On Monday, I joined an awesome group of women from my SoCal church to go paddle boarding and kayaking. I, among many others, decided to try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) for the first time. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while, so I was excited for the opportunity.
It was harder than I expected.
I have experience surfing and kayaking, so I thought SUP could be no different. In surfing you paddle into a swell and let it take over before you pop up. But in SUP, you instead haphazardly push at the water on one side of the board while already standing. And it doesn't take a PhD in physics to know that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Don't worry, I didn't fall in. But as I felt the board toss to and fro, all of my muscles tensed up. My body perceived the threat of this great instability, and it was ready to fight!
I hobbled around the harbor for a while in that rigid state, not falling over but also not moving particularly fast or well. But this was supposed to be easy and fun, so I would persevere and stick it out, darn it!
One of the few experienced folk in our group gently suggested I bend my knees as I begin each stroke, and another recommended leaning in to each stroke to get more power.
I felt the difference immediately.
By bending my knees, my legs were able to loosen up and compensate for the rocking board. In addition to more power, leaning in to the stroke also helped me travel in a straighter line. I started moving faster and more confidently through the water, passing the group and doubling back. It felt wonderful.
But my feet remained tense. Though I wore water shoes that stuck to the surface of the board, my feet continued to desperately try to clamp to the board. (In other words: the effort was utterly useless since my feet could not, in fact, contribute to my grip on the board). It took a conscious effort to tell them, "Feet! You can relax... It's OK!"
I had to repeat the message several times because my feet were convinced of their need to hold on tightly, still persisting as they began to cramp.
Eventually, my feet relaxed and I had a delightful time on the water, even jumping in a few times!
The story reminds me of how my summer (and let's be real, my life) has gone. I've found myself feeling unstable in this time of transition, leaving the dock of the familiar with future waves coming toward me. My primary reaction has been to tense up, both literally and figuratively. It's a summer of "freedom" but I've often found myself stressed, on edge, and unable to sleep at night. Yet I sense God gently telling me to lean in to the challenges and let go of my tension:
"Leila! You can relax... It's OK!"