This photograph is of big wave surfer Greg Noll in 1964 at Pipeline in Hawaii, taken by John Severson. I don't surf. I think surfing is really cool and I've always wanted to learn, but I'm also a total chicken and not the world's greatest swimmer, so I've never learned. But I like the idea of surfing, and I've loved Greg Noll since I saw Riding Giants back in 2005 (I even blogged about it back then!). This picture appeals to me, though, not just because it's a surfing picture or because it's Greg Noll. I love it because over the years I've come to impart meaning to it that it was probably never meant to have (but isn't that what art is for anyway?).
The ocean and waves, huge waves like the kind that Greg Noll used to surf, can be crushing and unpredictable. They can be enormous. But obviously people surf them because it's a challenge and because it can be fun and it's an adrenaline rush, and I'm sure there are other reasons too. Over the years, this photo has come to represent, to me, massive, potentially crushing challenges and my desire to face them with grace and aplomb. When I think of scary things I have to face, when I think of The Wave, I think of Greg Noll, a big guy but small before the wall of water, surveying the task with his board on his shoulder and his hand on his hip. Sometimes The Wave represents something terrible that I never wanted to face: infertility or my dad's cancer. Other times, it's an exciting but nonetheless daunting challenge, like my career or impending motherhood.
Last week, once I finally came home and got to sleep in my own bed again, I had a couple of bad dreams. In one of them, Jeeves abandoned me to hang out with other people and left me to find my own way in a large arena. When I woke up, I was mad at him. Don't you love when that happens? When you're mad at someone you love for something they did in a dream? Jeeves's work has been really crazy this month. In many ways he has been there for me during this whole debacle with my dad, but for the big stuff - taking Dad to the hospital, taking him home from the hospital, getting him into rehab, Jeeves couldn't be there, he had to work. Jeeves's job is what allows me to work in my cushy, flexible job that in turn let's me drop everything and take care of Dad. So I can't hate on it, even when I hate having to handle this stuff alone.
Still, I guess a small part of me was mad that he wasn't physically there with me even though I knew he was there, supporting me in spirit. Those few days taking care of Dad and getting him into rehab were incredibly lonely. But no one can ride on The Wave with you or for you. You have to do it yourself. In some of the biggest challenges we have to face, we have to face them alone. It's nice to know that the people we love support us, have our back, but we're all going to deal with things in life that we ultimately have to tackle on our own.
Dad has been doing incredibly well in rehab and he's going to be released this Saturday. I am both happy for him and terrified. I have always struggled with uncertainty and so much of life right now is uncertain. Will Dad be able to handle living independently? What would happen if Dad got sick and needed to go to the hospital while I'm in labor? How much time will we have left? Can I be both a good daughter and a good mother? Can I let go a little and accept that I have almost no control over any of this? Can I just enjoy this pregnancy?
This is my wave right now. And I'll do my best to ride it, not to let it crush me under.