Lessons learned playing in waves…
So, I love the ocean. Love the beach. In particular the Gulf Coast. So, when we planned on going to Dauphin Island, Alabama for our family vacation, I was thrilled to think of spending a few days playing in the waves with the kids, but I didn’t realize that that time would give me insight into a few life lessons.
On Monday, the waves were pretty rough for Gulf Coast waves. I hadn’t been paying attention to the news (hey, I was on vacation!) and didn’t realize that Tropical Storm Bill was raging west of us, and causing serious wave action on Dauphin island.
The kids and I walked along the perfect white sand beach and they went immediately into the water. I realized it had been years since I had been to the beach with them and even though I knew they were both strong swimmers and smart teenagers, I kept a close eye on them as they ventured out further from shore.
Only a week or two before, my son had started driving solo in the car. Up until then, he needed a licensed driver to go with him everywhere, but when he got his license upgraded, he was magically able to drive himself (and sometimes his sister) places. Of course, being his father, I worry until he pulls back in the driveway safe and sound. I also make him text me when he gets to each of his destinations to make sure he got there safely. I’m amazed at how casual my parents seemed to seem when I started driving, long before they could rely on a text or call when I got places. Now, I understand how much worry and anxiety they had knowing I was on the road, outside of their control.
So I was already wrestling with the whole “letting go” thing before we got to the beach. As I watched the kids playing in the surf, I realized that they were having a blast getting knocked down and tossed around by the waves, and that if I had ordered them back closer to shore, they would have missed out on that. It was the very freedom to go out “just a little farther” that made the excitement so heightened. I forced myself to relax and just immerse myself in the sound of their laughter. Sometimes, especially as parents, we need to turn loose of the anxiety and embrace the freedom that our kids are exploring.
Finally, I was ready to go down into the water myself. I’m not a small man, and I was immediately impressed with how the waves were big enough to pick me up, throw me off my feet, and toss me around like a leaf in the wind. As I relaxed and charged into each wave, I started to laugh after each wave passed. The feeling of a total loss of control is so foreign to us sometimes that when it happens, the only thing I could do was laugh! The more I threw myself into the waves with wild abandon, the more I laughed. It was incredibly freeing to acknowledge that the outcome was purely beyond my control. As people, we spend all of our times trying to control everything around us. We pursue our lives as one great struggle for control after another. And when we have things (particularly bad things) happen to us, we are at a loss to deal with that lack of control. So our lives are like that time in the waves sometimes. When life starts to drift out of our control, there are times when we need to embrace that loss of control and throw ourselves into it instead of fighting against it. The outcome is inevitably the same, only the journey to the outcome is changed. We can embrace that sense of freedom in leaving our outcome in the hands of a higher power and just enjoy where the waves are taking us.