Monday, May 11, 2009

Florida: Part Cinqo de Mayo or A Lesson in Getting Over Oneself


So on Thursday I had an opportunity before me. I had called the Cocoa Beach Surf Company in Cocoa Beach about a surf lesson, but they hadn't called me back (and I was kind of glad). But they did call Thursday morning so I had to make a decision. Here were the Pro's and Con's:


Surfing is fun
It would be a challenge
It would be cool to blog about
I was successful last time I tried surfing
I might be successful again
I would be at the beach
When would I get to do this again?


I am generally a homebody (who happens to like to travel)... the pool is fine
I am scared to do it alone or without Todd
I am the fattest I have ever been in my life
This activity requires me to be in a swimsuit
I am recovering from OHS and it has had a dramatic effect on my body and energy
Due to that, I am REALLY out of shape right now, even for me
Surfing is rigorous

My Con's were weighty upon me. I have been frustrated over the past few years at how I have let my physical state diminish my confidence. It's been a huge problem (pardon the pun :) I have felt powerless and impotent and unable to change things and habits I don't like. Yoga has helped a enormously, but I haven't gone in months ( plus, the doctor said no yoga for a while after the OHS). But it would only add to my self-loathing if I didn't do this. So I called and set up a lesson.

I drove about an hour due east to the Atlantic coast, and on the way I saw the headwaters to the Everglades, a nuclear power plant, and Kennedy Space Center in the distance including the GIANT buildings in which they house the space shuttle. It would be amazing to sit on the beach and watch a launch.

I found where I needed to go and then, because I was early, I drove on to find the beach to wait and get myself psyched up for my adventure.


I couldn't find a public beach which usually has bathrooms or changing stalls so I had to change into my swimsuit in my Pontiac mid-sized sedan with non-tinted windows. I think the only skill I gleaned from 7th grade gym class was how to completely change my clothes without exposing anything. If we were to have been graded on that skill, I would have gotten an "A".

The beach was lovely.


The waves on this side of Florida were bigger than on the Gulf side (gulp). As before, I took some photos... as I gazed at the camera display screen I noticed that this side of the beach was WAY more populated that the other side, and as I zoomed in, I could see the surf board rentals and people surfing.


"Wow..." I thought. "There are a lot of people down there, and they are all going to witness my forthcoming struggle with the sea." That thought almost derailed my plans.

So I sat and thought about it for a minute.


One of my (many) problems is that in my head, I am just me, me at a constant. If I were to be plugged into a math equation, I would be "C". I feel the same as I ever did, in my head. I haven't really began to feel "older" yet. But then I catch a glimpse in the full-length mirror, and suddenly I am no longer "C"... I am now a variable, an unknown, a mere "c". I find it shocking. How can I reconcile my "C" in my my head with the "c" I see before me? Blind myself? Never look in the mirror again?

Going to the beach is always an exercise in self esteem. Initially, I compare myself to everyone. I feel a little grateful to all those people who care less than I. They are a little less well shaped and a lot more exposed. And then I notice that tan fat is really forgiving. In fact, it's downright handsome. Then I realize that most people (like myself) usually are only thinking of themselves and thinking that everyone is looking at them when really everyone is thinking the exact same thing and no one is really looking at anyone in a way other than mild bemusement. No one is really being judged, we are just being entertained.

Looking around I see how AVERAGE I am. There are always people that are going to be MORE something than me: more thin, more fat, more tan, more white, more exposed, more covered, more sober, more drunk. I feel my confidence rising as I revel in my averageness. Glory, I think I am ready to surf!

I parked in the garage of the surf shop and rode the elevator down where it opened right up in to the shop. I was immediately intimidated by the three muscle-y, deeply tanned, tattooed, pierced, and goatee-ed men standing at the counter. There was an almost unperceptable rolling of the eyes as I shuffled up and said, "Hi, I'm here for a surfing lesson." I felt as if two of them were gloating and one had lost a bet. I wanted to share in the joke, because believe me... I get it, and I'm laughing, too!

I was introduced to the scariest-looking one of them, but who had a name that matched his personality... Teddy. I signed away my life, paid my way, and Teddy ushered me into the "instruction room." Time to turn off the over-self-awareness, time to go with the flow.

Teddy gave me the run down on jellyfish, sting rays, and rip currents. Check. He was surprisingly shy considering his scary looks. We practiced laying on the board and standing. I found out I am leg-bidexterous. I was worried that in the tense moment of trying to stand up on the waves, my feet would fight for the front seat of the board.

I was an attentive student, and I avoided the full length mirror in the room. I was a "C" standing there in my cute, ruffle-y gold fish swimsuit, board shorts, and my second-hand rash guard jauntily thrown over my shoulders like a prepster having drinks with the dean.

"Let's go get your board," gave me a small jolt of adrenaline. Surfing is an equal opportunity sport... ladies carry their own boards. Luckily, the beginner board are long but soft, so with my board on my head, Teddy marched me out and down the two blocks to the beach. I tried to make conversation to put myself at ease, and Teddy happily obliged.

Once we got on the beach I struggled a bit more, but I focused on Teddy's voice and didn't look at anyone. If I looked anyone in the eye, they would know I was a counterfeit and that I didn't belong there. But "C" said I did.

For the next hour, the battle was not "C" vs. "c"... it was "C" vs. sea. Holy cow. The waves were 3-4 feet which is awesome if you are not holding onto an 8 foot rigid sail. I would get onto the board, Teddy would turn me into the waves, he'd say "here we go" and push me onto a good one, I would struggle to get my slippery feet underneath myself, try to stand and ride it out until I was dumped off or I fell off, and then I would battle the waves to get 100 yards back out to where Teddy was waiting. It... was... AWESOME!

I realized at one point that I was really focusing on my task at hand, so I told Teddy, "You know, I am having a really good time." I think he appreciated this because it was probably hard to tell. I was getting beat up. I got up a couple of times, and got onto my knees more, but getting back out to the starting point was the hardest part. I remember asking Teddy how much time we had left and he said we still had 30 minutes. I remember thinking, "This is my last run. I can't take this much longer." But what I lack in strength right now I make up for in stamina. After an hour, I felt great.

I kept assuring Teddy I was having fun. Walking back to the shop was harder. I was tired, but in that good "just-had-a-good-long-hard-swim" way, and I carried my board like a champ. The tragedy of the day was that I FORGOT TO TAKE MY CAMERA to the shop with me. I would love to show you how nice and friendly and patient Teddy was. I am not exactly the dream client, but he helped me have a fun time and unknowingly assisted me in my exercise of getting over myself. I had to settle for a drive-by...


So the lesson I take from this day:

C > c


mo said...

Dear C,
You are so amazing! I am really proud of you for doing something crazy and fun and challenging. Good for you! I loved the whole account with all of its inner workings of the mind thing going. When I get back from HK, I want a surfing lesson from C!

Svenska said...

What a beautiful post. I want it printed in something... even if its just on my printer and stuck to my wall. This post proves one thing; you are a surfer, through and through.

the wrath of khandrea said...

here's something to consider.
Cxc= C squared. right? or am i a mathematical idiot here? i was sort of trying to keep your metaphor alive but frankly, i struggle to help my 5th grader with his homework, so, um, point is: when you put your whole self into it, you come out ahead.

this post was awesome.

Amy Lynn said...

I loved this post. It was reading the ticker tape that goes on in my head all the time. Although I've discovered that the older I get, the more ADD I become...and the more ADD I become, the harder I find it to concentrate on one thing too long. Which means I get really bored right now thinking about my chubby body because I've thought about it for so long. I'm on to obsessing about whether my breasts are in the right location or why my eyebrows are suddenly growing in such strange directions or feeling grateful that no matter where I go, there is ALWAYS someone stranger than me. And that is hard to do!

I love you and the image of you conquering the sea! Way to go Ahab!

Abby said...

I just read every single bit I missed and was thoroughly amused by you , as always. I would love to take a trip with you. Oh, do come in June!

Theresa said...

you're awesome! I have always wanted to surf and I seriously am a chicken,.. never been. someday I will have to take a lesson.

katyvee said...

C= Good times!
You, are adorable.
I agree with so much of what you said. First and foremost that tan fat, is always better than white fat. (I try to believe that, in my case, tan varicose veins, are better than white.. and purple.)
I had the 'no one really cares what I look like but ME anyway' epiphany a couple years ago-- and it's very freeing. And I love that you even TRIED surfing. I'm a wuss. I think death thoughts-- and would not of even attempted it. Jasen did once-- and it rubbed his nipples raw.. so that was enough 'surfing' for me.
Anywho darling, darling human being.. your great hair, always interesting-and-new fashion sense,
and gorgeous eyes and smile.. oh, and really good skin.. outweigh any insecurities you may carry with you. So glad that I know you--and therefore, have access to your life! (Oh.. by the way-- we're the proud new owners of four baby chicks. I am still awaiting your know how on the subject!)

Beth said...

Awesome post. And universal themes. I'm glad C won over c. That's the way it should be!
You're awesome.

Julienne said...

Righteous dude. You rock my world. Some day I will be like you...I am determined!!

Jen -n- Jase & kids said...

I have a "mathmatical" mind, while my husband and kid tend to be the "creative" thinkers. While I absolutely LOVE C vs c and so forth, I know my husband would say "huh?" alot. I've had the mental conversations to myself that you so perfectly described, and yet, even if I were to love it, I'll leave the surfing to you and all my little "creative" thinkers. I've decided, you really are a great mix of both. Good brain balance usage goin' on.

Thanks for the great stories. :o)