I wrote this excerpt in my journal nearly six years ago after a harrowing—and enlightening—experience on the Pacific Ocean. Stand up paddling nearly four miles in the open ocean, I suddenly found myself engulfed in fog. At this time in my life, I was deep in trauma and didn’t know where to turn. What a metaphor. I ask you to lean in to the following words and reflect upon what is possible when you choose to listen and believe in yourself.
My heart pounding, I thrust my paddle deep into the Pacific Ocean-propelling my stand up paddle board further out to sea. With every stroke forward, I imagined my anger rising from the depths of my soul, heaving its way through my wounds and releasing into the water which surrounded me. Tears began to shed as I connected to the pain within my heart. Everything began to hurt. The muscles within my arms from pushing the water with every stroke. My legs from standing on this board which was carrying me out to sea. And still, my heart … oh, my heart. The pain within my heart was unbearable and overshadowed any pain within my seething muscles.
Sweat began to pour down my brow and seeped through the back of my shirt. My goal, my impending goal, was to paddle out to the F buoy: nearly 4 miles off shore. By then, I knew my body would be fully drained and my mind would be granted more clarity. I needed to discharge my anger so deeply that nothing was left but silence within me. I needed that rage which kept thundering in my head to go away-that voice which kept asking, “How could he? How could he have lied and betrayed me with other men for most of our marriage? What did I do to deserve this?” I needed to quietly think. I needed to find my inner strength, confidence, and willingness to move forward. I needed clarity.
Calm. The ocean was so calm. As I paddled, I gazed deep into the big blue, not sure what I was looking for. There was a stillness within the water that granted me serenity and peace. This stillness contradicted the storm which was brewing and taking shape within me. Coming upon the F buoy in the near distance, I glanced at my watch to notice that I only had a few tenths of a mile left. Forging through the pain, I hadn’t noticed what was occurring around me.
Looking up, I suddenly realized the stillness of the ocean was flooded by fog.
How metaphorical of my life? Just as my board had been pushing through the beauty of the ocean calm, I thought my life-until now-was nearly perfect. A husband that I adored and supported through anything. Three amazing children. An incredible home filled with laughter, parties and Holidays. Just as this thick fog had enveloped me within minutes, my life had changed in one swift moment on Thanksgiving Eve, 2013 when I found out the truth of my marriage was not as it seemed. I could no longer go back to the way it was. My only option was to find my way back to the start, to myself, and my happiness.
Alone, standing in the fog on my board, I cried to the depths of my core. Allowing my sadness to seep from the depths of my pain, I stood alone. Fog, stillness and peace surrounded me. You could hear the lapping of the water on my board, though you could no longer see more than 10 feet within sight. So silent and so dangerous. My senses heightened as I worried about impending boats running me over. Boats, sharks, what if I float out to sea?
And then it happened. A little voice within me, that beautiful and resonant woman’s voice spoke from a place of courage and strength. It spoke so clearly, so firmly, within my head and heart.
“Just as Pocahontas found her way within shifting currents, you will find your place back to the beginning. To the harbor where you launched your board. To the happiness within your life. Trust yourself and your surroundings, Sara. Notice the currents in the ocean. Notice the wind on your body. Notice the swells and waves. Allow what is within and around you to guide you from where you began. You can do this.”
Wiping the tears from my eyes, a smile began to replace my saddened face. Courage overshadowed fear. Love replaced anger. Self worth overcame self sabotage. Turning my board, I could see nothing but white before me. No mountains, no outline of the beach, no rocky point which was my typical guide back to the mouth of the harbor. What I did have was trust. Trust within myself and what knowledge I had within me.
Using every bit of strength bubbling from deep within, I began paddling back to land. Back to home. Back to where it all began. Within my head, I replayed my mantra over and over. “You are Pocahontas. You are one with the ocean currents and swells. You are Pocahontas. You are one with the ocean currents and swells….” My strength continuing to overpower my fear, I felt so at peace. Mile after mile, I trusted that I was heading towards shore. That I was heading towards freedom. That I was heading towards a “new Sara”.
Looking up for a momentary glance, I felt that I wasn’t alone. I felt God’s grace beside me. I felt an unexplained Spirit touching my soul and healing me from within. All of a sudden, I began to see action in the water beneath me. Little whirlpools of water began taking shape surrounding my board. What is that? My heart racing, I trusted that God would send me some sign of protection, though I had no idea in what form. Continuing to power through, suddenly a dolphin appeared out of the depths of the great blue water. Swimming alongside my board, he was leaping and playing-he was guiding me towards shore, protecting me along the way. Looking down upon him, I acknowledged his existence. “Hey there, little guy! Did you come to guide me home?” As if he were instructing others to follow, a whole pod-one after the other-began to appear. And here I am, me and them, together moving as one towards the shoreline. I felt so at peace. I felt as though I was Pocahontas.
Be present. Be one with that which surrounds you. Trust that you will prevail and find your place in life. How metaphorical of life? I was here, at this moment, at this time for a reason. I was lost in the fog … and now I would be found. A deeper, more meaningful existence would ensue. I knew and believed in those words which continued to be heard in my heart and within my head.
Paddling through this peaceful presence, belief in myself became truth when I heard the bell on the harbor buoy, ever so beautifully cutting through the thickness of the fog with it’s loud “dong… dong… dong…” At that moment, I realized … I had guided myself right back to the mouth of the harbor in the foggiest of conditions ever imageable. I did it because I believed in me.
I am safe. I can trust me. I know my way forward.
Pulling my board up to the dock, I felt like a new woman. I was transformed in such a way that I felt different from within. Experiences teach you meaningful lessons about life. Within two hours alone in the fog on the Pacific Ocean, I found deeper, more meaningful nuggets of truth, inspiration and hope. Even today, I continue to feed those nuggets by noticing the littlest of things around me. Strengthening my “Pocahontas muscle”-I know that I can guide myself through anything.
There are moments of failure, and through that failure we have our greatest lessons.
There are also moments of successes, and through those successes, we find what we are truly capable of.
I love + believe in every one of you.
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