Learning to Ride the Waves: Lessons from a 7yr old!

This post was originally shared on August 16, 2015. 

I'm so thrilled to share the stories of others who's inspiration began from within and have the power to inspire others! I can't wait to continue the "Share yOUR Inspiration" series but I have been dying to share some inspiration from a pint-size powerhouse.

As some know, I spent the first week of August on the beach with my family. After a two hour train ride to then three long hours in the backseat of the family SUV, squished with the only two people I could ever withstand a road trip with without use of expletives or sedatives, my niece and nephew, we unpacked the bags, untied the surfboards from the roof and settled into the cool breeze of salty air off the ocean shortly after midnight. I've always said that there is something magical about beach air, especially at night, when the beach crowd has settled in, alone and free. The crashing of the waves seem to whisper and pull at your thoughts with some power that opens your heart, frees your mind and calms your soul with one deep breath. Any stress carried to the beach, disappears as a wave crashes on the shore and pulls back the tide. (Don't get me wrong, I've fully committed to city life and love Manhattan for all of her glory, but our cottage on the beach will always hold a safe place in my heart.)

Since I was a little girl, probably a little bit older than Phoebe's age, I would walk up to the water, dip my toes in and look out onto the horizon, sending all my secrets, thoughts, wishes and dreams off, as if messages in a bottle, into the unknown. Every summer, I find myself returning to that spot, feet settled into the moving sand beneath them as water pools on top, a place where no one else can hear me, where the waves drown out any insecurities, where the sky and the sea meet, where I believe, if you look hard enough, heaven exists on earth. No one can hear you scream in frustration, no one can see you cry, no one can judge you for talking to the shore, because they use it as the same kind of refuge. A place of peace. 

This summer, in particular, I've been wrestling with a variety of inner demons (do they ever rest?) With my passion and excitement to be successful at my new job, my endeavors with my styling project on the weekends, balancing time to devote to IW and writing, enjoying free time without feeling guilty, reveling in NYC in my twenties, oh, and of course, paying bills, finding a new apartment and boring "adult responsibilities", this is NOT the time for Mr Anxiety to jump back into the picture with his bromance bro Señor Depression. #aintnobodygottimeforthat And yet, lately, I feel like everyday is a battle against me, myself and I. 

So I go through my "list": 

1) I am alive and healthy, mentally and physically.

2) I have a family who loves me.

3) I have friends who love me, no matter what I wear, say, drink or sing.

4) I have a job I love where I'm surrounded by my friends all day. 

5) I have a roof over my head and apartment, for now where I don't have to rush to move out ASAP.

And usually, after I go through that list, take a breath, slowly, the tag-team bro's STFU, however the past few weeks, they seem to hit me when I'm down, jump out of the alley they're hiding and strike when I least expect them. 

So this summer, I traveled up to the beach with a backpack full of doubts, quite literally. With a job is sales, job security sometimes feels more like avoiding impending doom. With my "single" Facebook status, each wedding announcement and invitation seems to stab the "always a bridesmaid, never a bride" into my heart. And with every cute kid I see as I grow a year older, I hear my uterus just laughing and rolling her eyes. I know most of these seem like #firstworldproblems, or things that everyone says not to worry about. "It will all work itself out" or "what's meant to be, will be" or even "just relax! Don't stress out!" (Note: all above phrases are usually the last straw before someone looses their shit and starts freaking out! Avoid at all costs. You've been warned!) It's always easier to be the person giving the advice, but when it comes to taking that advice, brain.does.not.compute. For a person who remains pretty put together and positive on most says, sometimes I still find myself acting the part instead of living it.

So here I was, stressed, overwhelmed, forced to "relax" on vacation and put my life on hold for ten days with just my thoughts and the beach. Where does that pint-sized powerhouse come in?

For most who know me, you know how attached to my godchildren, niece and nephew, minions, I am. Until their existence, besides not even thinking about myself as a "Mom", I never understood the similarities, oddities and character traits that are passed down through generations and how unbelievably connected we all are to each other. I'm a firm believer that a family is made up out of unconditional love and friendship, not just genetics and blood, and these children are the makeup of everyone I love dearly, melded into the best versions of themselves. Since the day he was born, Brennan and I have had this undeniable connection. From the same sense of humor, off-beat bubbly personality, precocious attitude or what some call "stubbornness", to enjoyment of the same music and comedy, I feel like I'm watching a mini-me grow up. It's as if our souls are the same and I'm constantly awed by him. Months pass and yet, we return to this safe place within our relationship and pick things up right where we left off. He's like that old friend I've grown up with and have known my whole life, and yet it's only been 10 years, the best 10 years. 

Now, my little miss Phoebe, while our similarities are undeniable, is a mystery to me. She, at 7, is everything I've wanted to be. Athletic, chick can run circles around anyone, just ask, funny, absolutely, and with her heart on her sleeve, her love radiates out like sunbeams as she snuggles into a hug. But even more than all of those things, she is determined, confident, strong and powerful! 

Before we left for vacation, she had her mind set on becoming a total surfer chick. After watching her Poppa surf every summer, she wanted to skip the boogey boarding and go straight to the fun stuff. Not because we asked her to, not because it was the cool thing, but because she wanted to do it! Where I would get hit with a wave, swallow a gallon of water, and surface crying, giving up almost instantly, she sprung out of the water with a smile, a laugh and a "didn't see that one coming!" as if the waves were playing a joke on her. Without any fear, she grabbed her board and kept swimming out to find the next wave. 

For a while, she would sit on her board waiting "for the perfect wave", which she learned, would never come, settled on a wave with potential, flipped around and paddled. In most cases, she was able to balance on her knees, arms out feeling the waves crash beneath her, and a euphoric grin of joy on her face. It wasn't about being perfect, it wasn't about standing up right away, it was about making the most out of each ride and enjoying every second of it. 

After a few days of battling waves, spending hours on that surfboard watching other surfers along the shore seamlessly stand up and catch waves, studying their moves, watching their skills, she was determined to be one of them. And with whatever gusto she could muster, on Wednesday, while we sat on the shore watching for that magic moment, she caught a wave, jumped up...and rode that wave to shore. 

"DID YOU SEE THAT?!?!?! DID YOU SEE THAT!" (Of course, all phones and recording devices weren't on! But I pray I never lose that image in my head) 

While the scientific measurement of time doesn't include or calculate moments that freeze in time for joy in seconds, but in her terms "it was like 10 seconds" and who are we to correct her? For the work she put in, combined with the determination, lack of fear and strength she gathered from within, she came, she conquered, she crushed it like the bad-ass surfer chick she is! 

Of course, then getting her out of the water after that was a lost case. She became dedicated to perfecting her new role as "surfer girl" and spent hours trying to recreate the moment, failing again and again, but set on pushing forward with her heart set on that feeling.

And when I think about my life, my anxiety and my plans for the future, or lack there of, I'm trying to channel Phoebe. Using the strength I have, the confidence in myself, knowing I can do anything I put my mind to, and determination to continue trying until I get it right. Laughing at the waves that knock me over, will only help me float over other waves to find the right one, trusting myself to pick the best one and knowing when to stand at the right time. We spend a lot of time talking about the waves, discussing in depth what they will feel like, how we will get over them, instead of actually swimming through them, looking back and laughing at them. We run back to the shore when we get scared of what lies on the other side of the crashing waves. Instead, we should learn to fight those waves, break through to the other side where it's peaceful and calm. Where you get to choose which wave you catch, instead of what wave catches you. A place where riding the waves is a fun, enjoyable, joyful journey that leaves you out of breath from the rush, but desperate to recreate the moment!