in particular trying to avoid that fact that we had to catch a wave and surf it back in. It wasn’t really an option to stay out here forever. The only way back was through.
Nancy looked on the horizon, and I could see her eyeing a wave. “I want to get this over with,” she said. I watched her get up the courage. Her focus shifted to the task before her. We had practiced popping up on the beach and in the small surf, but this time was different. The washing machine was much stronger out here, and there was no bottom to stand on. The odds were higher, and the ride was less predictable. She turned toward the shore and started paddling as if something else was driving her. I saw the surge of energy push her up, and she rode the wave shakily for about 100 yards and then she was in the washing machine. She stood in her power and faced her fear. I knew she was being tossed around and trying to figure out which way was up. Ultimately, at this point, nobody could help her. She was on her own.
I looked at Alayne. I’m guessing she saw the reluctance in my eyes that asked WTF am I doing? She grinned. I said, “I don’t know if I can do this.” She said, “Yes, you CAN.” She glanced back and smiled and started paddling, ponytail sticking to her tanned back. She found the wave with her name on it. The surfing part is not hard. The momentum takes you once you get started, and, if you fall, you fall. The hardest part is the ‘pop-up’.
The physical part of ‘popping up’ is not hard. The difficulty lies in that polarizing moment when fear wells up and something bigger and stronger than you grabs hold of your body and does it anyway. Thinking and fear and practice and research precedes these moments. But there’s only one ‘moment’ to ‘pop up’. It’s the moment that you hand over the check to go back to college at 53. Or the moment that you accept a job across the country. It could be the moment that you step out of the door of airplane. Or the moment you take the first step of your marathon. It’s not the moment when you DECIDE to start or the moment you finish that is most amazing. The moment containing the leap of faith is solidly the most important moment in your life. It has taught me more about the real me than any other moment. In those moments, I most clearly connect with my spirit and understand that I am capable of so much more than I ever dreamed. Unfortunately, I can count those moments on one hand. Those rare moments change everything … They make the difference between a life full of adventure or one spent contemplating waves.
It was just me and Jascia now.
My adventurous friend said, “You’ve done this before.”
“You go first,” I chided.
“Let’s go together,” she countered.
We looked back at the sea. A couple of swells started rolling toward us. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was caught in my chest. I realized that the humidity in the air was choking me. I looked at my GPS, and I only had about a mile to go. The new bridge rose up overhead, and the trail was much busier. The clouds were starting to roll in, and I knew that cooler weather would be just on the other side. Ahhhh…. I thought. I hope it feels better this afternoon for the game.