Where Are You on the Wave?

I have no nautical experience—slow-moving ferries in calm waters make me seasick! But I kind of get how they work from watching movies like “The Perfect Storm.” So, here’s a wave metaphor for you…

Recognizing the Wave

If you are going through something, like a messy divorce, the sickness of a loved one, a minor squabble at work, or even a craving, it might bring you some peace and serenity if you can perceive the wave.

Pretty much everything has a beginning, a middle, and an end. If we think of this as a wave, the beginning is where things start to become apparent, the middle is where things are “NOT GOOD,” and the end is where the situation resolves itself, in one way or another.

Understanding the Stages

So, say you have had a squabble at work with a colleague and you are at the “NOT GOOD” stage where you are annoyed at her for something she said. It may be that you cannot think about anything other than the fact that she said something to you, and you may be driving yourself (and others) crazy by your obsession with what that person said. You can’t get any work done, and you are not able to think rationally about how to make progress on this issue. You are mad, sad, annoyed, and frustrated, and you are not, by any measure, living a serene life.

What if, when you are in this state, you recognize that you are in a wave? You are at the top of the wave right now, but you recognize that “this, too, shall pass.” If you think about what it was like before the wave started, or what it will be like afterward, you can come to recognize that you are all riled up because you are at the top of the wave, but the wave will eventually go down, and you will move on to other things. That is just the way things go.

No single irksome thing lasts forever. Most things are just waves.

Strategies for Riding the Waves

If you are living a life where there seems to be drama everywhere, it could be that you are at the top of a lot of different waves, kind of like being in the ocean in the middle of a storm.

If you could separate out the individual waves and ride them one at a time, you would be less likely to capsize the entire boat on this journey.

What I am saying here is that if you can think about all the different things that are riling you up right now, and you can separate them out into distinct units, you can perhaps get to a point where you can perceive where you are on the wave with any one of them. For example, where are you in the divorce? Is the worst part yet to come, or are you on the downside at the moment? If you are going up the wave, maybe think about how much your own actions, thoughts, and feelings are contributing to the size of this particular wave. Is there anything you can do to stop feeding the wave so the maximum height gets reduced? (Pro Tip: Have a conversation with yourself, or with a friend, about how fear is feeding the wave.)

If you are at the top of the wave, and you are experiencing maximum emotion, it could just be that you need to remember that these emotions will not last forever. What goes up, must come down. Your brain is in a pretty addled state at the top of the wave, so maybe you just need to pause and give yourself the space to recognize where you are and trust that things will come to a resolution. You may not eventually like all parts of the resolution, but if you compare what it feels like to be at the top of the wave to what it feels like to be back down at the bottom, being at the bottom is always going to be better, even if it is not perfect.

If you are on the way down, you are past the worst of it, and you just need to hang on and let the natural forces of nature take their course.

Once You Can Perceive the Wave…

Can you limit yourself to as few waves as possible? If you are in a big wave right now, can you try to make sure you don’t get yourself involved in any other waves, so you can concentrate on getting to the other side of this big one?

Someone with a surfing or sailing background could really make something of this metaphor. I don’t have knowledge of either of those fields.

In any case, maybe the goal is to live a life where you are looking contentedly, and from an objective position, at concentric ripples in a pond rather than trying to surf or sail in an ocean storm.