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  • Writer's pictureAstrid Van Gramberen

Rising to the waves.

In 2020, our lives got more complicated and more simple at the same time (depends on how you look at things). Being pregnant with Maurice and COVID travel restrictions made our move to New Zealand happen quicker.

What helped me through that change and challenge was this approach: "It is okay to feel how you feel". Brendan is great in this matter too. Sometimes it felt like a big adventure, sometimes it felt simple and right, sometimes it felt heartbreakingly difficult.

Do you recognise this for challenges in your life? How do you deal with that? Do you (know how to) surf?

Soon we have to leave Leuven and our family on this side of the world again. It will be the first time that we will say goodbye for (more than?) a year. (Last time we thought we would be away for two months, so the goodbye's were easier then, in a way.)

My godchild Jeanne will be the hardest to say goodbye to. I will miss another upcoming birthday of hers, and of course, we will just miss spending time together in general. As a goodbye and thank you activity, I printed out heaps (heaps is New Zealand slang for 'a lot') of pictures. Pictures of us together, pictures of her life and things she loves to do, and pictures of my life and things I love to do. In the 'game' that I created for her, we will match these pictures to key words that represent "love" (what is love? baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more - people who grew up in the nineties - do you feel me on that one? ha!).

Wat is 'liefde' of wat is 'van iemand houden'? Hoe past een meter die in Nieuw-Zeeland woont toch ook in haar wereld?

The point of the game is to discuss 'why' I moved to New Zealand with Brendan and Maurice. Hard to grasp for a 7 year old who's world is here in Leuven (Belgium). Hard to grasp for a 33 year old who knows the world is bigger than Leuven. She tries to understand it. Of course it's got nothing to do with the fact I don't love her 'enough' to stay here, but is related to other factors. One of them is also the simple fact that I love living in New Zealand. It feels like one big adventure and I love being surrounded by water. Just like Jeanne loves playing with her friends, going to the chiro (youth movement, such a rich tradition in Belgium!), playing musical and hanging with her family. I hope that during the years, she will understand this complex decision of moving to New Zealand better, and that she will grasp the nuances, the different colors, the 'and-perspective'. It is not 'or' New Zealand 'or' Belgium- it is: I love living in New Zealand AND it breaks my heart that I don't live closer to her!

Eén van de dingen die ik ooit hoop te leren in Nieuw-Zeeland, is surfen. Afgelopen jaar was daar niet ideaal voor, met mijn ronde buik. Plus, er waren al ZOVEEL nieuwe dingen, mijn hoofd en lichaam had daarmee genoeg om aan gewoon te worden, ik had niet echt een nieuwe activiteit of uitdaging nodig.

Last week I was thinking about surfing.

I was riding my bike through Leuven, and I felt quite sad. It felt like I was breaking up with Leuven, that's how it felt! Like, when you break up with someone who you respect and actually in a way also love, but the two of you don't seem to be made for one another. There seems to be something missing. I decided to listen to Ed Sheeran and have a good cry on my bike. The next moment I felt better. I just had a conversation, earlier that day, with a physical therapist who just had organized a surf weekend for mums. That inspired me. I told the surf lady that a surf weekend wouldn't be for me just yet, since I didn't know how to surf (just yet). Ah, she responded, it's actually normal - a lot of the participants never surfed before. Oh, I noticed, this is a typical example of not rising up to the occasion, not trying, just because you've never done it before. And in a way our New Zealand - Belgium situation feels like that.

Surfen. Of hoe het ons kan inspireren, ook al kunnen we het (nog) niet.

Thinking about surfing, I felt how my body changed from 'carrying it all' (shrunk shoulders, tension in my muscles, feeling afraid to fail) to 'accepting it all' (trying). Maybe step by step you can get through it? Waves come and go. By trying, you will learn how to surf them. You start small. After a while, you will feel stronger. Maybe not because you are stronger actually, but you know how to use the strength of your different muscles? Ha, probably both. You're using your whole body to surf the waves. You learn to use your body to surf the waves. It's a powerful thing, that makes you feel free, and: alive.

When I look at our situation from a surfing perspective, I feel powerful. I think it's because I OWN the situation. I allow myself to TRY. I know that there will be super smooth waves, but also waves who overwhelm you and possibly feel too difficult. It's part of the surf experience. You take a breathe, get back on your feet (board) and try again.

Surfen. Wat een verschil met het proberen 'dragen' van een situatie! Wie draagt, krijgt verkrampte schouders. Wie surft, probeert, ontdekt. Golven zijn er en mogen er zijn.

That's what helped me a lot, these past two years.

Let the waves be the waves. Find your feet. Wax your board. Try to find your balance. Fall. Try again.



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