Musings on (Working) Motherhood: What if you could just ride the wave?

I’m going with a surfing metaphor this week. I am a terrible surfer. My husband, however, is rather nifty on a shortboard. He talks about the waves, the process of surfing, staying up on the board, and improving his paddling quite a bit. And I like it as a metaphor for life.

You see, I’ve been on a journey of self-awareness and self-improvement this year. It’s led me to incredible highs and new discoveries. I end up feeling elated when I gain some modicum of mastery over my emotions, my reactivity, or if I don’t snap at the kids when they push my buttons. I have some weeks where everything seems to be coasting along really well, I have gained new insights, and am generally feeling a bit like the Dalai Lama. Then boom! it suddenly pops faster than a bubble at a toddler’s birthday party. I feel a bit disappointed and dejected for a while. But I thought I had it all worked out! Boo to that!

Yep, life happens. I’ve realised, after repeated patterns like this, that I am on a continuous process of learning, and it’s dynamic. It’s not a steady, neat, linear process. Life is like being on the ocean, not on dry land, a quiet lake or fetid pond. There are times when the waters are still, the sun is shining, and seagulls fly overhead. Those are the times when I feel AWESOME. I’m positive about everything, and it just flows. Then there are other times when the sea gets rougher, and sometimes when the swell hits. And the waves pound.

But something amazing is happening. I’m seeing true brain plasticity in action – because slowly, I’m learning to surf the waves of life better. I used to wipe out – and feel frightened by the storm. I didn’t know what to do, couldn’t even fight my way to the surface. I lost my board, maybe I hit other surfers with it.

Slowly I’ve learned to find the right spots to sit in. Know the waves. Paddled harder. Then known the exhilaration of standing up – even if just for a few moments – and ridden the waves instead of let them ride me. I’ve learned to recognise when a wave is coming, and prepare myself mentally. And I’m falling off less. Even if I feel unstable still, I’m getting back on my board quicker. I still get knocked off my board. I still wipe out. But not as badly, and I hold my breath and swim confidently to the surface, over and over again. And I paddle back out. And wait for the next wave.

I can’t change the waves. They will always come at me. What I can do is learn to spot them from afar, and learn to keep my balance, always adjusting, until I’m standing up each time the wave hits – instead of wiping out. Most of all, I’m learning how to have fun. What is life if you’re always struggling? I’m learning to enjoy as many moments as I can in every day.

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