While visiting Hawaii this summer I loved spending quiet time alone on the lanai, observing the ocean. I gained an interesting perspective watching the waves come and go. I watched the people standing in the sand as the waves lapped up against them. There would be big waves that nearly knocked people over, they’d come running up the shore, laughing and glad to have escaped. Some waves were small and the people seemed to hardly notice them, bracing themselves in the sand and just flowing with the motion. Sometimes the smaller waves would have a surprisingly strong undertow. Thinking the wave had passed, the people would seem caught off guard by the strength of the water pulling on them, and they’d reach out to each other for support, trying not to fall. When they did fall, when the waves would overpower someone, their energy instantly changed. Their smiles and joyful state would instantly turn into fear and panic. Their friends or family would reach out to help, but ultimately that person had to decide to let go of the panic, get focused, and find the footing and the strength to get out of the undertow.
I found it so interesting to watch people respond to the waves the same way we respond to life events. We brace ourselves, we reach out for help, we find strength and focus within us that we didn’t know we were capable of, and we’re always so happy, grateful, and relieved to have made it out alive. And, eventually, we go back for more. As soon as we realize that we’re safe, capable, and supported, we dive right back into the thick of life ready for the next wave. Is it because what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, or are we addicted to the thrill of it all? We get a rush of adrenalin in the unknown, the fear, the chaos, and then a hit of dopamine when we succeed, when we’re victorious. When we lead uneventful lives, we find ways to create chaos or drama. We need uncertainty as much as we need certainty. We ride through life waiting for the next thrill. Waiting to feed our addictions and to test our skills. It’s how we know we’re alive.
I think knowing this about ourselves helps us face the waves with a little more understanding. The truth is, every one of those people chose to stand on that shore and take whatever the ocean threw at them. We choose the circumstances in our lives and we chose how we face them. We invite the uncertainty and the potential for pain into our lives – and then curse it when it hurts. But in the fear, the pain, and the chaos we discover how resilient and strong we are. In these moments we find our focus and our power, and it’s a rush.
Looking at the circumstances in your life, consider how you can show up differently. Rather than being mad about the challenges you’re facing, consider that maybe you walked right into them, knowing it would be scary and it might hurt like hell. But maybe you’re facing this situation because you also knew that there is a good chance you’ll survive it, and if you let it, it might be an amazing ride.