Saturday afternoon, while hundreds of festivalgoers attended Tampa Bay’s sixth annual VegFest at Cotanchobee Fort Brooke Park, we noticed one man stand out from the crowd. He was, in fact, stand-up paddle boarding along the Hillsborough River, with his stout black dog along for the ride. I will always remember this sight. All at once I thought, “I want to try that by the time I’m 30,” and “What if he falls off, and there are alligators in the water? Do you think alligators live in rivers? I heard a man got eaten by an alligator recently, the first attack in FL in the past 7 years.” I could not take my eyes away from this stranger, who appeared to have achieved a blissful sense of balance that allowed him to move effortlessly along the water, his salty dog firmly and quite happily rooted to the front of the board like a bizarre figurehead.
While I cannot truly know this stranger’s state of being — whether he is actually as happy, free, and centered as I imagined him to be in the moment — perhaps my first impressions can show me a bit about my own sense of well being, fulfillment, and balance. I am just beginning to come out stronger and healthier after a couple of hard weeks spent feeling sick (with tummy trouble) and fatigued. I began to feel sorry for myself, because I could actually see and feel myself living, to quote our old friend Ralph, “on the sidelines.” Yet, I know deep down that I needed to take that time to heal, to regain my strength and energy. I’d like to shed the layers of unnecessary concern or worry, impatience, frustration, resentment and ego that I (and we as people) have learned to wear for whatever reason, and be left with a sense of discernment that can see through to opportunity, beauty, forgiveness and compassion in every wonderful, ever-unfolding moment that life presents. It’s not easy to write about this, and I bet I can expect a call from my mother after publishing — “Are you OK? You should take this down.” The truth is, I am better than OK–I am back from a really hard time, and I’ve gained perspective.
So thank you, stranger, for reminding me that I’d like to live life like I’m gliding down the Hillsborough River, with my trusty companions (kisses for you, Will, and for Piper–my big girl) along for the journey. To stay balanced is to stay afloat — or, in other words, to stay healthy, energized. To stay balanced is to trust one’s own instinct, to live authentically, and to be willing to surrender to the unknown (are there alligators? will I fall? I will if I don’t get out of my own head.).
Signing off for now — Will is back from lessons and I smell something truly intoxicating wafting from the kitchen. Thanks for reading!