I remembered this experience with my brother after Andy and I went paddleboarding on our honeymoon. I had been looking forward to the experience ever since we booked our Jamaican honeymoon 10 months earlier. I had been paddleboarding only once before, but I had built up high expectations for how fun it would be with Andy. We set out on our adventure shortly after breakfast. The staff member at our hotel pointed out where we could and could not go around the resort because of shallow areas and breakers, but then pointed out into the ocean and said, “The bay is wide open to you!”
“Away we go!” I thought.
The wind quickly carried us out from the shore. To avoid getting too far out, I tried to turn in order to glide parallel to the shore. But that was not happening. For what felt like an eternity, I fought the wind and current, only to get pushed farther out. I was panicking inside, wondering how I’d make it back, as my arms were already so exhausted. I tried to look calm and relaxed so as not to hurt my pride — pride in my natural athleticism and in my “love” of this sport. That was hard to do, though, watching Andy, who was far more adept his first time on a paddleboard. I was fuming at the ease with which he stroked. He would move far ahead, turn back to see me struggling and then allow the wind to carry him back toward me. After a long while he came over and asked gently, “How are you doing?”
Fearing my emotional vulnerability would be given away, I quickly responded, “I’m good!”
Andy replied with some concern, “You know you’re not going anywhere, right?” to which I snapped, and the little girl in the kayak came back. “I’M WELL AWARE OF THAT!” I yelled. “You don’t think I’m trying? Your criticisms certainly aren’t helping the matter.”
It’s funny how in moments of insecurity a minor comment sounds like a major criticism. Andy knows me well enough in moments like that to know I need space. He glided ahead and fairly easily made it back to shore, every few minutes glancing in my direction with care and concern. (I can say care and concern now, but in the moment I felt he was flaunting the ease of his efforts.) It took me much longer to get back, but I watched him stand in the sand waiting for me. Hearing the sharp words I had last spoken to him left me standing on the paddleboard in a sea of guilt. And yet, in that moment, I suddenly felt so bound to him. I knew that his heart mattered far more than my pride.
Words matter. I know I will hurt Andy time and time again. But I’m grateful when I recognize my faults, lower my pride and paddle through the waters of my guilt back to shore. I made it back, obviously, and like the story I told my parents years ago, I’m certain this one is highly exaggerated. But the lesson I learned in the water is not. My heart is forever bound to Andy’s now. And I can’t let pride get in the way of that.