Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Eating rain for breakfast

Recently I went to LA/San Diego for a weekend of sun and surfing. Ironically, it rained. (Cue Alanis here.) I surfed anyway, because that is what I do. In the words of my dear friend Arla, "Don't they know you eat rain for breakfast?" (If you're a bike commuter in Portland all winter, this is true.)

It was a pretty rough day of surfing. The waves were coming choppy and at angles, and I accidentally caught a *huge* one. It shot me forward and I held onto my board for a couple seconds before the curl crashed down over me, knocking me off my board and pulling me underwater. As I spun in the ocean's washing machine for what felt like forever, I began to panic. What if I never surfaced? What if I drowned? I was completely overwhelmed by the force of the water, lungs burning, hair wrapped around my throat. But then the spinning slowed, and I stopped flailing. I opened my eyes to see a spectrum of calm blue and rising bubbles, and I figured out which way to swim.

Before I surfed in the washing machine.
Last night was rough, and to be totally honest, it scared me a little. I keep thinking that I'm at a place where I will stop getting knocked off my feet by pain, self-doubt, and despair. I keep thinking I've learned enough healthy coping mechanisms and made so much progress (thank you, therapy) that my emotional "baggage"  will stop making me a "difficult person to be around" (as my ex so charmingly put it). I keep thinking maybe I'll be fun and sunshine and rainbows 24/7.

Just to be clear: I'm not bipolar. I have a therapist (and she doesn't think I need to be medicated). ;) I'm high-functioning and an affable, enthusiastic, and even joyful human being who is deeply grateful for all the good in my life (see: friends, job, city, lifestyle, etc.). This is all true. But it is also true that my emotions run deep, and they are not always sparkly I-am-Wonder-Woman feelings, unfortunately. And I confess, when I go to that dark place, I arms-distance everyone around me and get lost in the death-spiral of self-pity and am convinced that no one will ever know and still love pathetic, nauseatingly bleak little me. It's so ridiculous that it's hilarious...except when I'm in it.

So anyway, last night I was slow-boiling myself in the bathtub, listening to sad music and feeling awash in teary pessimism, when I had a small epiphany. I realized that perhaps the key to getting through my rough patches, just like the surfing incident, is learning to be quiet through the pain. Perhaps I've finally been in this dark place enough to know--and I mean really know on a brains-and-gut level--that feeling bad doesn't last forever. Sadness won't kill me. And if I can just hold my breath for a moment longer, if I can stop flailing and panicking, if i can figure out which direction to swim in, things will be okay again. I will surface, coughing and sputtering, a little shocked and waterlogged, but alive.

These are novel ideas for me: to stop being so afraid of negative emotions; to stop regarding my occasional moments of being swamped by sadness as my ugly impediment to being loveable; to be quiet in the darkness, sure in my strength to swim upward, even if it means waiting patient in the spin.

I got back on my board that day in San Diego. After a rough night, I'm at work, laughing with my staff, throwing myself into everything I believe is important and worthwhile. I keep getting in the ocean, so to speak, knowing that I'm strong enough to keep swimming. I keep eating rain for breakfast.


Vajra said...

Just discovered your blog. Love. Tried to send you an email but the link didn't work.
I write a poem a day; could I have your permission to use today's blog title in my poem? Thank you.

Mel said...

Vajra: Yes, absolutely! My apologies for the delayed response---been a tad busy. Let me know when the poem is done; I'd love to read it!