under the wave

Have you ever been stuck under a wave in the ocean? I’m not talking like Moby Dick-level battle or wrestling with a shark, but just one of those waves that kind of sneaks up on you and you maybe lose your feet out from under you, and then all of a sudden you’re kind of getting knocked around and everything ends up upside down. THAT kind of getting stuck under a wave. 

I’ve been on the struggle bus the last few days. I got some not-so-great news, and it set in motion a series of reactions that totally knocked me off kilter. In fact, it took me a few days to even realize what was happening. My usual energy was lacking, and while I am always the first to love a good laugh, those seemed to be in short supply. I started freaking out about things I thought I had processed and resolved, and old, unhelpful thoughts suddenly popped up out of seemingly nowhere. I forgot some of my equipment for an engagement at which I was speaking, and text messages were piling up because I couldn’t seem to get back to anyone with any clarity. Make a decision? HA! Not happening. 

I started up my car this morning and immediately snapped the radio off. It was too much. I needed silence. I closed my eyes (don’t worry, I hadn’t started driving yet) and leaned my head back. I was totally under the wave.

It’s interesting because we often associate this type of feeling with something that is WRONG. Yes, WRONG, spelled in all capital letters. But the truth is, sometimes we just end up under the wave for a million tiny reasons. Or, hell, even one tiny reason. No justification is required here! So what’s helpful when we find ourselves there? For me, the first thing is to simply stop thrashing around. I’m a pro at self-investigation. Why am I not feeling normal? What’s going on? What are my unhelpful thoughts that need to be sorted out and reframed? Do I need a walk? A bath? A coffee? A friend? 

And sometimes that is just plain not helpful at all. Case in point, all that self-reflection was just making me feel more exhausted, and the self-recrimination I was heaping on myself on top of it was also totally not beneficial. I needed to stop flailing around, trying to right myself. Instead, what felt best was simply to acknowledge what was going on, create as much space as possible for myself to continue to experience it, and then let myself eventually come to the surface once the wave was passed. Like so many other things, this falls into the “says easy, does hard” category for me. I understand that intellectually, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give permission to my friend, partner, family member, literally anyone on the street to do the same. But for me? A little trickier sometimes. 

And that’s when it’s helpful for me to remember to just repeat the same strategy! I was already under the wave, and now a second one – not letting myself just be under the wave – was also crashing on top. So, sit. Quiet. Exhale. Allow. And then repeat like crazy. 

I’m not quite out from under the wave just yet, but I’m no longer fighting it. It doesn’t mean I’m wallowing, either, or gulping salt water down like I’m getting paid to do it, but it does look like going to bed earlier, letting my partner know how I’m doing, texting a friend for a boost, and listening to podcasts and music that make me feel good. It also looks like rescheduling meetings that can wait, doing some breathing exercises in the car before I go into the next engagement, and simply asking over and over, “How can I be more gentle with myself right now?” 

I’m going to keep floating as much as I can until I can get back to the surface.

- Nicole



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