The New Year came and went and I refused to participate in my normal yearly rituals. I was too overwhelmed by the intensity of my life at the end of 2010 to make resolutions and plans for 2011. It seemed that 2011 was already absorbed and nearly gone by preparations for the more watershed year of 2012. 2011 would only be an appendix for the unfinished business of 2010 and preparations for 2012. Too fleeting to flesh out with its own set of aspirations.
Thanks to unusually brilliant forethought back in 2008, a great cure for this inertia was already booked and ready to go. Instead of starting a new exercise routine, writing out goals, making promises to myself that I just can’t keep right now; we left the outer darkness and cold of Alaska and jetted ourselves to paradise. My husband and I went to the Big Island of Hawaii, and we loved it. Our rental car was a Mustang convertible, a dead giveway marking us as tourists. We put the top down whenever it wasn’t raining and drove all over the island: from Waikoloa to Hilo, from Hilo to Kona, and from Kona to Hawi. We got a pretty good grasp of everything the island has to offer.
It was the best way to start the New Year. Shed the coats, boots, gloves, scarves, and woolen hats. Don swims suits, flip-flops and a bit of sunscreen. On the Big Island our world ended at the ocean and we could cross that world from end to end in any direction in less than four hours. The deep-freeze across that ocean melted away like the buttery sunshine that drains from the sky into the sea nightly off Hapuna Beach. Cabin fever receded from mind and nervous system. We drank in those sunsets and felt deliciously shocked by the combination of warmth and darkness, the scent of flowers under a full moon. In Alaska, if it’s dark it’s cold; if it’s dark, nothing is blossoming. In Hawaii, warmth and light brought relaxation and adventure. In Hawaii, while boogie boarding I reclaimed some courage and strength of will to face the New Year.
After being turned away because of parking space shortage one day then beach closures for rough surf another, we were finally able to spend an afternoon at one of the best beaches on the island, Mauna Kea (Kauna’oa Beach). We set up chairs and an umbrella, and spread our mats on the sand. Then I did what I always do: procrastinate getting into the water. I’m from southern California. I’ve been swimming in the ocean since I was five. I’m a pretty decent body surfer. But every time I go to the beach, I procrastinate getting into the water until it’s almost time to leave. It’s down-right embarrassing.
This day on a spectacular beach in Hawaii was typical. The sparkling blue water beckoned. I read a book. The sun and sand were hot but a stiff breeze blew off the water. I bemoaned the breeze on wet skin and shunned the water. The sound of the surf awakened childhood memories of diving under the curl or throwing my body against the waves. I ate a sandwich washed down with a can of POG. I strolled down to the foaming water’s edge and waded ankle deep. The first dip in the surf even in these warm Hawaiian waters would be a shock on hot skin and the breeze would create an unpleasant chill. I stretched out on my grass mat to bake in the sun a little longer so I would crave a swift jog into the waves. I dozed.
This procrastination ritual probably stems from one of the first times I went to a California beach with my family after we moved there in 1958. Friends who lived in El Segundo invited us for a picnic at Playa Del Rey. To me it sounded like “a place to play.” While the adults set out the picnic, I wandered down to the water. With a bucket and shovel I molded turrets for a sandcastle, dug a moat, and watched it fill with seawater. I coated my legs and arms with grime. Splashing and kicking to wash myself, I slowly waded further and further into the water. I followed the angle of the tide and it drew me several yards south of the picnic area. As I turned toward the shore to locate my family, a breaker hit me from behind, knocking me to my knees. The ocean-bound water sucked me further out. Undertow. Riptide. I saw my father running down the beach into the water. I stretched my arms toward him, my skinny legs too weak to escape the siphon pulling me down the slope into the mouth of the sea. Before my father could reach me, another breaker rolled me over and over like a pebble in a rock polisher. I couldn’t tell where up was through the turbulent sand and water. Where was air? My lungs were desperate for breath when Daddy finally yanked me out of the surf and carried me to the nearest shower. Swimsuit, hair, and skin were gritty with sand. I received a stinging scrub and an stinging lecture about never turning my back on the waves.
Back on Mauna Kea beach, I awoke from my nap, not at all rested, but anxious to make up for lost time. I gathered my scant gumption, raced into the water and dove in. After the initial cold shock, I was completely comfortable in the water. I strapped a boogie board to my wrist and paddled out to where the bigger waves were breaking. I felt energized and empowered. And I remembered in my mind and body. I reclaimed my instinct for body surfing. I know when to ride over the floaters and when to turn and paddle like crazy to catch a curling wave at just the right moment for a great ride. Most importantly, I know when to dive under a crashing wave to avoid being yanked and pounded by turbulence and unnecessarily wasting energy. I sense the power of the waves and instinctively understand how to harness it. Close to shore, people were settling for short rides on miniscule surf, but I was able to swim further out and have long rides on bigger waves. “Yeehaw!!!!” I hollered as I rode wave after wave. I also sense when my energy is dangerously low it’s time to quit battling the surf and get some rest.
I came back from Hawaii with renewed courage and gumption for the year 2011. My encounter with the water and waves at Mauna Kea, reminded me that I have far more courage and resources than I give myself credit for. I can tackle the way ahead with strength and optimism. Contrary to my youthful misconceptions, life does not get easier as you become more mature. The challenges expand, the people I love and watch over grow in number. Life requires more courage and more energy not less. Distracting myself from the anxieties at hand or closing my eyes to them will not make life easier.
Enthusiastically getting on the boogie board and riding the waves with faith, hope and courage will.
“The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.” Job 17:9
“and he that is faithful shall be made strong in every place; and I, the Lord, will go with you.” Doctrine and Covenants 66:8