I lept from the sand and I left this planet.
Wrapped in a cool embrace with an old friend, kneeling in prayer, revisiting a home I once naively took advantage of. With tears in my eyes, I paddled into the sunset beside someone I love for the first time in just shy of an eternity. Doing something in which a few days prior, I feared I would never be able to do again. I arrived determined to defy my limitations despite any repercussions this one surf may cost me. My soul was on empty, and a glassy 1-2 foot North Reef called my name. The gift of this perfect November day would not pass me by and my mind was made up.
“F*ck it, I’m going surfing.”
I was humbled by the unfamiliarity my first wave carried. With stiff legs and locked knees, I could barley bottom turn. Something that was once second nature had become a puzzle. My rational brain was used to shutting off, allowing intuition to guide my every movement. Now I was plotting out every step, focused on the finite detail of each limb and weight shift. Reality slapped me in the face as embarrassment crawled across my rosie cheeks. Did I forget how to do this? I shook off the funkiness of my first wave and paddled back out. My single shred of doubt dissolved by my second wave as I danced down the line as if I had done it yesterday and everyday before. Ease and grace greeted me wave after wave. I smiled and I laughed and I cried tears of joy. I had been there the whole time, and the past year had never happened.
I yearn to live in the simplicity of that moment forever. I never wanted that surf to end. For an hour of my life, I was normal. For an hour, I was abled bodied. For an hour, I felt pure, childlike joy and nothing more. A dimension in which space nor time exist, a sanctuary impenetrable by darkness, the closest thing to heaven on earth, the closest I can get to a God, spirit, the essence of being. That is what the ocean is for me. That session was nothing short of a miracle. I am eternally grateful for that moment of immense beauty amidst all of the ugliness.
I have never known so much pain and joy at once. I never knew it was possible to be flooded by tears of joy and sadness at the same time. The dualities of suffering appear often. This surf was a sunflower in a field of ashes as the week surrounding it brought harsh lessons of loss and reality. This surf was a refuge from the unpleasant reminders of Thanksgiving break.
With every college student coming home, as I run into people from high school, see my friends, I am reminded of how different my world is. I am reminded of the gap between me and “normal.” I am reminded that all of the things I have to worry about do not exist in the lives of most. It is hard not to feel a certain level of alienation and misunderstanding in the wake of small talk in passing. I am often reminded of my losses. Loss of my old life. Loss of my old body. Loss of my innocence. Loss of most of my friends.
One of the toughest lessons I have learned is that of abandonment. This week stirred up many of those emotions. I feel I have been left in the dust by many of the people who once stood close by me. I say this not to attack anyone, but to simply express that many people treat me differently now. While I accept this and work hard not to hold many grudges, I was never warned about it. I never read about it. I was never told about it. I was not prepared, so I share to caution, illuminate, and express solidarity. And most importantly to reassure you that if you find yourself in a similar situation, it may lead to something quite beautiful.
Although these reminders of loss carry great sadness, the other side of the coin offers a breath of newness. I have much more space now. More space for the people that relentlessly support me and dedicate unreasonably huge amounts of time to me every day. More space for new people who embrace me as I am and burn with passion and curiosity. More space to become empowered by my trials. More space to live my life on my terms and let go of anything and everything that does not serve me. All of this darkness, loss, and pain allow a simple surf to become a divine experience. That, is living. Joy does not come without pain for me, but joy always outshines pain. Every moment of joy I dance through is met with a level gratitude words can not describe. The immense liveliness, empathy, and clarity that chronic pain has allowed me to feel is unparalleled. At the end of the day, I would not trade this life for the world. Although I would not wish my pain upon anyone nor do I intend to glorify it, I am grateful again and again to occupy this body.