Fixing and Escaping: The story of a surfing nun wannabe

Once a year the gates are opened for me by sheer good fortune to leave my life and go to a beach near our home, about an hour away.  It is always a wonderful time, regardless of the weather. I get a chance to sit with thoughts and figure things out a little.  Read.  Work on a project.  Explore.

I have always had an eclectic and interesting array of friends.  I may be secretly proud that just about all my closest friends from high school have grown into truly fascinating people, gazillionaires, artists, parents of different stripe.  One friend with whom I shared youth had a nickname which was approximately “Crazy __”.  Not crazy in a pejorative sense, more in a unpredictable sense, a creative sense, an intelligent firehose sense. Okay, maybe just a little crazy in the conventional way. Life was never boring with this friend.  She was and is beautiful, which made things more interesting with her around.

One time, my friend came to me when life wasn’t going good.  It hurt me to see her in pain, I wanted to help.  She didn’t want this, and she called me a “Fixer”, but not in a good way.

Picture of the 1966 first edition dust jacket for The Fixer.

This book is very good, recommend highly, won a Pulitzer in 1966.

Presently I remembered her word that she spoke “fixer”, like “loser”.   I wondered… “fixer”?  I wanted to “help” people close to me to be (perhaps my version of) resolved, healthy.  Positive relationships, healthy choices, etc.  Somehow I could do that for them by being loving, nurturing, stating clearly problems (are you laughing?  this might be the time).  I realized, she was right.  Only problem being was that (looking around furtively as the big secret is disclosed) these people, they didn’t want to be fixed.  They just wanted to keep on as they were, brokenly ambling toward a goal that vaguely heralded success.  Like most of us.  Like me.

Flummoxed and surrounded by people I care for who were broken, refusing to be loved into what I thought was “healthier”, I scratched my head.  Stress, anger, frustration all laying dormant but flaring like spots on the sun when circumstances lined up just right.

So then the next best thing I do:  Escape.  Very good at that I am.  Honed the technique from age 16 or 17 on to marriage.  Wait, I am married, and I have precious, beautiful babes, escape… escape?  It is a bit more complicated now, isn’t it?

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One time I metaphored that my current life was like having a pretty decent little trailer that had been crashed attached to a really awesome but not totally mechanically sound 1970’s Ford 150.  The trailer needed to get somewhere and we were the truck to do it.  The trailer, of top quality, had been beaten down a bit, overloaded some and had some quirks.  Our family as the F150, was superlative in its own way, but not a new SUV, we were cool and we mostly worked.  Mechanics had managed to ameliorate the issues, but neither the trailer nor the truck was to be entirely repaired.  Sometimes it felt like the mechanics just really didn’t give a crap.  Soon we would deliver this little trailer to its destination, but in the meantime, we were chugging a lot on the shoulder, hood up, tools out or going very, very slow.  It sort of drove me crazy.  Neither to be fixed, nor escaped from.  God help me.

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The first thing I did today was to take my extremely happy puppy to the beach a short bike ride from where we are spending the weekend.  Puppy was so patient with me as I showered, breakfasted and dressed, sitting quietly, staring at me, trying not to jump up and say “Let’s GO!” …then stopped to get a coffee that I ended up chugging just so she could get her frolic on.

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We went to a beach where there are so many things to see and do, my favorite thing is to just watch everything happening.  Dory boats, dune climbers, families clambering, children digging, people exploring.  Happy puppy got her frolic on, leaping from one slippery kelp and barnacle covered rock to another.  I watched surfers.  Oh, I wanted to be them.  I wanted to do what they did.  I wanted to stretch out in preparation on the beach in my wetsuit.  I wanted to paddle out there on my board.  I wanted to ride waves in.  I wanted to have my whole world, for just a short time, be about the excitement of riding in those waves, whether standing or laying on the board.  I have watched them enough times, as they fall sideways or front ways into the white froth surf, as they ride in the curl of the wave.  As they flick their board back to face the sea and head out for the next wave.  How could any part of the rest of the day concern me if I was able to do that for a couple hours a day several times a week?  I contemplated doing it on my own, but having pursued goals alone enough, I knew and know, it is so much better well-accompanied.

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I watched them for an hour or more, the sun glinting off the waves among which they shimmied, crashed and glided.  Transfixed on them, imagining myself, at least starting by riding the waves in on my tummy until some day I felt that I could stand on that board.  Even if it wasn’t until I was 67.  I watched a trim, man with a full head of grey hair and a not totally normal looking tan walking in to the ocean.  Like him.  Where are all the old lady surfers, anyway?

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It seemed to me that God might love to watch surfers as well, as they played and took pleasure in some of his best work.

And what of the nun part?  Well, I guess I do sometimes wish my days were kept apart from the messes of the world, as it sometimes seems is the case for nuns.  I wish I could just focus on where I begin and end and at least be ready, solid and complete before the game of dodgeball called life began.

For now I get to sit in the mess.  Not to be fixed, nor escaped.  Though perhaps I’ll rent a wetsuit and a board…

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