Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What is Surf, Pray, Love?

In 2005, I was suffering from the lingering effects of post-partum-depression and post-traumatic-stress-disorder brought on by a really long and trying labor and childbirth two years earlier. Despite continual personal and cultural assurances that I should have been happy with my beautiful and healthy baby girl, I was not - happy. Profoundly not happy. Eyeing-the-bottle-of-Vicodin-in-the-bathroom not happy. There was so little of me left, I could hardly believe I was walking around.

I was stressed. I was depressed. And I was having strange experiences - as if invisible people were throwing things at me: like puffs of cotton, or dandelion fluff. I heard the voice of a man who had recently died talking to me in my head. And I inadvertently exorcised a ghost from my office at work.

I met some shamans and they performed what is called a “soul retrieval.” It was intended to be very helpful and it was. Its effects went beyond what therapy ever could have provided though, afterwards, I did begin seeing a therapist and that too was very helpful. In fact, I began seeing a therapist and I began seeing a shaman. And then I went to the shaman’s shaman. And this is what he said:

“I can’t do anything for you. Only the ocean can help you. You must go to the beach – as often as you can.” The water spirits, he said, they would help me.

Did the water spirits help? Of course they did.

They’d been helping me my whole life, only I’d never thought to call them that. I’d always loved the beach. My first screenplay was about the beach. I’d made a beautiful short film about my childhood summers on the Jersey Shore. I’d always dreamed of living by the ocean, and had moved to Santa Monica three years after arriving in Los Angeles. Going to the ocean, as often as I could, was not a hardship.

And life went on. I recovered, entirely, from the PPD and the PTSD and I joyfully gave birth to my second child. And I never forgot that, for me, when all else fails, the water spirits have the answer - or the healing, or the peace, or maybe just the love, that I need.

Like millions of people around the world, I loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love.” It spoke to me: as a woman, as a seeker and as a human being. But, you know, it kind of fell short in speaking to me as a wife and a mother who works hard at my marriage, raising two kids and making ends meet. “Eat, Pray, Love” was the tale of a spiritual journey dependent on a kind freedom and financial independence that is, frankly, entirely foreign to my post-childbirth life. And yet, spiritual journey is available to all human beings, all the time, if they have the courage and faith to look for it.

“Surf, Pray, Love” is my spiritual journey. A year’s journey among the water spirits: exploring the beach, the ocean and the people I meet along the way. It’s a journey that began as a child, that began again when I met a shaman from Africa, and begins again now, as I learn to surf and re-align my life along the tide schedules and those ever changing rhythms called “today’s conditions.”

I've been dreaming of surfing for months. The water spirits have been calling me. I started out thinking I was doing this for me. But given what's happened to the ocean in the last month, I now choose to believe that I am also doing this for her.

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