The waves continue to smash their way in, too big for me. The crud clogs my head. My belly exhibits the signs of middle-age. My resolution to “do everything right” deteriorates into “do everything” and then simply “do what’s necessary at this moment.”

But that’s unduly whiny. Besides, the swell’s due to drop and even if I am currently full of phlegm and hacking up half a lung, some saltwater should clear that right up. I missed aikido this week (only my second week!), but the promise of future classes awaits. Right off, the philosophy guiding the physical part of aikido mirror surfing. You accept the force coming at you, but move in such a way as to use it, work with it, transfer its power to yourself or perhaps step past it avoiding injury as it dissipates. I’m sure I’m oversimplifying, but I can’t help but relate these ideas to how one learns to maneuver in the ocean. In the water, we find channels flowing out to see to assist us to the outside. We learn to paddle parallel to shore when those same outgoing currents make getting to the beach impossible. We are faced with being caught inside breaking waves and must duck under while the force thunders over (this, I do not do well). We see swells of energy looming overhead and step into them, riding and absorbing that energy, emerging stronger than we started. We cannot control the power of the ocean, but we can learn it, defend ourselves against it, accept it, absorb it.

I’m taking aikido because Kaylee wants someone to be with her; Chelsea gave it a go, but isn’t interested enough to commit. Years ago, I took part of a semester at HSU, but had to drop school when I talked my way into the job at the Eye. I’m grateful to have the chance to try again.

Even though, technically, I’m going to support Kaylee, the truth is, I’m not sure I’d go on my own. Being in a room with a bunch of people I don’t know, trying to do something I have little idea how to do triggers my shy side. I’m embarrassed at my lack of skill. I don’t want to bother people. My clumsiness makes me cringe. But with my brave daughter there, I have no alternative but to persevere. This isn’t the first time my kids – so much more secure in themselves than I was – have inspired me. Often when I’m out in the water, wondering if I should try for another wave after wiping out, I think of them. I’ve seen them up to bat hundreds of times now. They’re all good players, but in a game where hitting the ball a third of the time is considered great, they’ve often left the mound with the call of that third “Strike!” ringing in their ears. Somehow, they shake it off and go back and try again, inning after inning, year after year. And they kick ass plenty, which they wouldn’t do if they’d given up the way I would have as a kid.

I’ve seen them play in howling winds and in drizzle. In sunshine that blinds them and makes them want to collapse from heat (look, Fortuna’s real hot when you’re used to playing in Cutten!). Against pitchers who throw the ball so fast and hard it’ll leave a goose egg for days if it hits you. Against catchers who’ll happily body slam them as they steal home. They make mistakes sometimes – and sometimes they don’t. But I love them for trying, for keeping a game face on no matter how frustrated they might feel inside, for persevering until those moments of triumph happen. The thrill evident on their faces with a big hit, running catch, stunning out or successful steal – I feel it surge through my body, too. So as I’m sitting in the channel, bumping by the jetty rocks, wondering if I can hold my own among the line-up, unwilling to take another pounding, I think of my kids, of those moments, and pep-talk myself into another round.

And it’s always worth it.