It’s Okay To… surf the waves of life

By Fabienne Vailes, Senior Lecturer and French Language Director, Department of French

Last week was what I call a ‘bad hair week’. I’ll spare you the details, but it was literally one thing after the other, and as a result I felt really low and I really struggled to concentrate and focus. I ended the week saying: “I’m so over this lockdown 3.0”.

When I spoke with one of my colleagues, they told me: “It was me last week”.

Does this sound familiar? Do you also have ‘bad hair days’ or ‘bad hair weeks’?

I often think that life is like an ocean with its waves. Its highs and lows. We (sadly) can’t control what happens to us in life, we can’t control this ocean, but we can learn to excel in our way to surf with it. In every moment we have a choice. We can either go with the movement of the waves or decide to fight against it. Last week, I was fighting.

We can be surfers and by putting ourselves in this flexible state we can ride the wave more easily. When we are rigid on our board, we can’t go with the wave. But with inner flexibility, we can go with the movement with more ease and trust. Whatever the wave, we have a response-ability – the ability to choose our response: to go with the wave with flexibility and openness or to go against the current thus tiring ourselves.

We can also be kind to ourselves and remember not to compare ourselves to the other surfers in the water. Some of them will be experts effortlessly gliding and surfing the water. Others may appear to be having a fantastic time when we’re not. But just like my colleague did the week before, they too might have been ‘under the water’, holding their breath moments before or paddling along waiting patiently for the next wave.

It’s so easy to believe that the ocean and the waves are better for others, particularly with social media and its highlight reels. But is that true? Are we focusing too much on the movement of the waves and not enough on the ocean called life?

If so, next time we see others ‘surfing’ the wave of life, looking like they’re having a wonderful time, we can remind ourselves that the wave is not permanent. This is true for all of us. It’s constant change and impermanence.

When this lockdown 3.0 finally comes to an end, we might start riding a different wave of ‘new normal’. But whatever the ocean throws at us next, we can bear in mind that we have a choice and that we can allow ourselves to surf the waves of life much more.

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