Sunday, March 27, 2011

Behind Every Great Woman...

I love this picture of wetsuited siblings at the edge of the surf with their boogie boards.

Speaking of pictures...

Instead of surfing this weekend, I took a trip to Encinitas with my friend and photographer Jessica, to shoot some photos of fellow mom-surfer Jamie G. and her family -- at home and on the beach.

Not too long ago, I interviewed Jamie about her life as a surfer and how she manages to pursue something she loves while also handling the responsibilities and stresses of having a family.

What we witnessed during our shoot was something that keeps coming up, again and again, in the lives of mother/athletes --- significant support on the homefront.

Not that a woman can't pursue the life she loves without support at home. She certainly can. But when she does, pursuing her passion can become an additional source of stress rather than a source of pure joy.

Every step of my surfing and writing adventure has benefitted from the support I've gotten from my husband and friends. Two weeks ago, when I was able to get the support of a women's surfing community, my joy increased tenfold.

The more deeply I delve into the lives of women performing remarkable feats of athleticism, elite and amateur, the more conscious I am of this: no one does it on their own.

Behind every great woman, therefore, is not simply another woman, or a man, but a village.
It's a cliche for a reason. It's true.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Do Unto Others

I woke up this morning to learn that big wave surfer Sion Milosky had drowned up north at  Mavericks.

A couple of weeks ago I had an idea at the water's edge. Was the ocean like me? I thought. A mother who loves all her children, but nonetheless has her good days and her bad? Who has days when she feels generous and others when she doesn't want to be asked for one more thing?

That day I thought I'd start treating the ocean the way I'd like to be treated. Maybe a strange idea. Maybe not. But there it was - my own version of neoprene clad goddess worship. And since then I've been talking to the water the way I wish my family talked to me; what do you have to tell me today? what can I do to please you? how can  I thank you?

Today I arrived at the water's edge and found it colder than usual, rougher and deeper too. The white water kept coming,  and getting past the impact zone was a struggle. I tried to catch a wave and, for the first time, experienced being held down by successive waves. After getting knocked down a second time, I stepped back and started talking: do you not want me here today? should I get out? are you not in the mood?

She just boiled and boiled and I related it to my son wanting to nurse, or my husband wanting to have sex, when I've got other things on my mind, other things to do, and a whole world inside me they can't imagine. So I stepped back farther - like I wish they would on those kind of days. Because I know how I can snap when I don't want to be bothered.

I watched other surfers struggle where I had struggled. Get knocked down where I'd been knocked down. Finally I watched a lifeguard help drag lifeguard station 20 a couple of yards away from the water. With this storm coming and the current budget crisis, he told me, they can't afford to lose the station to a surge.

Today was definitely a day to respect your mother.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunday with the Surf Chicks

Brian took Trinity camping in Joshua Tree for the weekend, leaving me and Ashton to our own devices. Yesterday was a slow bore that ended with ice cream for dinner. Consequently, the little man was bouncing off the walls at what should have been his bed time. Determined that it would NOT be the case again, I promised I'd wear him out today. So I took him to the beach to hang with some surfer chics.

I'd run into Amanda Schmitz, the organizer of the 310 Surf Chics, a couple of weeks ago and it had been so nice to see her I thought that, even if I didn't get to surf, it would be cool to hang out on a Sunday morning with some other surf ladies while babysitting my boy. And for the most part, that's what I did. Ashton's current obsession is ping-pong, so I brought some paddles and an orange ball and we hit it back and forth for more than an hour.

But then, the miraculous, the long-hoped for, the wonderful, happened. One surfer, a mom in her forties,  volunteered to look after Ashton and another surfer volunteered a board. I spent a few minutes on the fence - due to what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder - but then realized a little pain was not going to stop me from the surf session I've been dreaming of for almost a year.

You know, the one in which the surfing village gets together to support this mom to get in the water - even when she has her kids with her. Yeah, that dream.

It came true today.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Be a Surfer

Today was a glittering gorgeous day. One of those days that makes me extra-aware of the fact that I live in Southern California and not The Bronx, London or Chicago.

Still, I was on the fence about going out. There were so many ways I could have used those precious two hours during which a friend promised to watch the kids: a last-minute private school tour, a coffee shop wi-fi session with my book proposal, a yoga class, a veg-out with Netflix or Hulu.

But surfing is fun, serves my life's purpose, stirs my creativity and keeps me fit. I mean, really. There was no contest.

The waves were flat at first. There was a lot of paddling. I got lazy. And I got pounded. By some really small waves. Why? I wasn't paying attention. I was lollygagging, hanging out, non-committally going for waves, but not really meaning it. I was a "kook", as surfers would say with derision: in surfspeak, a loser.

But then I remembered something, Many years ago, I had a boyfriend named Tim. When I'd told him that I wanted to be a filmmaker, he pulled an old business card out of his rolodex. It said "Spike Lee. Filmmaker." This guy that no one had ever heard of had given it to him years ago at a party.  If you want to be a filmmaker, he was telling me, BE a filmmaker.

And then I got it - be a surfer. Even if I have to pretend. Even if I have to put it on.  Don't ask what Jesus would do. Ask "what would a surfer do?"

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I haven't yelled a single time this week...

This morning I found out my mother-in-law was giving a talk at her church before she kicks off her walk-for-peace across the country on Tuesday. I found out as I was about to walk out the door to go surfing. My board was already on the wagon.

I gave my sister-in-law a ride to the church and as she got out, she said something to the effect of 'If you change your mind, you should come to the talk. It'd make her real happy."

"It'd make her real happy."

Ouch. Potential Kryptonite to me, who has spent years prioritizing everyone else's "real happy" at the cost of  my own.

It wasn't an easy call. Doris is going to be walking for seven months. I won't have many chances to see her between now and September. I hadn't gone surfing in two weeks and was thrilled I'd finally made the opportunity to go this morning. Doris would have been "real happy" and maybe people would have said nice things about me for having made the sacrifice.

I had been tired and cranky at breakfast. The day was cold. It had taken a seemingly colossal amount of energy to get me almost out the door when I got the call. It would have been an easy out.

But I couldn't.

Even though the water was stormy and the waves crappy, the ocean was calling me and I heeded the call. Even though I didn't catch a thing, I played and played and played. And I'm really glad I did.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Stranglehold, Part 2

While my dilemma is not an uncommon one for mothers, the only people who offered advice were men, single women, or grandmas whose kids are long out of the house: suggesting to me that while solutions were right under my nose, something about being a mother was preventing me (and other women) from being able to see them, act on them, or accept what they are.
What is this something that prevents me and so many mothers from believing that they can pursue joy free from the strangleholds of domestic life?

I believe it is an impossible, internally imposed, standard of motherly conduct that precludes the common sense actions we need to take care of our own well-being. (A standard which men don’t share, and of which single women may not yet be aware.) To make an analogy, we  impose on ourselves the maternal equivalent of a 38D bust, a 24 inch waist and the body mass index of a supermodel.  In other words, we've got the maternal equivalent of eating disorder.

Having sat with this for a few days, on Sunday afternoon I grabbed a page from the green kitchen pad and wrote was for me a new manifesto of healthy mothering:  
  • I will never yell again.
  • Nothing is "that" important.
  • I am no longer responsible for everyone’s feelings - or their futures.
  • I will only say things once.
  • The children clean up with their parents.
  • Hungry children must ask nicely for food or go to their rooms until they can.
While I didn’t follow the advice of my readers to the letter, what I got in spirit was the belief that something new was possible. And what I got in reality was something yet to be tried and a whole new frontier for this mother/athlete/surfer.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Stranglehold, Part 1

Last week my post garnered more than a few comments from readers – the majority offering support and some kind of advice on how to escape the stranglehold of house and mommy work so that I can surf and write more.

While my initial reaction was to be touched by the recommendations, my next was to dismiss them. As I wrote on a Facebook status update: what has seemed to help me most in the past is being listened to and supported  – not advice.

But after that knee-jerk…jerkiness...I recalled those many times I could have avoided a world of pain if only I’d listened to the people around me. Something which my stubborn reluctance to accept advice, of course, had prevented.

So this was actually the opportunity to do something different.

And then I saw something else; even if I didn’t take my readers advice literally, its existence signified that I was, in fact, being listened to and supported and that I had what I needed to solve what seemed to be an intractable problem.

So thank you readers, for all your helpful words and suggestions. Thanks to you, I believe I am seeing a light at the end of a tunnel.