I’m a doer. I keep a list of things I want to do before I die, and I actually do them. It’s my bucket list of course, but I don’t want to carry them around in a bucket. I want to do them, as often as I can, mark them off the list, and then plan another. Recently I marked off “Learn to Surf.”
I practiced a lot before the big surf lesson outing, getting in shape, doing pop ups on a line, balance, yoga for surfers. I wanted to be prepared to make the most of the adventure. My surfing career up to that point had consisted of one crazy crash-and-burn ride in Costa Rica years ago, with my last image being from the top of the water mountain looking down the shaft of a super long board as it nose-dived straight into the ocean, me following, tumbling, sputtering, and somehow ending up with a nose full of sand and only half a swimsuit. I did not want a repeat.
I have to admit, carrying a surfboard is fun; in my mind I think it makes me look hot. It is the perfect beach accessory to look athletic and cool, and also cover a not-as-flat-as-it-once-was midsection. I was fairly content to just parade around in the sand carrying the mid-section concealing board, but my instructor had other plans. After a short briefing on the shore, a couple practice pop ups on a beached board, and an overview on the lay of the land (well water actually), my instructor and I set out for the first run. I was feeling somewhat confident but nervous, excited, and mostly just praying I could actually get up on the board knowing full well I had no idea what to do next if that happened. As we paddled out to our starting place my instructor turns and calls back to me, “oh, and if you see any giant sea turtles don’t worry, they might nudge you but they won’t bite.” Seriously, a giant sea in my path is about the last thing I need to be worrying about, especially because with my level of skill there won’t be a damn thing I can do about it. Turtles please beware. Thank God you have a protective shell.
I catch a few waves for short-lived rides, sort of get the feel of the water lifting and pushing me, my balance, sweet spot on the board, and finally I catch a wave, for real. The ride is amazing, exciting, I can feel the adrenaline rushing, I’m going long enough to be cognoscente of the feeling, adjust my feet to go a little faster, and I can hear my instructor’s fading cheers behind me. This rocks! Adrenaline is surging and I paddle back out as fast as I can to do it again, and again, and again. I feel high from the forward movement, the ride, and the real-time achievement of something new. I’m a badass surfer chick rocking it out wave after wave. And then I start to get tired. I realize on my next round I’m watching the waves a little longer, getting pickier about the sets, enjoying the sun on my shoulder as my instructor and I start shooting the shit a little. Talking about travels, adventures, passions, life. And the funny thing is, maybe I shouldn’t admit it, but I sort of like the floating as much as I like the surfing. I grab another wave or two, but somehow now the rides are the interruption to the real endeavor which is just being, just bobbing there in the ocean, feeling the waves, noticing the currents, the birds, the pink-blue sky, the connection with it all and the person I’m with. I start wondering if surfers surf for the high of the rides, or really for the chill of the time waiting?
In yoga they say the real work is done during savasana, after the pose when you are lying on your back, completely relaxed, doing nothing but letting the last stretch, twist, contortion, sink in. This is when your body starts to know the work, during the quiet time. Two different types of knowing; one for your brain, and one for your soul. I notice this too with my acquisition of the Spanish language. I can study study study but it is always months later, after a drink or two, when words I struggled to recall so many times in class have sunk from my brain into my being and magically appear on my tongue. My body knows, not in the moment of effort but in the lazy calm of being.
Maybe I am telling myself all this because I’m in a personal savasana right now, and because I’m a doer, it’s hard sometime to find value in not doing in the outward way I’ve been taught to measure achievement. I’ve been on a big wave of learning, of growing, a wild adrenaline filled ride forward, and now I’m just sort of bobbing, lying still and waiting for the next set. I’m also becoming pickier about my waves, and less interested in the big ride than in the simplicity of the still beauty in-between. I am finding joy in the way the afternoon light plays through the trees and glitters on the floor, or the ripening of my second tomato, or the soft cooing purr of a settled kitten. These things cannot be noticed from the top of a roaring wave.
I sat with some surfers at the bar after my first big day out, it was Triple Crown time and waves at Pipeline had been huge. They talked first of the waves, the rides, the wipe outs, and then once that was done the conversation softened to just an understanding of the sea, of the lifestyle, of hours spent bobbing and waiting, of unspoken knowing, of contently waiting for the next set, for the next ride forward and the savasana to follow where the lessons of the ride will truly be learned. I want to put this on my list, “Learn to Be,” chill, enjoy, find beauty in the simple, and it troubles me there is no place to put it. These are the things of being and they don’t get a line on a list. Yet as I sit and contemplate my silly to-do record, I realize being has been there all along, it’s the space in-between, the blank white savasanas which separate my rides. I won’t make a mark near these places as the space is too sacred, but now when I look at my list of “achievements,” I know where the real work is done.