As we go through the final days of summer in Tennessee, I’m thinking about the ocean. Every year at this time, I feel the pull of the sea. I’ve never lived on the coast, but I’ve spent a lot of time, vacations and my honeymoon, on the South Carolina coast. As a child, my family spent a week at Myrtle Beach every year. I’ve watched it grow from a beautiful peaceful spot to unwind from life’s problems to the overgrown tourist attraction of today. I much preferred the peaceful spot to what it has become. But that’s me.
As I reflect on my time at the ocean, seeing in my mind the waves rolling in, I realize ocean waves are a metaphor for life. You can tell I’m from the South because everything is a metaphor for Southerners. As I think of my life circumstance of late, I sense being thrashed around by the strong ocean currents, the riptide if you’ve spent time on the southeastern coast. As I try to get my footing, I’m pulled back under. I come back up gasping for air, only to be dragged down again. Then I remember, to survive I must rise above the undertow. Pulling my feet to the water’s surface, I finally feel the calm and I float in with the waves to the shore.
To look at ocean waves, you’d think it’s the top of the water that is turbulent, but the rush of water on the surface is the under current escaping to the top that rolls in toward the sand, losing its momentum along the way until it gentles, skimming the surface of the sand. But beware that when it returns to the sea, the sand will be sucked from under your feet, catching you off balance. Life like the ocean waves does that.
For me, I’m learning to find my way to the surface and swim in with the waves. And I’m beginning to understand that I have to decide to either head back into the ocean for another ride, or gain my footing, stand up and walk through the current trying to pull me back until I reach the sand alone, pushing my way back to the safety of my chair.
It’s not easy, but it’s life, so it’s important to see what is pulling you back to the turbulence and learn to ride it out, focusing on making it back to the beach and the safety of your space. The lure of the waves will draw you back. When they do, remember you have choices. You may go back into the turbulence for the adrenaline rush of riding the waves, or you can stay on shore enjoying the view. Life is about both. If you spend too much time in the surf, exhaustion will set in. Then it’s time to take a seat in your beach chair, sit back, and catch your breath.
Enjoy the last days of summer. I know I will.