Catching the next wave

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied

We're all somewhat and somehow ruled and defined by our own self-limiting beliefs, writes Liz Breslin.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin
The song spills around in my head, looping like it's never going to run out of chorus. "You can't always get what you want. You can't always get what you wa-ant ... though you try so hard ... you get what you ne-e-ed.'' It's a workday morning and, feet and fingers red raw with cold, I'm wondering if what I need is a good hard reality check.

It's October, in Southland. The rain is sliding in sideways, the wind whipping crests off the waves. I'm in the stupid zone where they're breaking over me, but I've got words of warning in my ears. I'm wearing a five-four wetsuit and an extra neoprene top. My surf board is approximately the size of a pilot whale. A month ago I was floundering around in the tropics, fending off sunburn, dodging plastic in the water. Lucky doesn't half start to cover it - all this space, this opportunity.

It's not just the cold that's confusing me. My body's a lot slower than my mind to make sense of any environment. And nobody's ever going to see the same wave twice. Hence the joy and frustration. My attempts in the surf are a constant source of family mirth, although I love their laughter, their tactful coaching and those memes about the best surfer in the water being the one who enjoys themselves the most. Because who am I kidding, pitting myself against the elements on the obtuse side of 40? I could be reading, or take up macrame. Still, at least I know it can't be a midlife crisis, since 40 is the new 20 and whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it's always ourselves we find in the sea is only a line from e e cummings.

You can't always get what you wa-ant, and I don't know why I want it so hard. I don't know what I'm trying to prove, or to who. It's not like I buy into the hype of fit, freckled muscle-flexers saving the oceans while wearing brands with dodgy ethical origins, clocking up carbon miles on their swell conquests. Much. And yet it's more than the salt that's making me itchy for in.

From the safe side of the water, I see tiny dark stick figures make zig zag shapes on green faces. It looks impossible, amazing, breathtaking, elating. It looks like it will never be me. Though I tell myself I try so hard, I know I could always go more superlative - further in, further in - and the range of excuses that stop me are as real a battle as the breakers that smash me as I inexpertly dive like a geriatric duck. I'm too old, uncoordinated, urban, foreign and fearful. And yet, here I am.

I don't think I'm alone in this. Even, or especially, when breaking moulds, we're all somewhat and somehow ruled and defined by our own self-limiting beliefs. Like, I totally concede that I am the physically awkward laughing stock of the family. And maybe that belief doesn't always serve me well. But waves are as honest and beautiful a battleground for working that out as any. Because the Magic Laws of Delusional Universal Attraction only work if you really really, really, really, really want something and you can really, really, really, really, really imagine it happening. When you don't win Lotto, see dolphins, sink that pool ball or get on a wave it's because you haven't held, clearly and really, really, really enough, those things and your winningness over them as an absolute done deal.

You get what you need and I feel the need to play this through, in spite of or because of all of my physical and mental landlock. Over mind and over time. A pull that is more than tidal. A want that is more than fear.


The will is free, the body subject to physiological determinism. I'd say 'homeostasis in all things', but they'd put me away for being silly on MH Awareness Week. :)