As I write I realize I use phrases all of the time, yet I’m unsure what they mean. I know how and when to use them, but not why. So it was that, when I decided to tell my attorney “let’s go balls to the wall” that I felt I had to look up the phrase.
This phrase came from aviation! The throttle, which determines the speed of the plane, has a ball on the end. When the pilot(s) decide to go full speed they push the Ball (throttle) to the wall (the firewall of the plane). Going balls to the wall means pushing the plane to it’s maximum rpm’s. Hmmmm…..
I, in contrast, I have spent a life time (or at least my entire adulthood) playing it safe. We all know what means right?
I’m still trying to put into words why it’s so important that I go balls to the wall right now, and the only analogy I can think of is surfing. I spent decades sitting on the beach, looking out at the waves, wondering what it was like to be out there. I spent decades thinking “maybe next summer” or “you can’t do that, stupid”. For whatever reason, 2015 became the summer I fianally tried it. Before I could stop myself I was out on a board, trying to surf. I didn’t get many days in before I broke my finger and was done for the summer, but I had a blast.
What I didn’t enjoy were those times I was trapped in a wave. If you’ve spent any time in the ocean you probably know what I’m talking about. A strong wave pulls your legs out from under you, wraps you in it’s power and flips you around, over and over, until it decides to let you go. The ocean looks so innocent when seen from the beach, and it seems impossible that a wave might kill you. Sometimes, when I’m watching waves from the shore, it seems like the water is smiling at me. It starts with a little grin, barely perceptible, then grows into a huge smile, winking at me as the sunlight bounces off it’s surface. It then innocently subsides, curling in on itself, much as we do when we’ve smiled too much and our face hurts.
When I am out in the ocean though, waves are very different. They start innocently enough but quickly become menacing. If I were to compare then to a smile it would have to be the smile on the Joker’s face in Batman. It is clear that smile has destruction in mind and, if it captures me it will go all out to destroy me, holding me in it’s clutches until it’s decided to let me go. I suppose in a sense, wave go balls to the wall all the time.
Anyway, last summer I ended my surfing expedition still fearful of those waves, the ones that capture me. About half way through this summer, I came to terms with those monsters. This summer I came to see those waves as the welcoming smile, taking me in, surrounding me with their joy and peace, and letting me go only after I’d embraced the magnitude of the peace the offer. I know it sounds strange, but I can think of no other way to describe the serenity I feel when trapped by a wave. I give myself over to this powerful force of nature and, for the first time ever, feel completely safe. It’s as if the whole world has met me inside that wave, and all of the power in our universe is embracing me, filling me with hope and tranquility.
I guess what I’m saying is that it is the ocean’s fault I am going balls to the wall. The ocean taught me that if I give in to the fear, if I stay still in my uncomfortability, if I embrace uncertainty, I will come out of it. Sometimes I’ll come out short of breath, scrapped up from the sand below, or with a knot on my head where my board hit me, but I Always Come Out. And, after I check to make sure nothing is broken, I smile and I head right back out for more.
I’ve found peace in the heart of those waves. I’ve learned to relax inside their power, to give myself over to them, and to trust that they will eventually spit me out.
Perhaps I’m an idiot trying to replicate this in my life, but I’m going to try. I have to try, because a life of fear has gotten me no where. Perhaps my new life, the life in which I give myself over to the fear, embrace the unknown, will take me on the ride of my life. Worse case scenario is I stay where I am, suffocating in a life of dread .
So, balls to the wall! Let me live deep in my fear, let the universe pummel me, and I willlll wait and trust that I’ll be spit out in a better place.