Potential Energy

I’ve lost my way. I’m like a little girl out in a misty forest full of strange sounds and prickly bushes. I came here looking for something, but when the fear grabbed hold of me, I got disoriented and turned around. I’ve been wandering around looking for my destination, but all I’ve found is muddy holes, impassable creeks and a big patch of poison ivy. My clothes are tattered and my legs and face are covered in scratches. I haven’t given up though, and I know there is a way out of this tangled mess.

Once a week I am joined here in the forest of my life by Andrea Mauer, my wonderful and talented life coach. She takes my hand and walks the twisting paths with me. I show her the paths I tried and she helps me see where I went wrong. She points out the similarity between these paths and the ones I’ve already taken that led to impasses. She saves me from going down paths she is already familiar with or that she points out are rife with obstacles before I get too far along. Every once in a while she invites another wise person to join us in our search for my destination.

Andrea introduced me to Amy Oscar’s blog several months ago. Amy describes herself as a Soul Caller, an intuitive, a life coach and a teacher. Amy is deeply spiritual and connected to the Spirit World in a way that few people I know are. Like me, she believes in angels. But Amy has a connection to angels like no one I’ve ever met. You can read more about her here.

Recently, Amy invited readers to join her in a month long Writing Circle. I’ve joined in the hopes that her connectedness to the Spirit World and a connection to the other writers participating will help me find my way out of this dark forest of self-doubt, fear and resistance, to reconnect to my purpose in life and bring me to that place where my writing is full of inspiration and passion.

Yesterday’s prompt spoke to me and the eloquence with which Amy writes was inspiring. She wrote:

There is a place between here and there, between mystery and science, between staying and leaving, between choice and becoming: a place where most of us do not want to stay very long. We want to name and explain everything. We want to understand, to know – so we can put things in their places.

And yet, sitting in this space of not yet, of “I don’t know,” can be the most powerful place of all. For it is here, having departed the familiar and not yet arrived at the ‘who knows where,’ that anything is possible.

Not knowing is something I’ve never been comfortable with. It’s the reason I went into the sciences where the security of a “right” answer gave me something to hang on to and I did so for dear life. As a child, my greatest rewards – praise, love and attention – came from “knowing.” Naturally, it took me almost forty years to get more comfortable in the grey areas of life. The one area I was still severely challenged in was the realm of relationships.

I’m a serial monogamist – my whole adult life I’ve been in and out of relationships, but have been in them more than out. I moved in with my boyfriend when I was 18. I’ve been in a committed relationship for 21 of the 25 years that followed. I was 32 the first time I lived on my own for any considerable amount of time. I’ve been so uncomfortable with those in-between times that they have typically been filled with anxiety, depression and serial obsessions with first one man and then the next and the next, until something sticks and I’m back in a long-term relationship.

Not this time.

I find myself in that in between place now, the place Inyala Vanzant calls “the meantime,” that time between staying and leaving, between the choice I made and becoming whatever it is I will become. This time there is a difference though. I am still not completely comfortable here, but I notice I am more at ease than ever before. Anxiety is an occasional visitor rather than taking up residence in my soul. Andrea’s coaching has been invaluable in helping me find this place of acceptance and calm. When we started working together, I was already walking a path that hugged a jagged cliff-face overlooking a bottomless pit. She talked me off the cliff step by vertigo-inducing step, gently helping me figure out I was once again on the path to self-destructive relationship behavior, and then helped me figure out where to put my feet.

This is my chance to change the pattern of making choices that are not in my best interest and to stop hitting my head on the relationship brick wall. This time I am going to get quiet, turn inward and listen to my soul more. This time I’m going to take care of me more and worry about who “he” might be less. This time I’m not going to let myself fall head over heels in lust with someone I barely know. This time I think some “dating” and getting to know the person before I move in with him sounds like a good idea.

Perhaps more importantly, this time I’m not going to sweat the alone time. I’m going to use this time to work on me and my writing. When so many of my friends are juggling full-time jobs and kids, I am in the envious position of having only myself to worry about (six dogs and Felipe the caretaker hardly rate in comparison to 9-5 and a family).

Like Amy says, it is from this place that anything is possible. There is an energy in these in between times that is palpable – the potential energy of possibility, like a seed on the forest floor waiting for an opening in the canopy so it can to burst forth and grow. And so, I will be here waiting for the sunlight while I connect and create – me, myself, my soul.

A Pound of Flesh

According to the January, 2007 issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine a surfer can look forward to about 13 acute injuries for every 1000 hours surfed. I estimate I have surfed over 5000 hours in total since beginning to surf in April, 2002. Based on the Journal of Sports Medicine’s estimate of injury frequency that means I’ve had the potential to incur more than 65 acute injuries while surfing thus far. I’m ecstatic to report that this has not been the case.

Sure, I have had plenty of minor lacerations while surfing, including several that could have used a stitch or two as evidenced by the series of eye-shaped gouges that run down my right shin. There was also the time I needed eight stitches to pull my scalp back together after my board landed tail-first on the top of my head. The worst injury I’ve had to date (knock on wood!) was a herniated disc in sloppy, blown out three-foot mush. That injury took a long time to heal, so maybe I paid a healthy portion of my surfing injury dues that way.

Two days ago, in anticipation of a Northwest swell that I’d been monitoring on Surfline, I drove the three hours to the west coast of the peninsula. It had been well over a month since I’d ridden any really good surf. The season is over here until next April and the winds have been blowing since early November. I’ve been itching for a good swell like the one on the way.

I arrived in time for a short evening session, but the swell had yet to arrive and the wind chop was messing with the little bit of swell that was coming in. So I cracked a cold Pacifico and watched from a friend’s palapa as the sun dropped out of the sky and disappeared into the vast ocean. I prayed for clean conditions and good surf the following morning. I was in bed before 10 that night.

As a rule I’m not an early riser, but, in anticipation of what boded to be some great surf, I was up, powered down a smoothie and was on my way to the beach by 7:30am. The spectacle at the beach was all I’d hoped for – glassy conditions and perfect A-frame waves breaking in series a long way down the beach. It was big, with some of the set waves a good 10 feet on the face. The bigger waves were closing out, so I stood on the beach to assess where I should surf and where to paddle out before going out. As I pulled on my shorty wetsuit, excitement and anticipation of a day of surfing surged through my body. It was all I could do to hold myself back from running to the water and jumping on my board without waiting between sets.

The water felt good and I felt strong. The pain and stiffness in my shoulder was completely gone. Half way out to the take off zone, a set arrived and I began to duck dive the first, smaller waves. When I felt myself going backwards on the first dive, I reminded myself that I was in the Pacific Ocean now, not the gentle Sea of Cortez. I had to dive deeper. After a couple of successful dives, a set wave appeared well outside of where I was. As I prepared to dive, I saw another surfer’s board fly up into the air and braced myself for what was clearly a powerful wave. My timing was off and the white water was on me faster than I’d expected. I dove, but too late, and the force of the whitewater ripped the board from my hands and sent me tumbling underwater. After the wave passed, everything went calm, the water bubbled and foamed around me and I began to float back up to the surface. But the calm was short-lived and WHACK! Something hit me hard on the jaw. I knew immediately it was serious and implored the powers that be, “Please don’t let my jaw be broken, please don’t let my jaw be broken.” I floated to the surface and tentatively touched my jaw where the board hit it. Another wave was breaking outside and I had to dive under it as I tried to assess the damage. My jaw was intact. “Thank God,” I thought. I got back on my board and began paddling to the outside where my friend Alec was sitting. The waves kept coming. The sets must have been eight or nine waves in total. Between waves I touched my jaw and looked down to see blood. As I continued paddling I saw a large drop of blood fall from my face into the water. “Not good,” I thought. Alec confirmed  my thinking. “Yeah, probably needs two or three stitches,” he said, “you better go in.” I figured regardless of how bad it was, he and the other surfers didn’t want me sticking around. The men in the grey suits would be getting a whiff of “injured animal,” aka “dinner” before long.

But there was no way I was going to paddle in – the waves were perfect. I had to catch at least one. With encouragement from the guys sitting near me, I took off on a wave and rode it to the beach.

Cursing my shitty duck diving skills, I got dressed and headed to the local clinic. I was glad that unlike at home it was only a 15 minute drive away.

On the way to the hospital it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t have any money. My wallet was locked in the house where I was staying, my friend was in the water surfing and I didn’t have a key. But I thought, “This is Mexico, not the United States,” and figured the doctors would trust me to return with payment after they treated me.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover there were no other patients in the Emergency wing of the small hospital. After being escorted to the exam room, I told the doctor about my financial conundrum. To my dismay his face turned from concern to doubt as he told me he would have to talk to the hospital administrator. The administrator appeared promptly and began telling me they couldn’t treat me when I stopped him mid-sentence and offered him my iPod as collateral against my bill. To my great relief, he agreed without hesitation.

Before long I had six stitches expertly sewn by a baby-faced Dr. Pablo Gonzalez, an x-ray indicating that I had not fractured my jawbone, a prescription for antibiotics and a bill for 2241 pesos ($162 US ). I handed over my iPod and headed back to the beach with a plan to get some crazy glue and get back in the water.


Before: It looks pretty minor all cleaned up.
After: Six puntos (Spanish for stitches) and a lot of swelling the following day 
Keala Kennelly after her face got up close and personal with the Teahupoo reef. In comparison, my board gave me a kiss.

At the beach it was apparent word had gotten out that I’d messed myself up. Everyone I asked seemed to think it would be unwise to get back in the water. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off I began to believe they were right. I was spent from the pain and excitement of the morning. Plus the doc had said I had to stay out of the water until the wound closed completely. “Anywhere from seven to ten days,” he said, “otherwise the wound could open up.” I gave it a second thought and pictured my beautiful sutures ripping out of my face to leave behind a ragged bloody mess that would never heal nicely. I looked at the picture perfect peeling waves and then down at the gaping scars on my shin. My attachment to a relatively unscarred face won out. Had the wound been anywhere else on my body I would have paddled back out.