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Breath & Shadow

A Journal of Disability Culture and Literature

Winter 2016

Volume 13 Issue 1

 

 

Seven Lessons I’m Learning From the Ocean

By Wendy Kennar



The ocean has always enchanted me. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a Pisces. Maybe it’s simply that, near the ocean, I experience levels of awe, peace, contentment, and hope that I don’t experience on a regular basis during my day-to-day life.


My daily reality involves living in busy, crowded Los Angeles, bombarded by the sounds of helicopters, ambulances, and car alarms. My daily reality includes my biggest honor as well as my biggest fear-- parenting a seven-year-old son. At home it is so easy to fall victim to the what ifs and should haves. And my daily reality includes trying to manage a chronic medical condition. Surrendering to the unpredictable, uncontrollable nature that is largely the essence of an autoimmune disease.


On my last trip to California’s central coast, I realized that in addition to being a powerful life source, the ocean is also quite the teacher. And on that trip, I think I was finally ready to be a receptive student. Here are the seven lessons the ocean is teaching me, and I’m trying to learn.


  1. Total control doesn’t exist. I can have plans -- I can set up a blanket for a picnic with my son, or I can anticipate a thirty-year teaching career. But ultimately there are factors that are beyond my control that determine what I can and cannot do. And whether it be the weather or my health, I can only do so much. I ultimately have a very limited amount of control over everything.


  1. Life goes on. It’s very easy to get caught up in the “drama of the day” -- the situation that seems all-consuming and all-important. I may be pre-occupied with what my insurance company will and will not pay from my last doctor’s appointment. But whatever the outcome, favorable or not, life goes on. My personal drama isn’t the big picture. Maybe one person’s life doesn’t continue, maybe even a version of my own life doesn’t continue as I thought it would. But life itself does.


  1. Time can’t be manipulated. There is the misconception that I can speed things up-- take a faster route, use a short-cut when fixing dinner, do two things at the same time. But really, it’s all an illusion. The sun will rise and the sun will set when it’s ready, and there’s nothing anyone can do to change it.


  1. Appearances don’t really matter. Yes, I need to be clean and dressed, but really, the size of my jeans or the appearance of additional varicose veins on my legs are largely irrelevant. All that really matters is that I’m here, and healthy enough to be able to experience the moment.


  1. First appearances are not always what they seem. I look out at the ocean, and all I see is water. A pelican. A rock jutting out. Yet, even though I can’t see it all, I know that the ocean is alive, full of marine animals and plants. Things aren’t always evident at the surface, sometimes you have to look deeper. Likewise, being disabled happens in degrees -- it’s not always evident by looking at someone or simply by spotting a wheelchair.


  1. Life is full of ebbs and flows. There are periods of time when life is hard. It’s loud, it’s chaotic, and it feels like things are just crashing into you. Non-stop. But there will also be times when life is more calm, more serene, and life feels as if you’re surrounded by diamonds sparkling in the sun. It’s imperative to remember that even though it may not feel like it now, the calm will come again.


  1. It’s bigger than me. There’s only so much one person can do each day. And what I can accomplish each day may vary. It’s okay for me to modify my daily to-do lists and modify my expectations of myself.


All I can truly impact, and take responsibility for, is my little corner of the world.




Wendy Kennar is the mother of a seven-year-old son. Her writing is inspired by her son and her experiences from her twelve-year teaching career. Her writing has appeared in several publications and anthologies including the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, United Teacher, L.A. Parent, MomsLA.com, and Mamalode.com. She writes a weekly blog at wendykennar.blogspot.com.




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