The Ocean is my muse. I'm at home with her and she whispers sweet creativity in my ear. When i'm away, i'm not myself and just cannot seem to find the motivation to write. The struggle has been to find balance in those times. I sleep in, not wanting to get out of bed. I avoid grocery shopping and don't eat as well as i'd like. Every effort seems minimized, but now that i'm back, finally healed from the foot infection in Hawaii last summer, i have a renewed energy. I've been on a few adventures since then and am going to share them with you over the next few weeks. It's been over four months and multiple surgeries, but the fight is won. The Ocean wraps her everlasting and loving arms around me. I'm home.
Another cold wave dumps over, hits me in the face and spins my board away. My grip barely holds as my wrist twists painfully under the pressure, dozens of tiny muscles mustering to keep me from flopping over in the shallow water. I quickly right the board and line up to pull myself on. "Where are my legs? Underneath the board. Damn it! Not again!" I reach down and do my best to awkwardly push my legs behind me, holding on with my other hand. Again, i line up to pull myself on, inch my chest onto the tail and begin to work my way up the long sleek paddleboard. Another wave hits and almost tips me over. I manage to balance but the wave spins me around, facing shore. I can't pull myself on. "What's stuck?" Looking back, i see the leash curled around one of the handles. "Arg! Not again!" Just then, a wave comes up from behind and grabs the board easily, sending me, barely hanging on, riding the wave all the way to shore. Once the wave fizzles out, i slide off, exhausted. That all-too-familiar feeling of Déjà Vu hovers over me in the grey sky as i float on my back...the same feeling i had while training for climbing Bloody Couloir...the reality of how much work i actually need to do setting in. I take a deep breath, fighting frustration.
The road to Molokai is an indescribably monumental endeavor and i am needing to ask myself the question i often pose to others, "Would it be worth it if it wasn't hard as hell?" This presents a unique opportunity, in that i must not just accept the struggle, but embrace it....dive into it in order to feel it fully. Instead of becoming crestfallen when i can't even pull myself on my board, i relish in it with joy and adopt an almost self-punishing, bring-it-on type of attitude.
When i was in college, students would wish each other good luck before an exam, but i would say, "May your hard work pay off," a scowling glare shooting back at me. I don't really believe in luck. I believe our dreams take sacrifice and are most likely not going to jump right into our lap. It takes letting go of something very important: our very precious comfortability. However, the struggle for me has been to find balance in all this and not put pressure on myself. That's always the key isn't it? If we feel pressure, we are visualizing failure, but a healthy sense of responsibility, driven by hope, can take us very far.
Sitting on a plane to Hawaii and i'll be there for two months, excited...but scared. One by one, crossing items off my bucket list, coming to me in the middle of the night, over and over again, making me sip coffee in the morning as if it were the breath of life, after nights ridden with sleeplessness. A skinless finger tapping me on the shoulder, bidding me come closer, with eery whispers in the dark, until i turn and face it. That's what this has done to me. I need to silence it. I need to make the haunting go away.
It all began in 2003, when i decided i wanted to ski in the XGames. I was going to be great, forgetting that all my life i've been born and bread a quitter. Full of passion, full of ideas, but empty of any sense of what it takes to be the pilot of an inspired life. So i sat down with the grant application and did what i do best: sold myself. "I'm going to be great!" with every intent and a heart full of gold. The Challenged Athletes Foundation did what they do best and changed my life, not in the way you'd think though. They bought me a sitski for $4000 and said "Go get get em kid!" spinning a course that would lead to major catharsis for a young, lost, determined man.
Flashbacks of 7th grade ensue, falling in the grass, faking an asthma attack, during the annual Olympic Games. I don't have asthma. In my 1st period P.E. class i was the fastest, but i was loosing this school wide event to Gaylen Olsen and in trying to keep up with him my lungs began to burst. I had never pushed myself there before and it scared me. I couldn't take it, so i fell in the grass and pretended i couldn't breathe.
When it came to football, i was always the fastest and biggest. My birthday coming just after the age cutoff, i played mostly with kids a year younger and dominated without effort and never had to push myself. When i got to high school, i sat on the sideline most of the time and had my big moment when we played a shitty team for Home Coming. The stands were filled and i heard my name over and over again, announced over the speakers for doing nothing more than tackling a guy much smaller than me.
When it came to training for the XGames, i went all over the world to "train", but when it came down to it, i chose a career in sales instead, seemingly taking the high road, but in reality feeling relief i didn't have to sacrifice my body anymore. The real thing that happened was that sitski brought me to Mammoth, and that is where my life began to change. I went there to "train" because it opened so much earlier that year, but in reality, what that move did was bring me into the presence of Bloody Couloir and we all know how that story ends. This mysterious mountain called to me in the night and i walked out to it, making love atop her, under the full moon, only to awake in a pool of my own urine. Reality striking me so hard, and anger boiling so deep, that i just had to be out there no matter what it cost. Finally, actually fucking doing something and it all started with a sitski bought for me years earlier, immersing me into the lifestyle that would take me to new heights. If you don't know the story, see the movie. (www.dropinproject.com)
I never went to the XGames and don't care. That's not who i am anymore, but after facing death yet again in 2011, i learned what grit is. You see, i had been inured before, it's a normal byproduct of hucking yourself off stuff when you're strapped to a metal contraption, but i had never been sick, not like this. Fevers so bad i had amnesia. So delirious and soaked in sweat, i'd wake up and think i was underwater, screaming "FUCK FUCK FUCK!!!" all alone into the stale night. I was ready to die again, just like that sunday afternoon in 2001 when the warm pavement invited me to sleep forever. I just wanted it all to end so badly that never seeing a sunset again seemed worth it. I wanted to quit...fall into the grass, like the 7th grade...but i awoke from surgery with a renewed fervor.
The human will to survive is a very powerful thing that lives in all of us and we are capable of enduring so much more than what our physical brain tells us. It takes pushing, or being pushed, well passed our perceived threshold to find it. I dangled dangerously close to the end of my rope and found something there. Now, the things haunting me at night present a new hope, something to strive for because i don't want to be one of those people anymore, who says they are going to do all these things and then never does them.
Molokai is calling to me and i must face her or i'll die never knowing. I believe this course was spun before time, but it was a grass roots charity who bought me that sitski and set it all in motion. So now, i'm on this plane. We're about to land and i need to put my computer away. Molokai, here i come and i can't wait for you to test me. Thank you CAF!