Friday, May 6, 2011

Desperately Seeking Csikszentmihalyi

I had a lesson with Jules last Saturday. It's crazy, isn't it? Back in the water with Jules. You can imagine there was a little bit of catching up to do during the beach talk (it's been since December).

I told Jules about life and Costa Rica and being 40. She caught me up on the basics of what's been going on with her, although, as usual, her story was just my story (and my story, hers) in different packaging. And then we hit the water.

There are two versions of what happened next, and I guess I want to get both down so when I look back I'm not tempted to disregard the depth of my ability to bullshit myself.

One version is that we got in the water and I really struggled to get used to my beautiful board again. I did ok in white water, switched to green and got pounded - never even really got outside - and then tried a smaller board inside and did pretty great. It was a good day in the water.

The other version is a little different. I don't think it's totally going to make sense, but I want to try.

Jules and I spent some time in the white water in an attempt for me to find my groove on my 10'. I told her I'd ridden a 9'2" in CR and that they'd taught me a totally different stance and all that. I took a bunch of rides and I was all jacked up; it felt so weird. I'd ride in and come back out to Jules and we'd kind of look at each other and she'd go, "Ok." She said I was just looking really mechanical and that I didn't have much flow. She's say, "That's ok, try another" and give a few words of encouragement as I hopped on and took off. I'd ride in and then come back out and she'd say, "Ok. I noticed your left hand stayed on longer than your right" or something. And I'd say, "Yeah, ok. Ok." and I'd try it again. It was weird. Definitely no flow.

I started telling Jules more about CR in the downtime in between sets. I've had such a hard time figuring out what I feel about CR -- it was an amazing experience, but the surfing part left me pretty empty. So I started describing it to Jules in between rigid, mechanical rides, and as I was telling her, I was really figuring out what had been going on down in CR for me. Finally. I was really putting it together and thinking of a bunch of stuff I wanted to journal about, and it felt like finally having some clarity after this month-long haze. Relief. My problem down in CR was centered around the instructors and how inflexible they were with this whole 1, 2, 3-step learning process. Plus they'd started the first lesson of the first day telling me I had some bad habits to break, and that just really didn't sit right with me. You can imagine. Add to that absolutely no beach talks whatsoever, and I was starting to be able to verbalize what was so weird about my time in the water there.

Part of what I'd explained to Jules was that my entire goal for CR was to learn to surf on the outside and for whatever reason, I never even got on the outside once down there. Finally at the end of my vacation, the day before I left for home, my instructor told me he thought I was ready to go outside the following day. I thought, "Great, pal. I leave tomorrow." So I was telling Jules how disappointing that was, and how important it is to me now that I'm back home that I don't come to another Oregon winter without being able to surf consistently outside (surfing in the deeper water). I said that I just want to schedule a bunch of lessons and do whatever it takes this summer to get a certain comfort level so I can at least paddle out during the shitty, once-a-month-if-we're-lucky sessions next winter. And I asked Jules what she thought it would take for me to be able to get there.

Why do I ask questions like that?

It's something about turning 40 and trying to make this massive, ridiculous change in my career, and all the family turmoil that's been going on, and the changes my body has gone through this past year, and maybe mostly about me turning 40. It's about acceptance. Acceptance of being me, being 40, being here before I can get there . . . wherever there is. Accepting the shallow water before the deep. Accepting the whitewater before the green. Accepting the empty before the full. I wish I could say my discomfort and lack of connection in CR was the fault of the instructors or anything else, but I know better. I don't know how to be where I'm at right now. I don't know how to stop turning away from myself. I don't want to be where I am and that shows up first in surfing -- the thing I do in life that requires more than anything else that I show up and start from where I'm at.

So I guess green waves will come. But not before I accept the white. It's tough -- I can do the white, but that's not what this is about. It's not about mastering or performing. It's about accepting. Accepting the level I'm at that I don't want to be at anymore. Accepting the things in my life and about my life that I don't appreciate, don't want, wish weren't true, ignore, pretend, and hope will go away. I would guess that it's no mistake that I don't often find myself in a place where I don't know how to do what it is that I want to do. But here I am.

Surfing, this is why I came to you in the first place. Please teach me.


  1. wow - I love you for this, this is so open and true. "Being here before I can get there..." I can relate, but I just love to read that your path is squarely in front of you...albeit some obstacles. Some of us haven't even gotten off of the freeway.

  2. Dude, whenever you start thinking about 40, just remember that I am three years older than you and think about what I would say if you were to say that to me.

    Love you.

  3. I wish we could go grab a drink and discuss as I have much to say and share. I think this is phenomenal, what you've realized. Knowing that you run from where you are? Huge. I tend to do the same but with my emotions. I am so damn busy being busy I distract myself from feeling, from receiving RIGHT NOW.

    You're figuring it out. Even when you feel lost, you're on your way.

  4. What a beautiful post. I love your self-awareness. Huge!

  5. I wanted to comment days ago . . .but every time I return to this post, those last 2 paragraphs just send me reeling. Thank you for saying the things I have a hard time thinking . . .let alone saying aloud (aka writing on your blog).