Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anticipation, Anxiety and Reality

For many of us anticipating, expecting, and imagining are great causes
of anxiety. Waiting can drive you crazy! Nowhere was this more evident
than amongst surfers on the east coast last week as they watched and
waited for the arrival of the swell from Hurricane Bill. In this age
of information overload, internet surf forecasting web sites, instant
buoy readings, Dr. Steve Lyons and the Weather Channel's Tropical
Update (at 50 minutes after every hour), and the 24 hour tv news cycle,
who didn't know that Bill was coming? Who hadn't heard that waves
from the projected swell looked big? A 19 foot buoy reading with 18
second intervals is not something we usually see on the "right coast".
Even people who weren't surf obsessed were being warned about rip
currents, waves in the 20 foot range and dangerous conditions.

A look at Facebook on any day last week from Tuesday on saw links
to Bill's projected path, comments about people being unable to sleep
or work, people speculating about travel plans. What a buzz, what a
hype. Everyone was getting whipped up into a frenzy.

Bill brought some fun waves and lot's of over-reaction. Beaches and
roads were closed. Surfers not allowed in the water. At the Sandy
Hook National Recreation Area in NJ some were even arrested for
surfing. The interesting thing was that the giant waves that were being
anticipated never really materialized. Much of the anxiety, anticipation,
and hype were for naught. I'm not complaining, overhead waves are
great especially when the water is warm. Who could complain about
surfing good waves for 4 days in a row? But it surely didn't live up to
the hype, it wasn't what many expected.

So often in life we discover that too much anticipation, too much hype
results in little more than anxiety. Whether it is anticipating a job
interview, a birthday party, a test, or even a trip, the anxiety often is
much greater than, and interferes with our appreciation of the reality.
Too much anticipation can actually ruin things and not let us live in
or enjoy what we get. Sure it's good to prepare, to study, to do some
planning, but in this day and age of information
overload, of all sorts of advice from experts, it's easy to get too intense,
too involved, too anxious. Try to find the balance if you can. Too much
hype, too much anxiety and anticipation actually gets in the way of you
doing your best, gets in the way of having fun. Maybe that's the lesson
of Hurricane Bill?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Watching the fears wash away

Interesting experience this past week. My son's nephew
is visiting from Dallas, Texas. The little fellow is 3 years
old and his doctors have been strongly considering some
form of autism as his diagnosis. It's been amazing to watch
him for the past 3 days as he experiences the ocean.

Each day he becomes less afraid. The tension that was in his
body on day one, as he held his father in a death grip, was obvious.
Little by little that grip loosened, that tension seemed to melt away.
First it was standing at the shoreline watching and feeling the little
waves. The occasional splash in the face, the push, the loss of
balance, even the falling down all became fun, pleasurable experiences.
The trip beyond the breakers with dad was initially a trip of terror,
especially if a larger wave forced them both to jump, or if his head
momentarily went under the water. Soon even that brought a smile.
By the third day the little guy was visibly loose and smiling as he stood
in knee deep water jumping as what was left of a wave rolled towards
him. He didn't quite have the timing down but he had the idea. If
the white water knocked him off his feet he relaxed, fell into the ocean
and awkwardly tried to stand up and right himself. It was clear now
how much he was loving every minute.

It is getting increasing hard to get him out of the ocean and ready
to go home. He really doesn't want to leave no matter how much
his teeth are chattering. He isn't struggling in a tense way all it now
takes is the promise from dad that he'll be back and his smile returns.
I guess he's forgotten the fears.

Watching the ocean wash fear away from an autistic child or
special needs kid is an amazing experience. Check out the web
sites for Surfers Healing or the Best Day Foundation or Google
surfing for autistic or special needs children. Volunteer for an event
or just go for a while and you'll learn that the ocean can wash your fears
away as well, make you less tense.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Balance, Gratitude, and Love

What a wonderful few days, the kind of days that
you want to savor. I am amazingly grateful for
a few simple things. The summer weather has
been glorious. My morning rituals are a pleasure.
Wake up early, do a bit of yoga, put on my boardshorts
and t shirt, head downstairs for some coffee, and Happy
(my dog) and I walk to the beach. At the beach we meet
up with one of my friends, another surfer who loves
the ocean, and his puppy. Check out the surf, stroll as the
dogs romp, chase, explore and generally have their
exercise, and we make plans.

The surf this summer has been amazingly consistent. It
seems that we are surfing multiple sessions almost every day.
That's a real treat for New Jersey. When the surf is knee high
or under, like today, I grab my SUP and either go for a paddle
amongst the seemingly ever present morning pod of dolphins
and schools of bait fish or ride a few waves. I love the SUP
as a reminder of the importance of balance both on the ocean
and in my life.

What has been one of the more special parts of this new routine
has been the late morning trip to the beach with either or both
of my grandchildren. Simon and Lucy love the beach and the
ocean. My heart is so filled with joy and love as I watch them
in the water or wander along the shoreline. To them it is sheer
pleasure and newness. The sound of the ocean, the gentle lapping
of the waves, the ebb and flow of the water, the shells, the seagulls,
the people all take on a new perspective.

How could I start my day any better? Gratitude, balance, and love
all lessons learned at the beach and surfing the waves of my life.
I'm a lucky guy. What simple pleasures and routines do you have
in your life?