I Learned 4 Things From Almost Drowning in Maui
What happens when you nearly drown on vacation? Well, you think about what you learned and realize it’s not all that different from dating, of course.
Lucia Griggi Photography
I attempted to boogie board at a beach I’ll call Huge Beach in Maui and almost died. The good news is I didn’t. The bad news is that along with my I’m a strong swimmer ego getting knocked around like a rag doll, so did my actual body. After misjudging a wave, only to have it pummel down on top of me, I somersaulted against the packed, hard sand until I didn’t know which way was up. Later, I would learn that Huge Beach is the number one beach for spinal injuries in Hawaii. The local who watched on told me, “It’s kinda like getting hit by a soft car,”. All I could say was, “Oops”. The next day, as I safely bobbed around in calmer waters, it occurred to me that what I learned in my near-drowning-but-grateful-for-no-spinal-injury moment is not all that different from what I learned in dating.
- Heed warnings.
There were dangerous surf signs. And something written about “bodily harm” on a lifeguard white board that was just a little too far away to read. Looking back, I realize that everyone in the water was local. Then, I misjudged the timing of the wave break, putting me just a bit too far forward. And, like a soft car, it crashed down on me. In dating, the little bells of intuition fire constantly. Yet, so many times I have ignored them. She may have cheated on all her past girlfriends, but I told myself, not me. She may have a violent temper at times, but that won’t happen with me. And so on.
- Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
I found Huge Beach in a guidebook. An excellent guidebook, and one that holds absolutely no responsibility for my stupidity that day. I got my board out of the car because I have boarded a million times before and quite simply, I wanted to know I could conquer the huge swells in Maui. The beach was there. So was my board. So I went in. Rewind a decade or so and I found myself dating a girl after moving to a new city. And, like many other times in my dating life, we dated because we were in the same place at the same time. Because we could. The fallout when it ended wasn’t quite an emotional injury, but the time I spent hanging out with her I really should have been focusing on myself and creating my own life in NewCity.
- Get up and go back in.
I had no air in my lungs when it happened. And so, after my triple sand lindy, my lifeguard training came back to me to find my way to air. I felt my board, still Velcroed to my wrist, floating above me and pushed off to find the surface. After stumbling back to my beach towel, I plopped down, spitting out sandy water, and tried to catch my breath. Awareness of just how bad that could have been washed over me as I took stock of my body. My right arm, where my board was ripped out of my hand, was dangling oddly, but the pain was minimal. After a bit, I left my board and walked back into the water. I knew if I didn’t get in once more I’d never go in again. In dating, there is a time, usually just as the pain of a breakup starts to wear off, where we need to get back out there again. As someone once told me, it’s not about going out to a bar and hitting on a woman to find your next girlfriend, it’s about getting up and going back in.
- Sometimes we just misjudge.
The reality of my boogie boarding fail is that I underestimated the timing of a wave by a fraction of a second. That misjudgment caused the beat down and could have ended my evening very differently than joking about it later over flatbread and beer. In dating, we’re all just doing the best we can. Sometimes we get played. Sometimes we don’t see things as they are, sometimes we ignore warning bells. And we learn. But sometimes, it’s the tiniest misjudgment that leads to our pain, and it’s those misses where we have the opportunity to practice being compassionate with ourselves. Now, when talking about my boarding mishap, I repeatedly try to tell myself it was just a mistake. Oops.
Kim Baker, www.sdwritergirl.com, is a columnist and writer whose work explores lesbian dating in the digital age. Follow her on Twitter @sdwritergirl or subscribe to her newsletter.