I had this weekend off, and my son was with his Dad. On Friday, I had a busy and stressful day at work, and I was exhausted that night. I had wanted to figure out something fun to do for the weekend, but when I went to bed Friday night, I was thinking that I would maybe stay home, take a yoga and massage class, and clean my house. I had mentioned to a few people that I was trying to plan a hike or something fun for my weekend, so when I woke up, I had a text from my sister saying “I hope you get to do something fun today!” And that was all it took. I snapped myself out of the tired haze, and was reminded of my choice to use my days off to the fullest. So, I started looking at weather in various places in California. At home, where I was possibly going to hike, there was a chance of rain. But on the coast, the weather was expected to be sunny with high temps ranging from 70-75 degrees F, depending on location. I held the thought of going to the coast in my head, and began to get excited. Then, I started to think of the various places. Then it dawned on me that I had seen that there was going to be a band playing at a place I’ve been to and liked in Santa Cruz, so I looked it up. A funk band! Perfect! I decided I might as well go to Santa Cruz, my favorite, if I was going to the coast! I got even more excited! So, I looked up an airbnb in the area and booked it. Then I thought about how I have been saying that I wanted to take a surfing lesson for at least a few years, but that I hadn’t done it. I had even researched places that offer lessons in Santa Cruz before, so I looked them up and called a place. When I asked if this was a good time of year for a lesson, the guy said “we give lessons all year-long here, after all, the water is always wet,” which made sense. With Saturday and Sunday off and my son having a game Sunday (today), I ended up deciding that it might be better to take an afternoon surf lesson on Saturday once I arrived in Santa Cruz, so that I didn’t have to feel rushed today. I gave the guy a call again when I was getting close to see if they’d have a lesson at the time soon after I arrived, and he said they were! So it was set. Just like that, I went from having NO plans, to having a super amazing plan!
I got to Santa Cruz around 2:30 pm, and had my lesson from 3:30 to 5:30 pm. I showed up and paid at the little covered table on the beach, got sized for a wet suit and then waited for our instructor to come out of the water from the previous class. There were three of us in the lesson, me and a father-teenage son pair. We were given surf boards that were HUGE (10 feet long, so almost double my height!), because the instructor said that big boards were easier for beginners. The instructor was really great with Club Ed Surf School (website HERE)! In true Jammie fashion, I was led to the instructor whose wife has spent a lot of time as a patient in various hospitals. We connected through it, and held a really great conversation about our experience with hospitals and various medications that his wife and I both had in common at one time. I should mention that when I go on one of these solo trips, I always set my intentions for the trip out loud on my way to wherever I am going. For this trip, I asked to be guided to live in joy and to have so much fun. I also asked to have connections with people along the way. I see this conversation with the instructor as that connection. It was about 70 degrees and sunny. The instruction for how to get to a standing position on the surf board while we were still on the beach reminded me a lot of various yoga poses! Then we headed into the water, and we started paddling. And paddling. And paddling. And I wished that I had been doing more yoga in recent times to strengthen my arms and shoulders! Paddling at first felt easy of course, but towards the end of the two hours, my arms were toast, and my instructor so kindly towed me behind him to give me a rest, but help get me a few more waves. I was able to stand up and ride multiple waves! Being out in the water was so awesome on its own, but riding the waves in felt so exhilarating! Other than when my arms entered noodle status in the water, I don’t think I stopped smiling for most of the two-hour lesson! I didn’t mind falling off my board or bailing so I didn’t run into other surfers in the slightest! I had zero fear in the water. Even with tired arms, I kept paddling, still intent on catching the last waves of the lesson. As we exited the water at the end of the lesson, I was laughing and just feeling so alive! Surfing was one of the most fun things that I have EVER done! It’s up there with white water rafting! I am so happy that I finally made it happen! It makes me want to build my upper body strength, so that I can surf more easily and more often. I think it’s good when the things we love push us to want to better ourselves in some way. Do you have something that you’ve been wanting to try that you keep putting off? Could you make a plan to do it soon? What is stopping you? For me, I kept waiting for the right time. A day to myself at the beach when I had the spare money to spend on a lesson. One or both of those things seemed to always be missing, so I just kept putting it off. But I am so happy that I finally did it! And I now have another thing to add to my list of fun things to do that make me feel most alive!
Speaking of yoga, I was just saying that I want to start making three things in my life priorities because of how good they make me feel, and of how good they are for me. I know that I should be treating the three things as NEEDS vs. wants. For me, when I call something a “need”, it places that thing ahead of other things that require my money or my time and effort. It puts them up there with food and water. One of them is yoga. Yoga makes me stronger and more flexible, and it also calms and relaxes me and leaves me with an overall sense of peace. I was going every week for a while, but my practice dropped off when the studio I go to changed hands and my favorite instructor stopped teaching there. I have yet to go consistently since then. I thought I’d practice at home, but you know how that goes. For me, it doesn’t happen. I know that a more consistent yoga practice would give me the upper body strength that I need for surfing. My surfing would also benefit from becoming stronger in the yoga poses that are similar to the way I need to move and balance my body to be able to stand on the surf board.
Another need I listed is drumming. I’ve been taking an African drumming class in the town where I live off and on since early 2016. In class, we learn to play the djembe, and also the sangban, dundun, and kinkinee drums. The latter three drums require you to play two different rhythms at the same time, which felt impossible when I was first learning. I likened it to the exercise where you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time. But with time, I learned, and now it feels like riding a bike, even if I don’t play the drums for a few months, I can go back and am still able to play. You can see a video of my instructor, Wadaba, HERE. In this video, he’s playing two djembes at the same time. More commonly, one djembe is played at a time. He is from Guinea in West Africa. He grew up playing drums, and is a world-renowned master drummer. I am very lucky to have him teaching in my town. If you’re local and interested in playing the drums, reach out to me, and I can give you the details for our weekly class. First class is free and you can rent a drum from Wadaba if you plan in advance. I especially like playing the larger of the latter three drums, the dundun. It has such a big, deep, powerful sound. There is an annual workshop held in the mountains here in California every August called Camp Fareta. I have been so happy to get to go for part of it the last two summers. The best African drummers and dancers from all over the world come here to teach! And students also travel from all over the world to learn! It’s really incredible to gather with such a welcoming community of people for the common goal of experiencing the singing, dancing, and drumming of Africa. One of my favorite classes that I took this past August was a sangban dance class. I found this fun video HERE of a flash mob group in Australia doing a dundun dance with moves similar to those I learned in class with the sangban. I recognize the lead woman on this video from Camp Fareta. As a kid, I was always tapping and drumming on things, which annoyed my parents. In college, I was always fascinated by the African drum group on campus that would perform locally. We also had several drummers from various places visit campus to perform. I always loved seeing the performances, but never got involved. When I learned of the drumming class here, I immediately wanted to try it, but at first, I tried to get friends to go with me. That wasn’t happening, so eventually my urge to go got stronger, and my need to have someone go with me got weaker, so I went. I figured that with the level of urging that I was feeling, I was either going to go and meet someone significant to my life in the class, or I was going to already know how to play drums. In part, both were true. The group of people in that class has added so much value to my life, and has ultimately connected me to the much larger community of drummers throughout the world. I also picked up drumming rather easily. In my first class, I remember Wadaba and his wife, Keio, being surprised that I had never played a musical instrument before. Wadaba noticed that mine and his hands are very similar in size and shape. I think that I must have played the drum in a past life. At any rate, drumming feels good. And when you have a group of 10 or 12 people drumming together, it creates a powerful energy unlike anything else.
The last thing that I want to promote to a need in my life is meditation. I started meditating back in the summer of 2015. It was the thing that I committed to during a Simple Shift course that I took which was based on the premise that making small, simple changes to our lives could lead to big results. During a rough patch in the summer of 2015, I used meditation as my main coping mechanism. When I felt anxious or overwhelmed, I would meditate. During one week, I was meditating for various lengths of time several times a day. The effects of meditation are easier experienced than explained, but I will try. Now mind you, for me, meditation did not offer me an immediate change, but over time, I noticed a few things shift in my life. First, my anxiety and stress decreased. And when I did get stressed, I found that meditating, even if only for 5 minutes, would be enough to quiet the hamsters in my head and bring me back to a place of peace. It gave me a sense of inner peace. After consistently meditating for a few months, I noticed that I was able to see how things were connected and the lessons that could be gleaned from my trials. I could see the benefit to the challenges in my life, and could sense that they were leading me to something bigger and better. I also come out of meditation sometimes clearly knowing what my next step should be, or what I should do that day. I notice that doing a long solo hike gives way to a kind of meditative state for me. When I am hiking for 10 or 12 miles, at first, I may be thinking about things in my life and singing songs to myself, but then there comes a point when I am just in the moment, focused on my steps, and feeling my breath. I get in a groove and just flow. The cares of other areas of my life vanish, and I am left alone, with my own body, and my own breath. But, like drumming and yoga, I haven’t always made meditation a priority. If you feel so inclined, meditation can be a great way to tune into your own intuition and calm your mind’s chatter. It can be as simple as getting comfortable and closing your eyes for a few minutes, even 5 minutes helps, and focusing on your breath. If thoughts move in, acknowledge them and then let them go and return to focusing on your breath. Meditation can be that simple. Don’t get discouraged if you try it and then don’t notice anything different. Keep it up. It takes time and changes may be small at first. We have gotten to be so accustomed to instant gratification that we sometimes lose sight that most things worthwhile in this world cannot be gained in an instant. What are some things that fill you with a lot of joy or make you feel really good that you could move to your “needs” list?
As far as doing the things that have been on your to-do list or bucket list for a while now, in general, I think we usually put our dreams on the back-burner while we work to pay our bills, or while we do what other people tell us we should be doing instead. But do we really want other people, or society to dictate the course of our one, short life? For me, it took almost dying to realize the preciousness of today, of each moment. We all get to decide when we will take the step to live our life the way that we want to. You can wait until your life is almost taken from you to realize how amazing it is that you woke up and got to live another day today, or you can realize it right now. It’s up to you. I, too, still put things off, like surfing. I, too, get sucked into a daily routine that doesn’t always feel satisfying. Change takes time, especially if you’re used to going along with status quo and ignoring your inner urges and passions in lieu of those that the world around you tells you are important. When I get overwhelmed with anything new, I like to remind myself that I don’t need to have everything figured out, I just need to take a step in the direction that I want to go. You don’t need to be able to see the whole staircase in order to take the next step. Join me in working to trust that the next steps, after that first one, will appear in due time.
It is also helpful when I remind myself that I will never get different results in life by doing the things that I have always done. If I do the things I have always done, I can expect more of the same. That’s fine as long as I am happy with where I am. But, it’s when I go out on a limb and try new things that I can discover new passions that can then lead me to new people, places, and things. I have heard insanity defined as doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. This weekend, by finally getting out and trying surfing, and by lining up a night with live music that I could dance to, I created one of the best days I have EVER had!! I actually screamed in excitement as I was driving from my surf lesson to the airbnb so that I could get ready to go out and see the band! Yes, I loved surfing THAT much!! After 2 hours in the water paddling and surfing, and another almost 4 hours of dancing to the music of an awesome funk band called Katdelic, I went to bed last night with a happily tired body, a very grateful heart, and a soul that was beaming with pure, absolute joy! (check out Katdelic if you ever have the chance! They put on one of the best shows I have ever seen!) What are you waiting for? What activities could you plan for your next day off that would leave you feeling like you just had the best day of your life? What is it that you enjoy so much that you smile the whole time you’re doing it? What makes you feel like a kid again? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
If you’re waiting for a time when you’ll have an extended amount of days off to do things, you may never get anything done. Let me assure you that you can do a lot in one or two days. With two days off, I drove to the coast (just over 3 hours) for the night, surfed, and saw live music all in one day. With three days off, I drove 8 hours to Zion National Park and did a hike on each of the three days before driving back on the third day. I have friends who consistently go on epic hikes on their two weekend days off. Sometimes living life to the fullest will require that you treat your day off and your fun activities like a job. Get up before the sun rises and get moving! Get out there and seize the day!
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Listen to Brett Dennen’s song “Blessed” HERE