When you let tunnel vision blind you

The ocean is so vast and incredible and filled with more species of sea animals than most of us could ever imagine.

Yet, for some reason, we often only allow ourselves to focus on one.

I went whale watching over the weekend, which is something I’ve wanted to do pretty much since I moved out here about a year and a half ago. I really wanted to see some dolphins, and I guess seeing whales would be kind of cool, too. I mean, they’re rather beastly creatures, and witnessing their grandeur up close sounded like an intimidatingly fascinating idea.

They’re my kind of people.

It’s been a bit cold in Southern California lately. I realize that there are so many other parts of the country suffering much chillier temperatures, but I’m not in the business of comparison—it’s cold here for what we’re accustomed to, so I’m going to stick with my statement. I knew that it was going to be even colder out on the water, so I did my best to bundle up and prepare for whatever was in store for me for the next few hours.

I’m glad that I wore four layers—they still weren’t enough, though. The spray from the ocean water made it even worse (remember the drink Ocean Spray?? Maybe someone who went on a whale watching excursion came up with that), and I’m so grateful that my friend Jose let me borrow his gloves toward the end of our time on the water. Regardless of how cold it felt out there, it was an adventure that I’m grateful I got to take. I was able to spend an afternoon with some wonderful people I get to have as friends in my life as we took part in a quest to find and see the beautiful phenomenon of giant ocean creatures in their natural habitat.

And I was reminded that we’re so often chasing after things that may or may not be meant for us to the point that we don’t pay attention to what’s actually right in front of us.

I never actually saw Dustin, but I heard his voice quite a bit. He was our tour guide, and I think he was driving the boat. I’m not actually sure. I just trusted that someone who knew what he or she was doing was behind the wheel (or the helm, for all of you nautical type). But Dustin was the one telling us about the differences between seals and sea lions and informing us where the whales were and our strategies for making sure that we would get to see them. There was even a drone sent out from the boat to get better shots and also to help us find the path the whales were taking.

I don’t see any whales, bro.

We never saw the whales up close. We saw them blowing air from the water from a distance, but I still haven’t seen a whale in real life. On the way to try to see them, though, we saw quite a few bottlenose dolphins—and my heart soared. I honestly cared more about seeing dolphins than whales, so it was a special moment having a front row seat as they swam right in front of the boat. I really wanted to see them jump out of the water—I’m a product of romcoms and happy endings, people, so I want the fairy tale fantasy stuff—but it didn’t happen. Still, it was a breathtaking few minutes of my life.

Dustin let us see the dolphins but then kind of brushed them aside to remind us that we needed to go farther out in the water to see the whales. I understand that the thing is called a whale watching tour, so it was important to stick to the task at hand. At the same time, though, we were missing some true greatness that was right before us because we were so focused on pursuing something that we would never actually obtain.

And it was in that moment that I realized that I’ve done that far too many times—I’ve chased the things that are fleeting and missed out on some beautiful opportunities that were directly in front of me.

I think that it’s important to go wholeheartedly after your dreams and remain determined to achieve your goals. However, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the wonderful chances you’re given along the way. Maybe you’re meant to reach what you’re striving for so passionately—but maybe you aren’t. You might be going after a whale when you’re actually meant to encounter dolphins, instead.

There will be trials you face along the way—whether it’s the spray of the ocean, the gusts of wind that knock your breath out of your lungs, the bad breath of the sea lions that makes you want to hurl (whether you took Dramamine or not), or the loss of circulation in your extremities (thanks a lot, Raynaud’s)—and those are times when you have to remind yourself why you’re there in the first place and that you can do hard things.

And it’s also when you need to remind yourself that there is beauty and wonder outside of your tunnel vision.

I saw the same amount of whales on my hike as on the tour.

I’ve definitely had my fair share of times when I allowed tunnel vision to take over and cloud my sight of everything else around me because I was chasing whales I’d never actually reach. And don’t you know that some of those whales were guys who caused me to ignore many dolphin guys around me? I did it frequently with running, too. I would focus solely on the big accomplishments and PRs so much that I would miss the little victories that didn’t happen on race day that I was gaining along the way.

I want to make sure that I’m more aware of the dolphins all around me and that I don’t simply focus on the whales that I may or may not ever see. It’s great to have goals, and I hope that you achieve all of yours, but it’s also beneficial to notice all of the greatness that surrounds you that may not be what you initially think is best for you.

Because sometimes you’ll set out on a quest for whales and not find what you think you’re looking for—but perhaps the dolphins you encounter were what you were meant to find all along.

Because playing in the ocean doesn’t have to be scary

There are so many battles I’ve faced in life that I never want to relive.

More specifically, the flu.

I don’t know when my immune system became such a pansy. When I was a teacher, I had an immune system like a champ. But I kicked off this month with strep throat, and I ended it with the flu. I will say that it’s quite a fitting end to the year that was pretty hellish for me—a broken heart that acts like it doesn’t know how to mend and three kidney surgeries that caused my body all sorts of pain. Good riddance, 2017.

I’ve only had the flu one other time, and it was miserable. (I know I just made a humble brag about not getting sick a lot while I was a teacher, but I actually got the flu during my last year of teaching, thanks to one of my precious little darlings coming to school with the wretched virus and spreading it throughout my classroom.) This time around was no better—in fact, it might have been worse.

I was feeling really tired last Friday night, and I credited it to all of the travel and Christmas festivities. I didn’t feel that great when I woke up on Saturday morning, but I figured running would make everything better. It didn’t. I decided to go for a walk outside before getting froyo, and I barely survived—every single muscle in my body felt so ridiculously sore. I couldn’t think of anything significant I’d done that would make me feel that way (other than getting old), so I just did what I do best in these types of situations, and I ignored all of my symptoms.

Two of my friends from Dallas were in town for a wedding, and I was supposed to babysit for their sweet little girls that night. I started to feel a bit delirious, though, and my temperature kept rising. I found a thermometer I forgot I owned that I received from one of my stays in the hospital earlier in the year, and my temp was a little more than 100 degrees. Less than 30 minutes later, it was more than 101 degrees. I didn’t think that was a good thing. My friend and I agreed that it was best that I didn’t watch their kids that night (I felt awful about that, but I’m pretty sure I was also highly contagious), so I took some NyQuil and got in bed around 3:30 p.m.

Other than getting up to use the restroom and take more NyQuil and Advil, I didn’t get out of bed until after 7 a.m. the next day. I needed to run to Target for a couple of things but felt really dizzy (turns out that I had misread the dosage of NyQuil and had taken it more often than you’re supposed to—oopsies). I called my sister as I was driving there just in case something happened in my drugged-up state. At least someone would know.

I can’t explain what happened. I didn’t even know it was bleeding.

I spent most of Sunday in bed and fell asleep for the night around 6:30 p.m. (yes, on New Year’s Eve). There were many moments when I was in bed for those two days that I wished there were someone there to take care of me. I’m normally a very independent woman, but every once in a while, it would be nice to have someone there to get me more water or a cold (or warm—I don’t even know which is better) towel for my head or monitor my NyQuil intake when I really need it.

On Monday, though I wasn’t feeling much better, I went for a run (bad idea—my whole body was weak and hurt) and came back to a shoe full of blood. I guess I had a cut on my foot that had bled like crazy when I went running. With the way my life has been going lately, it seemed like such a fitting way to ring in 2018.

A little later, I got froyo and then went for a walk on my favorite beach to go sit on my lifeguard tower, which has quickly become my go-to spot—it brings me peace and clarity. And the view is absolutely beautiful. Every once in a while, I even see dolphins (well, their dorsal fins) swimming in the distance.

I didn’t capture a pic of dolphins. Sorry.

As I was sitting on my tower, I saw two young kids playing in the water. My initial thought was that those youngins were crazy—it was WAY too cold to be in the ocean! First of all, the Pacific always feels pretty frigid, but it was also now January and barely 60 degrees outside. The more I watched them, though, the more I realized they didn’t care at all. Their parents were definitely avoiding getting in there with them, but those kids didn’t mind because they weren’t worried about anything.

There’s something about being young and carefree that makes you forget about all of the possible things that could go wrong with the good things. You’re so caught up in having fun and exploring the ocean and all of its shells and waves and sea life that you don’t really acknowledge just how much of an ice cube your body could become from spending more than four seconds in there.

This tower has become a very important part of my life.

In that moment, I was reminded that life doesn’t always get easier when we want it to—in fact, sometimes the opposite occurs. It doesn’t mean the trials will last forever, but they can certainly endure for much longer than we’d ever prefer. Those are the times I wish I were more like a kid again—so resilient and unconcerned with what comes my way but, instead, enjoying every moment I have and embracing the newness and exciting opportunities I’m given on a daily basis.

I don’t need to worry about not having anyone to care for me when I’m sick or dwell on the heartache that one person has caused me. I’ve been given the chance to live in a beautiful place where I’m surrounded by God’s constant reminders of His presence, and I know that He’s enough. Maybe one day I’ll love someone who will love me back. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s OK. I’d rather live like I’m playing in the ocean without caring about the temperature. It’s much more enjoyable that way.

And perhaps someone else on a lifeguard tower will see me running fearlessly in the water and be inspired to do something brave.