A few weeks ago I had a pretty perfect weekend in mansion (if it has an elevator and it is totally a mansion!) on the lake. As part of the package, there was also a 3 hour stand up paddle board less thrown in.

I was very excited about this. And equally nervous about making a big fat fool of myself.  First off, most of my friends are like semiprofessional athletes not to mention younger and skinnier! One dances in NYC. Another medals in triatholons. And the fact that I’d have to wear a bathing suit for it did not help my confidence level. Now is also a good time to disclose that I have a love/hate relationship with the B word. Balance.

However, the whole idea seemed beachy and dreamy to me.  My husband is a mountain man. He likes to go where the air is thinner. And ski and fish and get altitude sickness. I like those things (minus the atltitude sickness), but I love the water. I spent summer vacations at the beach, long summers on the Guadalupe, weekends on a sailboat and love everything about it. The sun. The smell. The noise. The way the whole room feels like it is still rocking in the waves at night when I go to sleep. Everything except sunburns and sand in my swimsuit.

However, water sports are not my forte. Once I rented a surfboard, and almost got a concussion when it hit me in the head. Needless to say I never made it vertical. My parents do own a boat, but no one in my family knows how to pull a skier, nor are we known for our upper body strength. (to quote a friend, who was quoting her friend….I have the upper body strength of a weak kitten). Another friend tried to teach me how to wake surf, but I couldn’t evenget a good grip the board (apparently I also have the abdominal strength of a seal). I’ve never jet skied. My husband had an asthma attack trying to snorkel. I’ve flipped many a canoe. I don’t even like jumping off the high dive.  But I was certain this would be different. Earlier that morning, we had seen someone about my mom’s age paddle by effortlessly with her dog napping peacefully at the end of the board. She looked so cool and zen and like she belonged in Hawaii -- not Texas. And not even a little bit like my younger, skinnier friends. Surely I could do this.

The lesson consisted of 2 super sporty bikinied women with well toned arms telling us to unload to boards from the back of their trailer. My arms ached just from carrying them across the yard. She plopped them down. Told us to stay out of the way of speed boats. Made us put on lifevests and gave us a quick lesson in how to paddle. But mostly we girls were just giggling and counting how many times she said the word “shaft”. So I may have missed some key instructions. I did however notice that they kept using the B word.

I shimmied on top of the board. Only briefly. Before landing right back in the water. And then shimmied (not even a little bit gracefully) right back up. I paddled with my paddle backwards for a ways and made it successfully down the river. Before realizing something critical. I did not know how to turn around. Which wasn’t much of an issue because right about then a boat flew by and the wake sent me right back in the water.

Again, I shimmied, which was really more like beaching myself on the board, pointed it in the direction and got someone to show me how to steer. (and to tell me to turn my paddle around).
I kept paddling. Now, with my new found skill of turning around I was unstoppable. Well, except for when a boat drove by or my knees wobbled too much and then I was back to swimming and shimmying.  A few of my friends were doing yoga poses on their boards. Showoffs.
But. it did feel sort of yogaish. Peaceful and Strong.
And almost whispered a "namaste" before another wake sent me back in.

 Swim. Shimmy.

 Back on the board.

 And another boat went by, instead of bracing myself for the waves, and trying hard to stay up on my own, I pushed my paddle in a little deeper, bent my knees a little and leaned directly into the wave. It rocked me back and forth but shocingly I stayed up.

 Lean into it. Into the hard. Into the good. The scary. This isn’t new advice. I’ve read it in books and blog posts and even watched it doled out in movies.  
But doing it, literally, was a good reminder of why it is such good advice metaphorically. Leaning into what you are sure is gonna knock you off your feet and ending up still standing is powerful. And way more effective than trying to fight it.

And that sometimes, you get knocked down anyways.

Which is why getting back up, even less than gracefully, is way more important than balance.

(on a side note I have been doing crunches and pushups almost every night and think i might now have the upper body strength and core of a playpus instead of a kitten)


Eventually the sunlight through the windows forces me out of my bed. I crawl out of my narrow twin mattress, quiet so not to wake the girl in the other bed right beside mine. I shuffle to the bathroom, strewn with swimsuits, tanktops and toothbrushes. I brush my teeth. Skip makeup. Pull back a ponytail and head to the kitchen in search of a cup of coffee. The other girls sleep soundly upstairs, tired from a late night of talking and laughing into the wee hours. I walk outside, the air smells familiar. Like the river and I breath in every bit of the water, look up at the hills and feel my stomach muscles sore from so much laughing the night before.

And I could have written that exact first paragraph 15 years ago. It all feels very deja vu. This slight ache in my heart that wants to see my family but is not ready for this to end. The part that wants one more day. One more week. Another night of Johnny Appleseed and fuzzy wuzzies and maybe some more night swimming and smores. But, today we go home. Back to the real world. Babies and spouses and dogs and jobs. Make up and email and dry cleaning. Where we put on real clothes instead of spending the day in swimsuits and flip flops. This time instead of an entire summer, or even just three short weeks, we had been here for less than three full days. And it was enough time to remember the summers that shaped us. To share old jokes and stories and memories and make lots of new ones.

Enough time to remember that we all go home, but this weekend was proof that it doesnt ever have to end.