Picture the planet.
The beautiful blue marble, mostly ocean. Find the Pacific and let your imagination wander south to the west coast of Mexico. Azure water and sapphire sky. Zoom in until you see some dots in the water just off the beach. One is waving. Squint a little, now. Can you see the ecstatic grin? That’s me!
I’m bobbing in the warm waves, feeling so grateful, my heart could burst wide open. The late afternoon sun is on my face and the water is holding me gently while I float in a perfect moment of peace. I am fully in the Now. The air is sweet and soft and I am gazing like a new lover at the palm trees wiggling their fronds at me and blowing kisses on the breeze.
Now, picture the Rogue Wave. It’s big. Really big. Do you see it coming?
And suddenly, I am tumbling. So this is how my laundry feels.
I try to relax so that I will float to the top, having no idea which way that is. When my head breaks the surface, I take the biggest breath I can, just in case. I am just getting my hand to my eyes to try and clear away the salt water when the next wave hits. Not as big, but the first one has pushed me into shallower water and so the second smacks me onto the bottom of the ocean. I push off with my hands and stretch toward the surface. Breathe. I can hear the next one roaring in and cover my head as best I can. I feel the sand and gravel scraping me, but must concentrate on finding the surface and getting a breath. I have time to find my feet, so I try to take a step toward shore when the next one hits and throws me forward. At least I’m heading in the right direction.
I stand up and the next wave knocks me down from behind, the undertow dragging me back into the deep water so I can’t reach the bottom. I turn and see another one coming, dive down under it and avoid the tumble. I face the beach, get oriented, and plan my escape. But I’m already tired and just when I get onto my feet, another wave knocks me down and drags me back.
Rinse and repeat.
I’m getting worried by how tired I am, unable to get up the steep incline of the beach. With one final surge of energy, I crawl out on my hands and knees.
Way past the boundaries of dignity, I stand under the open shower on the beach and dig sand and gravel out of my bathing suit. There has to be a half-gallon.
Slowly, my shock wears off and I begin to see the humour. Especially when I realize my pockets seem to have spontaneously refilled with sand, as though my bathing suit has issued an evacuation order and the granules and pebbles are still making their way towards the escape hatch pockets.
I go up to the room and shower thoroughly, examine the emerging bruises and road rash and apply bandages where necessary. All in all, I am fine, although I have to buy flip flops as my sandals rub on open sores.
I go back to the beach and lay in the sunshine, eyeing the ocean warily. No-one else is having any difficulty and there are people in the water right where I was. Inexperience? Unusual wave at just the wrong time? Who knows? And although in the moment, I’m not sure I will want to swim in the ocean again, I am back in the next morning. (But not late afternoon, when the rollers get bigger.) I go to the area further down the beach that is marked with swimming buoys, where the grade of the beach is not as steep.
As it is my nature to reflect, I wonder if there is a lesson here.
Was I foolish? I made sure there were other people swimming nearby. I chose a spot far from rocks. I had a friend on the beach who knew I was swimming. Those are reasonable precautions, I think. I suppose I could have done better, but sheesh, people, sometimes you just gotta go for it.
Life is the ocean. One minute you’re bobbing along full of gratitude and bliss and the next you’re spitting up sand. You can spend your time and energy on safety precautions, or you can just get in and enjoy the water. Regardless of how careful you are, how prepared you are, there will be a few rogue waves, a few poor choices, some bruises and scrapes due to inexperience.
I was talking with my sister, Cindy, on the phone the other day and she said her New Year’s resolution is to make some big mistakes. I love that! You have to take some risks in this life; you gotta dive in when you’re not 100% sure. Life is going to knock you around whether you embrace the unknown or not, so you may as well live while you’re alive. Cindy sent me a quote from author Neil Gaiman that I have to share with you. It is his wish for the New Year:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
Susan Gibson wrote the perfect song for my sister’s New Year’s Resolution. Although she wrote it in that first yearning for freedom as a young woman, the need for wide open spaces never leaves us. If we are really living, we will always need room to make the big mistakes. The Dixie Chicks made it famous, but here is Susan, with her wonderful humour, telling the story of the song that I may adopt for my anthem this year.
This one’s for Cindy: