Thursday, 29 May 2014

My Friend, The Undertow

When I was nine years old, my mom took my sister and I to Mexico for a vacation. I remember it as one of the strangest and most chaotic experiences of my life; we were almost electrocuted in a swimming pool, our hotel was broken into one night, my sister and I had a Sibling Fight Club moment that resulted in my head falling into, and breaking, a glass table by the pool, plus I had a bad case of Montezuma's revenge. 
It was also the first time I went into the ocean since being a very small kid accompanied by a parent. I was enthralled and excited by the waves. For most of the trip, I played just on the lip of the shore, going waist-high, and staying close enough to where my mother was.

One day I must have been feeling more bold, or perhaps the tides were stronger, but I got pulled into the undertow. I can still see, so clearly, what the underbelly of the ocean looks like: bubbles and froth and particles of sand and debris. I was whipped around into a perfect circle, my neck scraping the rough floor.
I emerged gasping and shaking. Terrified. It was the first time I felt the force of nature as something big and scary, with the power to hurt me.
Since then, I have never been bold with the ocean. I am timid and usually afraid, and even the smallest waves unnerve me.
I watch surfers and swimmers in awe; jealous of their ease and confidence. They were probably pulled into the undertow a hundred times, but just kept trying.

What does this have to do with anything?
Let me tell you.
My life is in chaos mode. It has been for months and months. I keep telling myself that I'm rounding a corner, or that things are about to get easier, but BOOM - something else comes up that puts me right back into the underbelly.
I'm probably managing what most mothers manage: two small kids, a busy business, a house, getting dinner on the table, picking shit off the floor all day, sleep deprivation. It does not escape me that I am not an exception to the rule. I know a lot of people in a similar predicament - mostly those of us who have demanding jobs and are also raising our families.
It's just too much. I'm sorry to crush the Superwoman Myth, but there - I crushed it.

For a very long time, I have considered chaos to be something I have to defeat or rise above, something that is unnatural, something that I am creating.
I don't believe that anymore. Chaos, a lot of it, is just nature. Small kids are chaos. There is no way to change that. And often there is just too much on the plate to not feel drained, tired, and angry.

The question is this: how do I operate with chaos?
I think of that undertow in Mexico. I remember how unhinged and afraid it made me feel. It was not an unfamiliar feeling, but it was one I never wanted to repeat. This is the stuff of control freaks.
When I am faced with chaos, I try to control it. It never, ever works. Never.

Those swimmers, the ones I told you about before, they do this thing when they go into the water and a wave comes: they dive into the wave before it crashes. Right as it is swelling, they dive in. And then they come out the other side and keep moving deeper into the water.

This is how I would like to move with chaos and change - not conquer it or control it, but go right into it. With grace. Let's face it, the undertow gets all of us sometimes. It doesn't mean you stop swimming. Another good idea, a really good idea, is to sit on the shore every once in a while. The waves can't reach you there.

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