JANUARY 6, 2020
And then it did…
Jordan River was pumping at a time of year where it doesn’t often pump.
Coincidence? I think not.
I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to the break before low tide, but I drove to the spot anyway… just to see. I hadn’t been in the water in far too long and I was frothing for waves.
I saw the cars on the road before I saw the wave. When I rolled into the parking lot it was full of vans and trucks. The shore was lined with spectators and there were 20 – 30 wet suited bodies bobbing on their boards with the rise and fall of a 10 ft swell.
I watched the wave for a few minutes before stripping down, peeing in the bushes and peeling on my wetsuit. As I worked my hood over my head, an awkward undertaking at the best of times, I asked the guy parked beside me who just got out of the water for tips. After a two minute tutorial on rocks and the channel he wished me well and I paddled out.
The sky was the most perfect shade of blue. The water was cold, it’s always cold, but the air was warm and there was no wind.
After catching a few waves, I paddled back into the line-up, closed my eyes and held my zinc-covered face up to the sun. My lobster claw glove-encased fingertips grazed the surface of the ocean and I said a quick thanks to the sea for this epic September gift.
I couldn’t stop smiling.
In that exact moment, bobbing on my board in a 5/4 wetsuit, booties, gloves and a hood, I felt utterly at peace and full of joy.
Work had been hard. I felt like I was on the cusp of burnout and I was starting to get sick, but as I sat out there in the ocean, the feeling of anxiety I brought into the water with me faded away.
“Remember this moment,” I said to myself. “Remember how you feel and how little it took for you to feel so much joy.”
As a society, we often hear that to know joy we must know suffering.
“All things are difficult before they are easy.”
Really? All things?
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Or it just kills you.
In a way, suffering has been marked as a rite of passage; that things need to be hard to be fully appreciated. But does that always have to be true?
There will absolutely be difficult moments in life–saying goodbye to loved ones when they pass, not getting to say goodbye to loved ones when they pass, losing a job, feeling heartbreak, snaking the bathtub drain of your rental–shitty, hard things. But there is also so much potential for joy; those moments where you pause and think to yourself, “Oh ya, this is it.”
In addition to bobbing on my board in the sea, I spent NYE thinking about some of the other moments that have given me that “oh ya” feeling:
• That one time we got lost on a hike (Ok, two times)
• When I held my first niece for the first time
• When my first niece held her baby sister for the first time
• The time it rained pretty much our whole trip to Kauai
• That super bumpy boat ride to the surfbreak where we nearly came out of the boat
There are also things I know will give me “that feeling”:
• Any moment with my nieces and nephews
• Lazy mornings with coffee in bed
• The Sea
• Sauntering through the mountains
It doesn’t take much.
As we roll into the new year, when the idea of setting intentions can sometimes feel really f*cking daunting, I’d like to offer an alternative approach.
1. Grab a pen and a piece of paper
2. Get something warm to drink (whiskey counts)
3. Find a quiet spot
4. Write down specific moments that still make you laugh out loud/feel peaceful/smile to yourself when you think about them
5. Turn the page over and write down some of the things that make you laugh out loud/feel peaceful/smile to yourself
Because the last thing we need is more obligations in our lives, this exercise isn’t meant to make you feel like there is something else you have to do. Instead, think of this paper as an opportunity to reflect and reset. If you can find more joy as part of a daily practice, great! But if not, at least you have something to come back to when things get hard, because they will, and you can’t help but feel the darkness.
And maybe, just maybe, you too will find just a little more joy in the year ahead and beyond.
Ashley is a surfer, yogi and writer living and loving in Calgary, AB. She aims to write the way she lives – freely and unapologetically.
Read more of Ashley’s essays at www.anothergirlnamedashley.wordpress.com or follow her on Instagram @anothergirlnamedashley