The ocean is probably my favorite metaphor for life in general. It covers--well, almost everything. :)
With rising water and violent seas all over the place right now, people I know are talking about sinking, swimming, drowning or trying to come up for a gulp of air. Some of us just float. Some are trying to figure out how to enjoy the ride. I have recently found myself in what I used to refer to as "The Washing Machine of Life"--which is a mental/emotional/physical set of circumstances that resemble being sucked underneath a big wave, tumbled ferociously until there is no sense of direction, dragged across the bottom (and any protruding objects) hair-first, and force-fed sand and seawater to choke on (and potentially vomit up) later.
What I just described is an amateur attempt at body-surfing, or simply being caught in a strange current or extra-big wall of water. Yes, I speak from experience. :)
Early this week, I talked to my younger brother, who used to spend quite a lot of time board-surfing near San Diego, back in the day. I was in the middle of crying out my own ocean, walking around in tight circles with the phone pressed to my ear, explaining how I was simply overwhelmed with Everything. Too much, I said. Can't breathe, I said. Goddammit, when will this end?! Aaaaargh! I can't do this anymore!
My brother listened well, as he always does (bless his bright, shining light!), and dropped a piece of advice, which I will paraphrase here:
"I know you've body-surfed, Sis...it's usually in shallower water, and when you get caught in a wave and tumbled, you sort of expect to be spit out on the beach, or close to it. But when you're out in deeper water on a board, and something happens so that you lose it, the wave tumbles you around underwater--but sometimes there's no bottom. If you try to swim out of it (and I know you're good at swimming out of things), you can be swimming in the wrong direction, because you don't know where 'up' is. People can panic and sometimes drown. So when that happens, the best thing to do is relax and go limp. Go limp, because you will float to the surface."
A hush fell inside of me for a moment, which is always a good indication that I am paying close enough attention that wisdom can penetrate the chaos. I laughed a little. Go limp.
I took it to heart, and for the last several days, have repeated it like a mantra in those moments when I felt like my mind was breaking and lungs were bursting. Of course, it's about relaxing and trusting in a natural buoyancy to bring me to a place of vitality and sanity. Going with the flow, the Tao, the natural way of things, the greater will, the uncommon sense of a larger picture. Trusting is incredibly difficult when it seems that your very existence is threatened...everything in a person wants to fight. But I have done all I can do, to the best of my ability, in the most responsible ways possible...so now...letting go.