If you are looking to get writer’s block, I would highly recommend taking a writing class.
Now, I question every decision I make, every word choice. I miss the days when I could sit down and bang out a blog post in an hour. These days, it feels tedious, my once carefree process bogged down by doubt.
It is also true, I hope, that growth requires an awkward stage before the blossoming stage. I have arrived fully in the land of awkwardness, bags packed, unsure of how long I will stay. If my awkward phase lasting from 4th grade to junior year of college is any indication, I could be here awhile.
A few months ago, after a glass of wine on date night, I convinced Chad that we needed to buy boogie boards before we went to watch the sunset. Things get really wild after I have one glass of anything.
He didn’t quite understand the urgency of the situation; but good husband that he is, he went along with my wine driven aspirations. I tried to explain to him the joy of a perfectly caught wave. He looked down at me and smiled, blue eyes gleaming. Did he think this was funny?
Unfortunately, we arrived to a very still ocean that night; wave free. Glassy water. Murphy’s Law of Boogie Boarding: buy a boogie board and all the waves will disappear.
Boogie boards bring back memories of a family trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina after my senior year of high school. We rented a house on the ocean. The waves were huge and the water was full of jellyfish. But in his typical you’ll-be-fine-ness, my Dad had us all in the ocean within an hour of arriving to the house.
I look back in awe of my parents, sending their eight kids out into big waves, trusting that we were strong enough swimmers. Their confidence in us was (is) powerful.
They were the opposite of “helicopter parents” yet no one ever broke a bone, and I think the number of ER visits among 8 kids can be counted on one hand… not counting the time someone took a hockey puck to the face and got stitches in the bathroom at home. I can only hope I do half the job they did.
We spent every day of that trip on the boogie boards in thick humid air, riding the waves. We learned why rash guards are a thing, our bellies rubbed raw by the salt, sand, and seawater that sandwiched itself between our skin and the board.
It is addicting, catching a wave. Learning to time when you start paddling so you align yourself just ahead of a cresting wave. The force you feel behind you, the thrill of speeding toward shore, becoming for a moment, one with the ocean.
But before we got good at it, there was a big period of learning.
We had to learn the best spot to wait for the waves, and more dangerously, how to get there. We were knocked down and experienced nosefuls of saltwater until our Dad taught us to dive down, popping back up once the power of the wave lifted and released us.
Once we had that down, we had to figure out how to catch a wave: waiting for the perfect one- one that was just about to crest. One that was not too far, and not too close.
This was something our Dad couldn’t teach us.
Sometimes we started paddling too soon; other times, we were too slow. Waves passed beneath us, leaving us floating in almost the same spot where we had started.
But soon, we learned the rhythm. And when everything went right; when the stars aligned, it was magic. Pure magic.
A couple of weeks ago, my nieces came to visit- they are a bit older than Avery and Alice and the perfect playmates. When they are here, the girls run off, and for a moment, it’s like they can parent themselves. It is lovely.
We spent a day on a pontoon out on the ocean. The sky was cloudless and the water was warm enough for swimming. We brought along the boogie boards, hoping to finally get some use out of them.
On this particular day, there were small waves, but they had just enough oomph to give the girls a taste of catching a wave.
I tried to explain how to do it- waiting for the right wave, starting to kick at the right time, paddling until the the water swells and picks you up with its force.
But an explanation can only go so far; it is more of a feeling that one has to acquire- a sense. The girls went through the same learning curve- getting passed by some waves, catching others.
A lot of stars need to align to catch a wave.
Maybe writing is like that too.
I’m constantly missing waves, or being completely overpowered by them. Flattened by the great essayists, I begin to doubt there is value in my own voice.
I’m in waist deep water, waiting to understand the rhythm of a force much larger than me. I’m waiting for my senses to attune themselves with the cadence of the ocean.
For now, I am enjoying the salty water and the sand beneath my toes. I’m trying to accept the nosefuls of saltwater that come with the territory.
The learning is part of the journey- not just something to overcome. It is not “before”, it is “part of”. It should not be excluded from the rest of life.
So here’s to embracing the awkward, brace filled moments that eventually lead you to straight teeth. The moments of being knocked over by waves, that eventually become moments of catching big ones. The moments that are not always enjoyable, but push us forward, bringing us to new places.