Before I begin this post, I just want to clarify that I, in no way, have this concept mastered. I work on it daily and it has been life changing, but I still have a long way to go!
For as long as I can remember I have absolutely despised change. The slightest change in plans threw me for a loop and I just couldn’t seem to get over it. I lived in constant worry of things not working out the way I had imagined them. It led to plenty of tears, tantrums, and major disappointment. When I first left home for college, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect, I wasn’t sure how to handle being on my own, and I didn’t know how I was going to measure up in all my classes. It was a rough start, I mostly kept to myself, but I started to branch out and try new things. I started learning what my mom had been trying to teach me my whole life: I could only control myself and how I handled situations I was put in.
This principle became a focus in my life, and I’m still learning it. Life has only gotten more difficult and more unpredictable as I’ve gotten older. Recently, while talking to a professional about this, she coined my new favorite term and told me, “sometimes, you just have to ride the wave.”
Riding the wave is the PERFECT analogy for this concept!! Waves are completely unpredictable, just like life is! It can be really scary to watch the waves when it’s windy or stormy out because they’re absolutely huge and strong. It would be so easy to lose control and get carried away in the current. But then, there are other times where it’s completely peaceful and calm and you don’t have to worry about getting punched in the face by giant, salty waves (I think I finally understand the term “salty” now…).
Now, I don’t surf. I’d love to learn, but the opportunity has never presented itself. I DO know how hard it is to balance on land because I’m completely clumsy, so I can only imagine how difficult it must be and how much skill it must take to balance on a board while standing on top of actual moving water. Yikes. The more I think about it, the more perfectly it represents my life literally all the time. Being a married college student is far from easy, and in all reality, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing the majority of the time. I’m just trying to stay on top of the board.
Let’s break this down a little more. How much stress do you go through as a student? As a wife/husband? As a mother/father? As an employee? Or even just as a human being?? It gets pretty crazy pretty fast sometimes. I know for me, all it takes is just to think about the number of assignments I have to fit into one week on top of my job and taking care of my house and my husband and my dog and myself??? Sometimes it just feels completely overwhelming and nearly impossible. This is what it feels like when your ten years old and you’re so excited to go to the deep end of the wave pool but you don’t jump fast enough and you get a face full of water for the next five minutes because you lost your footing. Yeah. Not fun. Especially if you’re in an actual body of salt water. Then, not only does it suck, but it burns. No one really wants to go through that. That’s when we tell people that we’re drowning. And if you’re me, you get overwhelmed, put on your sweatpants, put your hair in a ponytail, and binge watch New Girl on Netflix while eating oreos and milk because you can’t handle life right now. Drowning. It’s an endless cycle and only gets worse the more you click “continue watching.”
Now let’s take the flipside. It’s a long weekend, you don’t have any assignments due, you don’t have to go into work or check your email, the kitchen is clean, and you can make everyone happy by ordering a pizza for dinner while you can relax and read a book or watch a movie and not have to worry about any commitments for the night. What a life that must be. This is what I think of when I think of really calm waters. You can just lay down on your surfboard and glide over the teeny tiny waves that come through. I love floating down rivers and that just sounds like heaven to me.
During our lives, we face so many different kinds of waves. Sometimes we feel like the big waves won’t stop coming, other times we have months at a time of just floating along in the water. The important part isn’t the wave itself, it’s not even necessarily how big the wave is or how long it lasts. What’s most important is how we respond to the waves when they come.
We can’t just assume that our giant waves are going to pass faster if we ignore them. That just hurts more. We have to be willing to relax our bodies and ride the wave. Whether it be floating in the water, or fighting to keep your head above sea level, riding the wave will always be easier than fighting it or pretending it’s not there. That doesn’t mean we just submit willingly to the biggest waves life has to offer, it means when waves come based on circumstance or consequence, we have to accept them and ride them out until they pass. Don’t drown in your own pool of sorrow and pity. As my mom would say, “put on your big girl pants and deal with it!”
Friends, life does isn’t a miserable place to be. And even if it feels that way, we have the power ourselves to not be miserable in it. We can get up, get out of bed, put some pants on, and get to work on improving our lives ourselves. Because, let’s face it, the waves aren’t going to do it for us. By choosing how we respond to the waves that come into our lives, we can shape ourselves into the people we have always wanted to be. We can be strong. We can take back control. We can be happy, even when it feels like we’re drowning. We can ride the wave.
*A really great book that goes into more detail on being happy people and focusing on positivity is called “Drops of Awesome” and it’s by my really great friend, Kathryn Thompson. You can read more about it on her blog at dropsofawesome.com. Also, here’s a link to her book!