When I was a kid we spent our summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. It wasn’t grand, but it was a house less than 50 yards from the beach. We’d drive up from Chicago at the end of the school year and stay till the beginning of the next school year.
I missed a lot by being away from all my friends and the social activities of the summer. As an adult I can see that I gained a lot too. Luckily there was three of us. So there was always someone to play with or always the chance that they’d play together so that I, as the oldest, could have time alone. I read a lot. I mean A LOT, and took long walks on the beach.
I didn’t grow up in an easy home. My parents weren’t go with the flow kinda people. They were people that probably shouldn’t have had three kids. Little things seemed to overwhelm them. Life seemed too much for them. So while my parents were often over-protective and strict there were many times when they just couldn’t handle three kids and the rest of life and so paradoxically I was left on my own.
On those long summer days I would bike ride into town or around other summer neighborhoods. I walked the shores of southern Michigan often exhausting myself so I’d have to call home for a ride back. I’d read, sometimes 2 or 3 novels a day. I was a big Stephen King fan. I’d also sneak through the neighbors’ yards, either the year round people who would try to escape the summer people or the summer people that I knew only came up on the weekends. I’d jiggle handles to see if they’d accidentally left a garage or a basement door open. Sometimes I’d find a garden shed open. It would become my private sanctuary till the weekend. Most times I knew the families of the empty homes and I’d sit on their deck and watch the waves roll in. Those waves probably taught me the most in those summers.
My siblings and I loved the hours right before a storm came in and then the normally tame Lake Michigan would go wild. We’d leave the rafts, balls and beach toys on the lawn and run for the waves, crashing into them mid-body, knocking the wind out of ourselves, laughing and screaming. Even my brother who couldn’t float found the violence mesmerizing and not frightening.
Here’s what I learned. It took me years and years of bodysurfing, but I did finally learn. Resisting the power off the waves did nothing but get me tumbled against the hard rocky sand. Trying to direct myself through the breakers only made me miss the wave altogether or catch it too late to get any momentum. The trick and the beauty of bodysurfing was waiting for the perfect moment, the crest of the wave, right before it broke and just let go. A little push or jump with the wave and then I just held my breath and let go. There were times when the timing would be off and I wouldn’t go very far or I’d still get tumbled, but if I could just catch the right moment and trust the wave I could ride it all the way to shore.
As my life continues to twist and turn I’m learning that just trusting the process is my best bet. Today I’m contemplating another move-the eighth in 4 years and I’m stressed, worried and scared. I question making this move, but I need to make some move. For once staying where I am is not an option. I question, second guess and debate every decision I make, but today I choose to ride the wave instead of trying to navigate it.