Life Lessons – Control and Support

Canoes on what would have been

Canoes on what would have been “race day.”

For those who have been following the blog, you are probably aware that the majority of my blog posts have focused largely on my father and the friends I have made throughout this journey. I hope you don’t mind that I share some of my own personal experiences that may not directly relate to homelessness, but are still very important to me and my life journey. So… here it goes.

About 10 months ago, not too long after my father finally got off the streets, I found myself emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. The weight of my worries slowly eased back, and I knew it was time to really start taking care of myself again.

I had been surfing a lot during the time that my father was homeless — it was a space where I could let go. Being in the ocean has always been therapeutic… a way to reconnect, recharge, and reflect. I love the ocean for the life it gives and the respect it deserves. And so I knew that I wanted to spend more time growing on a personal level by being connected to the water.

I decided it was a good time to start paddling again.

I had started paddling a couple of years before law school, but for various reasons it didn’t work out. I never had the opportunity to race, but what I remembered most was the experience of bonding with my team. It was a spiritual journey back then — full of the unique challenges that comes with team sports. And I learned a lot about myself in the process.

So when I started to paddle again, I knew I was seeking a space to recharge, reconnect, reflect, and to grow with others… sisters, really. I also wanted the physical challenge after having spent those two years feeling so emotionally drained. And so far, the experience has been everything I had hoped for and more.

The view from the plane ride leaving Honolulu.

The view from the plane ride leaving Honolulu.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in the Na Wahine O Ke Kai long distance race. Every person I know who has crossed the Kaiwi Channel has shared their own unique stories about overcoming their “mental walls,” and pushing themselves physically in ways they have never done before. For many, they also speak about the spiritual journey and the feeling of being connected to the water. I have also heard many women share their sentiments of feeling like an “insignificant speck,” in what seems like an endless ocean. Women paddlers from all over the world train for this… our team trained for this.

I learned a lot about myself through paddling in these several months. I embraced my physical limitations, my mental barriers, and how to push through them by also easing back. Much like the journey I had with my father, I had to learn what it means to not have control. When the NBC photojournalist flew to Hawai`i for our interview about my father, I had mentioned my feelings about paddling and what that has done for me. It never made it in the final edit, but it really means a lot to me because of the mental process I went through during the season.

My race cap with names and reminders.

My race cap with names and reminders.

I thought about my dad. I thought about him sleeping behind those boxes. I thought about the pain and suffering my grandmother had gone through in her final days of life. I thought about how far my dad has come, his laugh, and his will to survive. These thoughts and feelings helped me to push past those mental and physical barriers. I also thought about my friends, the children in Kaka’ako, the talks I had with people on any given day.

So it was incredibly disappointing to hear that the race was canceled due to strong winds and treacherous surf. I wanted to cross the channel for them, with their names written on my cap, and Derrick’s words, “Kulia i ka nu’u” under the bill. It was hard to swallow the disappointment, to cast egos aside and really consider the safety aspect. The race had only been canceled once before in race history… it was a big deal.

Strive to the summit.

Strive to the summit.

It is interesting to revisit the feelings of disappointment in this way. To know and accept that certain things, namely Mother Earth, is beyond our control. I had wanted to embark on this spiritual journey through paddling, with the intention that I would bond and connect with others who are on a similar but different journey. Despite the let-down of not being able to race, I have learned what it means to stay humbled by the ocean… by life, really. And to be okay with accepting other mutual support.

I had written about control and support a lot throughout this blog. I know it has been in a different capacity, but I do feel that it is all connected in my life. I had to learn (and am still learning) what it means to accept that no matter how much I wanted to “fix my dad,” there were days and nights when I really had to give up control. Then there were times when I knew that I couldn’t support him, unless he wanted it. The reality is that there are people out there who could use your help, but unless they’re accepting and ready for it, your offer to assist may not really be helping. You can’t change a person if they don’t want to change themselves.

My coach had given us the “assignment” to read through a book and pick a quote to share with the team. I had found a section about mutual support — and how this journey is truly about helping each other. Being part of a team has really shown me what that means… to be there to support your friend, your teammate, when they need it most. And what it means to accept support from others. It is amazing to come to this point of the long distance season and recognizing just how much of what I had hoped for has already come to fruition.

I have been challenged, tested, and humbled. Deeper bonds and appreciation for have been formed with the people I have met through paddling. And it continues to amaze me when a fellow paddler makes the connection with the stories I have shared in this blog. Although I didn’t get to cross the Ka’iwi Channel this year, I know I grew a lot on a personal and spiritual level through it all. And I will be that much more ready for it next year…

“We cannot always control everything that happens to us in this life, but we can control how we respond. Many struggles come as problems and pressures that sometimes cause pain. Others come as temptations, trials, and tribulations.”



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