It is difficult for some of us to trust happiness. If you’re anything like me, you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop when life is going well. Hopefully, this comes from a balanced understanding that life is a beautiful blend of both light and dark, positive and negative. Without one we can’t learn to appreciate or understand the other. However, sometimes we can find ourselves focusing too closely on the negative or obsessing about what could possibly go wrong.
I don’t remember the first time I visited the ocean. Growing up in northern California I know our family trips to the coast were frequent and I know the scent of salt water still makes me homesick. But I don’t remember when I first touched the frothy edge of a wave or watched a seagull catch a strip of wind. One thing I do remember, clearly, is the phrase my father drilled into my older sister and myself.
My father had been a member of the US Coast Guard and, therefore, knew the threat that pulsed beneath the surface of a seemingly peaceful waterscape. He knew the realities of riptides and so from day one I knew what I shouldn’t do around the ocean as much as I knew what I should.
My father knew that even a docile set of waves could shift in an instant. He knew that water, something so vital to life, could grab a human by the ankles and yank an entire body under water in mere seconds. He knew the vortex of sand and liquid and the sky tumbling from above to below and over over losing yourself in the sea.
My sister and myself would constantly hear, lifted above the crashing waves and soaring towards us like a plummeting gull, the words “Never turn your back on the ocean.” My father shouted these words towards us like a broken record over and over again losing himself in the fear of seeing his daughters pulled underwater.
And this is often how I feel about life. If I give it even a second, an inch, a single breath life can turn and drag me under. If I am not on guard, trying my best to protect myself, something will hurt me. This is exacerbated by my anxiety, which pushes me to constantly seek comfort and safety.
Do you find yourself doing this in the dating world? In relationships? Are you afraid to make the first move, tell someone you like them more than a friend, for fear of being pulled under and losing yourself?
I think these emotions are so incredibly valid – they are our ways of protecting our emotions. The minute we turn our back we become vulnerable and open ourselves up to pain. It’s understandable to want to have constant vigilance (heyyy Mad-Eye) but this also can rob us of potential joy.
Yes, it is true that riptides exist. Yes, I am endlessly grateful my father showed my sister and myself such genuine love by educating us on this. And yes, I still remember this information as an adult and if I have children I’m positive I’ll tell them, as well.
However, allowing the fear of something to override the joy and beauty you could draw from a situation isn’t fair to yourself.
Acknowledge the risks, allow yourself to feel the fear, then rise above it and appreciate the opportunity for joy that is waiting for you.