I taste salt before I see the ocean. The mountains are silhouettes against a pale California sky. As I near the end of the path, I see everything the light touches bathed in a golden glow. Fog hovers over the cliffs and the air is damp and chilly. My hair whips around my face like flaxen wheat in a field.

Digging my toes a little deeper into the sand, I exhale deeply, feeling my shoulders relax. I haven’t breathed this deeply since yoga a few days ago. My body responds to each inhale, loosening with each exhale.

I see eager surfers in wetsuits, boards tucked under their arms as they slip into the Pacific. Some stretch methodically beforehand, while others jog straight into the ocean. They dip in and out of the waves like bobbers, sitting on their boards, legs dangling, scanning the water for promising sets.

Every so often, one begins to paddle, popping up to stand, swept up in the momentum of the wave, gliding. My husband is often one of them, and sometimes I join him. But this morning, I sit on the rocks, hot coffee warming my hands, wrapped in a hoodie, admiring them from the shore.  

Surfing is an inward struggle for me – it means doing uncomfortable, hard things. I’ve hiked some of Colorado’s highest peaks, ran a marathon, traveled alone in foreign countries, camped in the snow, pushed a seven-pound baby through mere centimeters. Still, there’s something that sets me off balance when paddling out past the break until I can’t feel my arms, breathing heavily, and sitting on my board waiting with who knows what swimming underneath my feet. 

I surf because my husband Jordan loves it, and I love doing things with him. I like seeing his face light up after a good ride, when he emerges through the white foam of the breakers. Plus, getting to see him in downward dog next to me at yoga in the park is just a bonus. Marriage requires some give-and-take. So I squeeze into my suit and paddle out.

Sometimes I say yes, when everything inside me wants to say no.  

photograph of beach with two surfers

The funny thing is, once I’m out there, I’m enamored by – well, everything. I love how the world looks from my new vantage point. I see bait flash in the waves as the water propels me up and over the swell. Kids laugh on the shore. The water stretches in every direction without end. I feel weightless.

I talk to God. It’s peaceful and serene and beautiful. Sure, I get tossed around more than once, or as Jordan likes to put it, “I get put on spin cycle.” But when I time the wave just right, there’s no feeling in the world that compares. And that’s the feeling that gets my husband out of bed at 5 a.m. when he meets a friend to surf before work.

I think it’s important, finding and doing the things in life that get us up before dawn – sheer adrenaline coursing through our veins, instead of caffeine.  

It wasn’t always so complex, making time and space for each other’s hobbies. Before baby Atlas, if my husband wanted to spend the weekend climbing and hiking in solitude – no problem. When I spent my summer training other educators in Uganda, Jordan supported me.

Now, we have to get more creative. A lot more creative. There’s quite a bit of time, appointment, and calendar shuffling involved these days. But we make it work. Because when I became a mom, I wasn’t afraid that I wouldn’t get to sleep anymore (I don’t sleep very much). I wasn’t worried that other moms would shame me for my choices of a water birth, or breastfeeding, or crib sleeping. I didn’t care.

I was more afraid of losing my identity as a person as I watched other people get swept up in their new roles as parents. I want Atlas to know me for the wild, adventurous woman who brought him into the world. I will always feel more myself on top of a mountain than on a playdate in the park. There is nothing like seeing my son’s curious eyes light up when he tries something new or has new ground to explore.   

So I say yes to travel, knowing I may be pacing the aisles of airplanes, singing softly, ignoring the stares of other passengers. I say yes to outdoor adventure and all the baby gear I’ll have to carry. Yes to going out with friends, knowing we may be the first to call it a night. Yes to road trips and all the pit stops we’ll make along the way. Because I know Atlas will still get the sleep and care he needs no matter which four walls surround him – as long as he has his little fox and pacifier, of course.

Some “yeses” work out better than others. Most of the time, it feels like we’re winging this whole parenting thing, and there are people out there who really seem to know what they’re doing. Some days my yes is more like sticking my toes in the ocean than actually diving in the surf, and that’s okay. Showing grace to myself and others is part of the journey.  

I’d rather know I gave it a shot than merely watched from the shore.