Before I was truly awake and functioning this morning, I found myself stepping from a boat into the ocean off the coast of Maui. Relatively calm, with a bit of a southern swell, the water enveloped me like silk, bluer than the summer sky.
I adjusted my snorkel mask and entered that silent underworld, the only sound my own breathing—rhythmic, steady.
My eldest had beaten me off the boat, the first one to jump into the water when the captain announced we could begin our adventure. I was not far behind him.
How far I’ve come. And how lucky he is that my ninny genes somehow missed him in utero.
As I watched a bevy of vacationers take what seemed like forever to get their questions answered, their gear on, their gumption up, I realized I am not remotely the same woman who snorkeled these waters almost 20 years ago.
Then, a honeymooner, I gasped and shook as I tried to figure out snorkeling just off the shore. Nervous and not very adventurous, my takeaway from that experience was a severe headache, a bruise across the bridge of my nose and a first honeymoon argument with my husband over whether him swimming away without a backwards glance should have made me angry. I believe a stranger helped me figure out the mask, after watching me struggle for 10 minutes or so.
This morning, I stepped into my fins and off the catamaran with nary a backward glance.
On that honeymoon trip, the road to Hana made me oh so nervous. Its hairpin curves and one-lane bridges made me gasp.
On this trip, after hiking to the blowhole at the northern tip of the island, I drove the road marked “Do Not Drive” on the map. After drinking from a freshly macheted coconut. This drive made the road to Hana look as tame as my driveway. And it was gorgeous. Lush, curvy, winding, we drove by a woman who made her own honey. She had the most beautiful smile, as she sold from her yard, chickens running everywhere. That smile itself was worth the trip, until we came upon a tiny old church that should have been a postcard for Old Hawaii.
As we lifted off in the helicopter to see the Haleakala volcano from the air, I realized I was smiling broadly. Not shaking. Not worrying. Not pensive. Embracing every darn minute. Watching my son break into a smile as we gained altitude.
Sometimes, as life happens to us, we do not see the change. We are so busy dealing with what comes at us–accepting the change, fighting the change—that, in the end, we do not realize we have actually embraced and become the change. The change had its way with us and we are not who we once were. When that realization comes, so does joy. At least for me.
I have seen loss. I have lived loss. I have railed against loss these past few years. But close on the heels of all of that, I have created new beginnings, accepted new beginnings, become a new beginning.
No longer do I cower, hoping that if I steel myself enough, whatever I have to face becomes easier. Instead, I look at the vast blue ocean and jump in. I do what I have to do—put my mask on and breathe—but I get to it, and quickly. Embracing what is in front of me, not looking back at the boat from which I’ve launched.
I take the wheel and navigate the hairpin, hair-raising twists and turns, enjoying the scenery and people I meet along the way.
I buckle up, put on my headset and enjoy what the pilot is showing me, where he is taking me, rather than closing my eyes and praying for control over what I do not control.
In short, life gave me a brief glimpse from the mountaintop today—I saw how far I’ve climbed.
With a smile and heartfelt gratitude, I adjusted my mask and dove down into the deep blue water, listening to the sound of my own steady breathing.
It did not waver. I have not heard anything that beautiful in a long time.
And as a sea turtle I have named Jasper swam near me, I am positive he winked at me. Some of us are slower to get to our destination. But the victory lap is just as sweet.