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Today was hard.

I didn’t expect it to be. It’s not an anniversary, holiday, birthday, etc. Just a Monday. Monday after the superbowl which, and I cannot stress this enough, I do not give any shits about. I largely care about the snacks. But I still don’t even know who played. (And don’t tell me, it truly will not change my life).

When my dad was teaching me about the ocean, he was incredibly patient and almost zen-like with how he communicated about nature. He truly wanted me to love the beach, the water, and the sun. (It was an almost success; I like the beach but I don’t love the beach. It’s okay, we found other ways to bond). When it came to learning about waves, I was absolutely terrified. I respect the sea; I do not need to be all up in it. But he wanted me to be less afraid; he was honestly like that about most things. He didn’t want fear to be a factor in how I made decisions. So, he led me out into the water and the water was around my knees (and ma was shaking on the sand lol). And he said, “okay, a wave is going to come. You need to plant your feet. Right in the sand. Just plant your feet, and lean over – give the water your shoulder.” I didn’t believe him that just planting myself would be helpful so I would freak out and stumble. I fell a few times and swallowed an uncomfortable amount of water. I could hear my mom stammer from the shore and whether my dad heard her or not, he chose to continue his lesson.

“Look. If you try and fight the wave, you can’t win. It’s the ocean! We can’t win against the ocean, we have to try and work with the ocean. So, that means you plant your feet. You turn to the side so that the wave doesn’t hit your face and then the wave will go away all on its own and you’ll be okay. Then another wave might come, and you’ll do the same thing. It’s just water. Don’t be scared of it.”

To this day, I still do this at the beach and I know I look like a complete idiot but it makes me feel better. Also I’m at a beach, I’ve already given up on the idea of looking cool.

This water metaphor has become a little memo I tend to lean on about grief. There will be moments where grief will arrive like a wave (I call this the “whoosh”) and I have a few choices in the moment. If I try to fight it, it’s probably going to take me down. It’s grief. Grief is powerful. If I plant myself and just let it wash over me, it will totally suck but at least I know where I’m standing. And eventually, it’s over. And then, it’s just water.

This morning was an extended whoosh. It felt like it was ready to take me down. But we’re all in the water sometimes and I eventually managed to get out from under the wave. Brownies helped. (Are they the life raft?)

And now? It’s just water.

Carla Y. Emanuele has been an educator for over ten years after graduating from Drew University with a degree in theater. Stage experience cultivated a love for story-telling and a passion for helping students reflect on their own stories no matter where they are in life. In her daily work, she runs and/or supports educational experiences in non-classroom settings such as afterschool, gap year, or arts programs. In her non-work life, she travels, she writes, she runs a small Disney-inspired Instagram account (@magicalhappyhour), and she has yet to learn how to drive. As a means of trying to understand and process her journey with grief, she began a blog in 2021 called La MaPa – “mapa” means map in Spanish and she’s hoping the exercise helps her find a bit of her way…or maybe helps someone else find theirs. She is from NJ and lives with a patient, wonderful husband and their extensive Disney dvd collection. You can find her on Twitter ranting from time to time @cymontgomery.

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