A few years ago we were in Hawaii watching a group of young men windsurfing. It was wonderful to see how they attacked the huge waves, jumping or crashing through them for a thrilling ride.
They seemed to fly, hitting the waves, apparently without ever falling down. This amazed us. Most of the windsurfers we had ever seen spent the majority of the their time falling down, struggling to get back onto their boards, then fighting to stay upright.
It seemed impossible that these young men never fell, so we watched them more closely. What we saw at first seemed like magic, because their movements were so swift and smooth. They did, indeed, fall. In fact, because they weren’t afraid of falling they moved freely, ventured more risk, and fell a lot. Their falls, we saw, were a graceful part of the ride. As they hit the water they swung their big sails toward the sky, and their bodies and boards lifted as if by magic onto the next big wave without missing a beat.
So it seems, the secret in windsurfing is not how to stay up, but mastering the art of getting back up when you are down.
What a great metaphor for mental health! In windsurfing, as in good mental health, no one can stay up all the time. We all have times when we get fragmented or knocked into the water, so to speak.
But the secret in mental health, as in windsurfing, is in knowing how to get up again rapidly. Many people expend most of their energy trying to stay up and that is impossible. Relationships are the same way. Working on them constantly is exhausting; learning how to get back up is much more exciting. With a little practice you can learn to “surf” your own well-being and that of your relationship.
From Jack Rosenberg and Beverly Kitaen-Morse authors of The Intimate Couple