“Mommy, make sure you go the hard way first, against the wind,” my younger daughter cautions as I head out on my paddle board. “It will make it so much easier coming back!”
I know she is right. How many times have I paddled out 30 minutes with the wind at my back, only to struggle for an hour fighting against it on the way back.
It’s like being in a washing machine. I paddle furiously in the churning surf only to look over at land and realized I haven’t moved an inch. I’m a fighter, and I eventually make it to the dock exhausted and drained from the experience, but satisfied that I overcame the conditions.
I do most of my thinking when I exercise alone — running, swimming, paddle boarding. Frankly, in the crevices between family life and work there are not a lot of opportunities for the kind of space that is needed to spur creativity and inspiration.
For this reason, I also do most of my writing when I exercise, albeit in my head. I spin ideas around in my brain and eventually weave them into a story of sorts, or a vignette that I hope to bring to an inspirational or euphoric conclusion. On this day, I rolled my daughter’s words around in my head like ping pong balls in a lottery machine and decided they were a brilliant metaphor for life.
When we are young, it makes sense to challenge ourselves, to rush headfirst into the wind. But as we get older and see the top of the mountain in the distance, it’s a reminder that eventually we will have the wind at our backs as we descend the other side of life.
If the timing works out properly, just as we are sensing the wind at our backs, our children will be pushing forward into windy conditions of their own, and we will be there to help pull them along, and to help them navigate the inevitable gusts that will knock them down and force them to recalculate their direction because we’ve been through it and we understand.
For now, I am still rushing into the wind, maybe with a bit more restraint, but I truly look forward to being the sails for my children as they face their own winds. I suspect that someday I will also truly enjoy having the wind at my back.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.