Monthly Archives: January 2012

In This Sometimes Scary Ocean, Balance is Key

Happy 2012. I’m know I’m a little tardy posting my New Year’s blog, but we’re only two weeks in. I for one, can say I’m still thinking about my resolutions.

My story begins with that exactly—my plan for the year, my resolution. It was a week after Christmas and I was in that rut that we sometimes fall into when something we’ve been waiting for and feeling excited about has come and gone in no more than a blink. There I was, dwelling on that fact that there were no more lights or carols, or feasting with family and friends, and that my ten-day vacation was about to be over.

Then, the sun came out from behind the clouds (and I mean this literally, because I was standing outside in Fort Lauderdale) and its warm white rays washed over my skin, soothing me as hot sun so beautifully does. And I remembered… It’s a new year! Instantly, my thoughts shifted from melancholy to mirth as I went from picturing a treeless living room to a calendar of 12 whole months to do!! and be!!

My 2011 wrapped up as the year always does—on a frantic note, with me feeling overwhelmed trying to get too much done in too little time and then feeling bad for not accomplishing it all. In retrospect however, it wasn’t only during December that I felt that way. For a lot of the year I felt stressed and felt a struggle to find balance in my life.

So there I was in a sunny haze, thinking of my list for 2012 and how my real resolution is to find the balance. After all, it’s me who has brought this on– it’s me who choses to be so busy. I thrive on having a million things to do. So, if it’s my thing,  rather than feel like my list is too much, shouldn’t I own it? Conquer it? Yes, of course! I never have been one to give up easily.

So my list… it’s nothing new really–

–         Finish writing my manuscript

–         Eat better

–         Exercise more

–         Save money

–         Paint more

–         Have friends over more

–         Use my cookbooks (for friends above)

–         Read more

–         And write more (beyond aforementioned manuscript)

So back to that afternoon when this story began. I was there with my sister Kristina and the sun had come out from behind the clouds. I had my epiphany about the new year and my healthy new outlook and my sister says, “Hey let’s go paddle boarding.”

“Ok,” I reply, suddenly bubbling with zeal. We’re going paddle boarding!

So Kris and I take out our phones and start Googling every place within a five-mile radius that offers rentals. Our choices are narrowed within minutes, only two of the 12 oufits we called having availability on such short notice. One company ran out of the local park and rented boards for trips on the Intracoastal Waterway. The other set up shop on the sand and ran their trips in the Atlantic. With one glance at each other, we had our answer. We were headed for the ocean.

So we arrive at the beach to find a little guy named Giancarlo waiting for us. He takes us to the shore and starts the five-minute ‘how-to’. Kris and I are getting comfortable standing on our boards and Giancarlo, our surfer dude for the hour, utters, in the most drawn-out surfer style (think Keanu/Point Break–because I love to mention that whenever I can): “Whoa…”

“Wh-aaat?” I ask in return, having noticed a hint of distress in his voice.

“Turn around,” he says. “Storm rollin’ in.”

I turn around to look and see a band of near black clouds in the distance behind us. “Will it be ok if we go out?” I ask Giancarlo, as I turn back to him and the ocean in front of me. (Uh—what Andrea? Storm coming = no going in the ocean. Did you not learn anything growing up on the beach?)

“Yeah,” he says, shaking it off. “We’ll be fine.”

Above us, the sky was still a pale blue and the sun burning brightly, so I trusted him.

“You ready?” he asks.

“Yeah,” we reply with wide smiles. We run into the ocean, set our boards in and start off. Within minutes, we’re into deeper water and have made it from our kneeling positions to standing and paddling.

“How ya doin’?” Giancarlo asks.

“We’re good,” we say, almost in unison.

“You guys wanna go out?” he asks.

Well, we both know how to swim, grew up on the ocean…and the sky looks fine, so “sure” we say and we begin to paddle out, further and further, to the deeper, darker waters beyond. We’re moving along, Giancarlo starts telling us about the reef under us, we’re asking questions, feeling proud that we’re still standing, and coming nearer from behind, unbeknownst to us, is the band of black clouds from before. And subtle as it was, we could feel that the wind had started to pick up. Then in the middle of our chit-chat we hear a ringing and see Giancarlo fumbling to balance his paddle while unzipping his pack to take his cell phone out. “Yeah. Yeah, man,” we hear him say in what sounds sort of like a defensive voice. “Must have been the wind that pulled us. Yeah ok man.” And then he calls to us, “Alright, turn your boards, we have to head back in. We’re too far off shore.”

I feel a tinge of disappointment that it’s time to quit. So soon? I think… why can’t we keep going?! And then I turn my board around. And when I see the scene before me, my stomach drops like down, down, down to the reef. In all my years in the ocean I had never been so far from land (except for on a boat). It was more than a mile for sure, probably somewhere close to two Giancarlo said, but in all honesty, it felt like five. Suddenly I felt very small and I realized the grandness of the ocean and felt a pit of fear in my chest thinking of the power of mother nature. I’d heard about the movie ‘Open Water’, but Thank God had never given in to watching it. The thought alone that with one false move I could be shark food, sent my heart racing, and the balance I had perfected, all of a sudden shaky. It was (or at least it felt) panic or die. And so I told myself, “Andrea, you need to breathe. You are going to be ok. You just need to stay calm.” And ignoring the suddenly choppy, silver water and the wind whipping against us, I lowered my body and began to paddle hard and fast. “You can do this”, I told myself. “You can do this.” And I hoped, because I couldn’t look to see her, that Kristina was ok too.

Eventually, and I know it sounds dramatic, but maybe by the grace of God, we made it back to the clear, flat water where the shore was less than a football field away and our hearts were back to beating normally.

“Whoa,” I said to Kristina.

“Pretty scary,” she replied.

“Scary yeah,” I said back. “But we did it.”

“Yeah,” she smiled.

And so I look back on that afternoon as I look forward today to the year ahead. And just like I did standing there in the treacherous waters, I tell myself to stay calm and I’ll make it through…whatever 2012 decides to throw me.

I’m ready.