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March 10, 2022

You Told me Many Things—but I Stopped Listening to You.

Yesterday I wanted to go surfing.

My boyfriend picked me and the boys up in his van, and we drove down to the beach. The conditions were perfect; there were surf schools in the water and the sky was blue.

We quickly unloaded all our stuff onto the sand, the kids started playing, and I put on my wetsuit.

I went to play around in the waves while my boyfriend went surfing first. Then, as he was coming out of the water with the board, you suddenly told me I couldn’t do it. You told me that the waves were too big and that I was too weak. You told me I would never be a surfer.
My boyfriend said it was my turn.

We were standing in shallow water, and he wanted me to put the leash on, then go out with the board like I’ve done before.

This wasn’t my first time, or even second.

But you told me not to put the leash on because then I’d be attached to the board and not able to let go. I was surprised. It’s a good thing to be attached to the board. The leash is worn for safety.

He wanted us to walk out to beyond where the waves were breaking. You made me stop where they were breaking. It was still shallow…there were mostly small waves with some slightly bigger sets, but not too big.

You told me it was too deep, that the waves were too big, and I was too small.

My boyfriend reminded me how to lie on the board and suggested I paddle out past the breaking waves, while he stood next to me.

Yes, it was that shallow.

You told me not to get on, that I couldn’t control the board. I tried to ignore you, but your voice became louder than anything, and almost overwhelmed me.

I told my boyfriend I couldn’t do it.

Then you, the one who told me to tell him that, then told me that I was letting him down. In a moment of defiance, I got onto the board and rode one wave into the shore…and I loved it.

And you disappeared while I was on the board.

But as I started going back out, there you were tapping me on the shoulder again. My boyfriend suggested I ride five waves in. I wanted to do more. You told me no.

You shouted at me until I was shaking and trying not to cry.

In the end, my boyfriend tried everything he could to encourage me back into the surf. He even held my hand, but there you were tugging me back the other way.

He eventually went off on his own to surf, and I stayed on the shore. You told me that he was upset and disappointed in me. You told me I had ruined his day and that he would not want to bring me surfing anymore. You told me he might even leave me one day because I wasn’t good enough.

I checked on the kids, who aside from the usual sibling disruptions, were happy enough making things out of sand and rocks. I stripped off the top half of my wetsuit but felt so cold and alone in my bikini, so I wrapped myself in a towel and went to sit down at the shore and watch the surfers.

I cried, and then noticed one of my children behind me. He asked me why I was crying, and I just said I was sad because I couldn’t surf. He told me I could just try again next time, then he ran off to fight with his brother about the ownership of a blue bucket.

No big deal.

I watched a girl surfing, around the same size as me. She made it look so effortless. I wished that I could be so carefree. You told me I would never surf like her.

Every time she fell, she got back up again.

You didn’t have anything to say about that, and I thought maybe you didn’t notice, so I kept that thought to myself.

Every time she fell, she got back up again.

I told my boyfriend about you today. I told him you were there with us on the beach, and I didn’t know how to make you go away. He told me he knew you, that he had met you before. That you never go away, but if we ignore you, you get smaller.

If we don’t listen to you, your voice gets quieter, until we stop hearing you.

We gave you a name.

Self-doubt.

You can come with us next time we go surfing. You can come and watch.

But stay out of my way.

~

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