Thursday, 14 May 2009

When You Wish Upon a Star

Remember that intense feeling of your own beating heart and the constant churning in your stomach? The realisation that you feel sick and there’s nothing you can do to make it stop? Like a ship without a rudder, all you can do is look up and make a wish.

Some people use this anxiety to their advantage. I know Merlin does in his martial arts training. A fight or flight response. In fact, he advocates that it is far better to feel nerves than not. Then there is no danger of complacency and it reminds you you’re alive.

Other sportsman use them too. To motivate or ‘gee themselves’ up for a big moment in their field. To turn it to their advantage, feed off it and use it to dominate.

I remember when Sampras got married and I was his best man. I don’t think I physically started thinking about the speech I had to make until the day before. Then it was sweaty palms time, shortness of breath, panicked thoughts and an impatience to get it out the way. Anxiety and nerves lead to stress, which in turn makes you feel like you are failing and useless.

What’s always funny about this situation, but I still never seem to learn this lesson, is whatever you are worried about, never turns out as bad as you think it will be. My best-man speech went down a treat, I got congratulations from strangers and hopefully Sampras, as well as his new bride, enjoyed it.

I’m the same with interviews. As I write this, I’m watching the clock count down the minutes until an interview. The nerves are increasing and I’m assuming I’ll get in there and have nothing to say. They’ll look at me wondering in astonishment what I am doing there and I’ll shrink, slowly, becoming smaller and smaller…I’ll have failed, I’ll feel paranoid that they are mocking everything I say and so it goes on and on…..

When I was young, I couldn’t talk to girls either. The same constraining feelings would leave me feeling emotionally crippled – were they laughing at me? Did they hate me?

When I used to skate with Merlin and the Captain back in the day. I had the natural skill to be at a much higher level than I was, but I was always held back by nerves. A fear of falling, of failing, or looking stupid, perhaps of not fitting in?

Experiencing nerves and anxiety about the direction of my life in general is a daily occurrence. I worry where I am, where I am going and how on earth I am going to get there.

The only time I never experience nerves negatively, is sitting out back on a surfboard. Whether it’s the gentle rocking of the ocean or the feeling of being close to nature, I don’t know. I’ve paddled into some big surf, surf that was way out of my league, I’ve got caught on rocks many times with seemingly no easy escape, but during all these times, I’ve fed off any anxiety in a positive way. I’d almost go as far as to say I’ve embraced the feeling.

Perhaps with surfing, there isn’t a point where you have to stop and psyche yourself up for something. The energy in the water means you are constantly in motion, the waves shape and size constantly changing and thus you, the surfer, never have a moment where you pause like in other aspects of life and can take stock of the situation. There is never time to think about how good you are, how you look, who is watching or what you are doing in that moment.

I used to use alcohol and other substances to block out the feelings of anxiety, nerves, depression and despair. But that isn’t what I’m about anymore.

It could be that the Captain’s teachings are finally getting through to me? Maybe, it is seeing the Boss grow and make some of the best decisions he has ever made? Perhaps it is seeing Sampras become a Father? These guys inspire me and help me to grow. I know it is all of these things and more.

Pulling all this together, is StarGirl, who has given me more love, respect and advice than people I’ve know for years and has shown me how to see the world through new eyes. A tripod cannot have more than 3 legs, but it will always be there and perhaps I’ve found my lobster instead.

Life shouldn’t be about worry.

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