Molly Cohn, Camp Shai’s Assistant Director of Youth Services, wrote this beautiful piece for our JCC Denver Diaries series in response to the global pandemic.
When I lived in Peru, I got it in my head that I needed to learn to surf.
Despite being very un-athletic, despite not knowing the language, despite a deep fear of the ocean, I felt like surfing absolutely needed to be a part of my life. Not surprisingly, I am a terrible surfer. I fall immediately and constantly, and not in the cute, graceful way, but in that did-she-break-something? way.
Ever the generous teacher, my friend told me that when you fall off the board, the trick is to cover your head and let the wave carry you. The more you fight it, the more you’ll get turned around, and the harder it is to resurface. Terrified by the thought of relinquishing control, I never let go, and instead fought the current with everything I had, every surf ending in exhaustion and defeat. One day I was in a wave far too tall and fast for me and I was thrown off my board with a velocity that jerked the leash clear off my ankle. There was no choice but to cover my head and let the wave take me. I did, and though I was scraped against rocks and coral, I surfaced and was okay.
The world is changing minute to minute and sometimes, I can’t distinguish which way is up. I spend hours clicking through articles while anxiety, fear, and grief build slowly in my muscles. Because I am human, I am constantly trying to grapple at possibilities and next steps and trying to make sense of any of it. And because there is nothing to make sense of, I find little relief. But then I FaceTime with my mom and brother, I play the ukulele, I make silly videos for camp. I come back to the things that matter and that I can control. I practice gratitude for the hot coffee in my hand and the sun shining in through my windows. I allow the people whom I love and who love me to hold me up and I do the same for them. In those moments, I relinquish my illusion of control and let the wave take me. This wave we’re riding is tall and it’s fast and every one of us is on it. It’s painful, unpredictable, terrifying, and largely out of our control. But while the wave takes us, we can hold each other up and we can cover one another’s heads.