I sat on the beach and stared out into the ocean at a sea of colorful bobbing boards and the black wetsuit-clad shapes that floated atop them in the distance. I was transfixed. I got lost in my thoughts, as I usually do, while I anxiously, awaited the next ‘hang-loose, free-spirited' surfer-dude to catch his next wave.
There was something that always attracted me to the surfer-type. Physically, of course...the long hair, tanned, salty skin. But it was something else... Part of it is being on a beach or by the ocean has always felt peaceful to me. When I inhale the salty air or am lulled by the sound of the rolling tides, I feel a serenity of sorts. A calm. But I think it was more the surfer-type personality or attitude that drew me to them...the laid back, no-rush, free spirit who waited patiently straddling his board in the hopes that he would get to ride the next wave. A patience for life, which I am not accustomed to.
I've always been a type A personality. Making plans, writing lists, crossing things off the list, staying mentally organized and being prepared for the next wave, and knowing ahead of time exactly when and how it's supposed to arrive. Although, I am no stranger to that rogue wave. The one that you never see coming, that you don't prepare for and it catches you off guard, leaving you in a panic. It tosses you around and jostles you a bit until you finally get your head above water. And you think, how did I not see that one coming? And then I go back to my lists...
On this day, like many other days, I noticed the calm escape me. The waves were few and far between. I felt anxious with anticipation for one of them to stand up, to ride that wave we were all waiting for. The floating, treading, bobbing, waiting... felt like a waste of time. I wanted to be more like them: free, timeless, more go-with-the-flow, more roll-with-the-tide. Why am I always anticipating what comes next, constantly fighting the current, and missing out on the now?
Are we all so eagerly waiting for that next big wave that we forget to see the joy in the current...the floating, the bobbing, the waiting... the rise and fall of the moment?
Nature vs. Nurture
Some people will argue that we are born with our personalities and although guidance and social factors may play a role in everyday choices, the person you are and your personality at its core is unchanging. Others believe that one's upbringing and influences as children and early adulthood have the ability to create one's personality.
I could have cried as I read an article last week that had me asking myself if my type A personality was nature or nurture. The mother of a 'laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the-roses’ six-year old girl wrote the article. The woman realized that she was living a life of a multi-tasking, always on-the-go, distracted mom whose every moment had to be accounted for in order to feel as if life was running smoothly.
Ruled by calendar alerts and alarms, she noticed herself telling her daughter to 'hurry up' on a consistent basis, even noting, possibly more often than the words “I love you.” In her realization, she worried that if she didn't change her approach to life and her daughter's, her daughter would stop being the carefree, free-spirit, lover-of-life, and become like her, rushing through life in a hurried existence, forgetting to notice the joy of today.
I am guilty of the same. I have a mother who is much like me, always planning for 'what if' and a father that always told me to “have a Plan B, in case Plan A fails.” But maybe all that planning for what may or may not happen, all those mental notes, lists, and anxious worries about what's ahead, kept me from the joy in the now, kept me from smelling the roses, breathing in the salt air and being lulled by the tide. Instead, drowned by impatience and swept along by a flood of invisible thoughts and feelings. Why was I waiting for these big moments to happen? Why not realize those moments are happening now, today, at this very instant!
Never Content with The Now
We all want to have that pure joy, pure happiness, that guttural belly laugh, which leaves your stomach bruised and sore. But while we wait in the hopes of finding it up ahead or around the corner, never content, do we fail to see the joy in what's right in front of us? Are we willing to risk everything we have in hope of what may lay in our future?
Living in New York City definitely feeds into that mentality. There is always a better job to be had, a better apartment to live in, the next best restaurant or bar. The city is ever changing, as we try to keep up. Contentment? What's that? How can you appreciate what you have when you are always striving for what is perceived as 'better', for what may be waiting around the corner - if you could just hurry up and get there!
I had a very enlightening conversation with a male friend recently who summed up a very common feeling among our generation, where we have access to everything and everyone through social media. He said (I'll paraphrase), “Every girl I meet is better looking than the last, that even a typically pretty girl doesn't do much for me anymore. ‘Cause there are so many of them. I don't need to waste my time with just another typical pretty girl.” Will he even know happiness if it was staring him in the face? Or better yet, will he ever be satisfied?
If I have this...If I do this...then, yes, then, I will be happy. As if the future is holding some sort of happiness, that if you check all the items off that list, happiness will just arrive. We are all guilty of this. As Eckhart Tolle describes in his famed book, The Power of Now, time is an illusion. The past and the future are only in the mind. The only thing real is the now. Joy can only be found in the present. And the present moment is truly all we have. “It is not uncommon for people to spend their whole life waiting to start living,” he says.
I never appreciated the free spirit like I should, or like I do now. I always saw these people as irresponsible or unorganized. I have even thought, “It cannot really be possible for them to be that happy all the time.” But maybe I was wrong. They notice the little things, the 'now' moments. They see them, feel them, smell them, and appreciate them. They find the joy in them.
So stop for a moment to smell the roses on your way to the beach. Feel the sand in between your toes, breathe in the salty air and let the tide lull you as you go with the flow. Bring on those rogue waves!
We all may be treading water, waiting to catch that next wave, but when it comes, make sure you thoroughly enjoy the ride.
Photo courtesy Tumblr