This is a pretty cool story.
I recently took a trip to the Florida Keys with my kids. Living in Florida usually lends itself to a lot of water sport activities, but ironically, we don’t get to the beach as much as one would think. I guess it’s like how New Yorkers rarely get to the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building. Our big travel usually takes us north, not south. So instead of doing the Disney/Universal/Sea World thing, I made the radical decision to hang out at the beach in the Keys.
We got a beautiful house right on the water, and I purchased all the requisite equipment – shovels, buckets, goggles, and snorkel equipment. We drove on the 7 mile bridge and stopped to look for shells right off the road. But the best part by far was renting wave runners.
It was just me and the five kids so I had to keep coming back to the dock to make sure everyone had a turn. Mind you, I hadn’t been on one in a really long time and I was terrified, to say the least. I started off with my 6-year-old and I am lucky I didn’t get a heart attack when we went out. I imagined him flying off the seat, slipping out of his life vest. Every time I turned, my heart dropped and I panicked. It was the longest 10 minutes and when we pulled into the dock for the next kid’s turn, I told the owner that I didn’t think I was going to be able to stay out for the whole hour.
But he just smiled and set my 10-year-old in front of me and off we went. Again I was panicked, sure we would run into the boats that were a mile away. I imagined what they would say about me. “How irresponsible! What kind of mother is she?”
When I returned to the dock, my hand was numb from gripping the handles so tightly.
“You need to relax,” the man said. “Just have fun. You’ll be fine.”
I took his advice, took a deep breath, and pulled out into the Gulf of Mexico again.
Pretty soon, I was relaxed. I let go of the fear of falling and drowning and just took off. My 12-year-old son was with me and I even let him drive. I started telling him what the man on the dock said to me. Relax. Let go. You’ll be fine.
It was an incredible experience, just me and my kids and the Gulf. There were dolphins and pelicans and we took off into the sun. My son felt like James Bond. My daughter was excited that she was able to actually “drive” while her mother held on for dear life. But the best was when I returned to the dock for the last time. The hour was up and everyone had a turn. The man at the dock plucked my kids off the wave runner and then unceremoniously kicked it away from the dock while I was still on it. I looked at him, but he just laughed.
“Oh no!” he said. “Looks like you’re drifting away. Better go take 15 minutes to yourself and come back after.”
I couldn’t believe it.
I pulled out of the lagoon to the cheers of my kids and peeled out into the Gulf of Mexico. This time it was just me. No one to worry about or hold onto. I drove straight ahead and soon the Florida shore seemed farther than the shore of Texas. I turned corkscrews and stood up, pushing the throttle as far as it would go. I couldn’t believe that I had been so scared in the beginning, so paralyzed to even try to let go and enjoy. I couldn’t believe that I had even thought of canceling the hour and not doing this.
It was exhilarating.
When I returned to the dock my kids were waiting to give me high fives and congratulate me. I thanked the man at the dock, collected everyone, and went off to the pool to hang out and swim.
Those fifteen minutes were not just a simple gift. They highlighted a simple truth about fear. I wasn’t doing something so monumental. I mean, it ‘s a wave runner for crying out loud. But the “what-ifs” and “what could happens” and the “oh-my-God-my- husband-will-kill-mes” were practically crippling. I would have gotten off that machine after 10 minutes swearing that there was no way I could go on.
But I didn’t. And when I got those last moments to myself, it was more than me running free on the water. It was me embracing that small victory and realizing that I can conquer anything.
And man, it was awesome.