“The cure for anything is saltwater:  sweat, tears, or the sea.”  Isak Dinesen.

I had a birthday last week.  Forty-two.  Turning 40 was very fun and exciting.  All this “forty is fabulous” or is the new 30 (or the new 20) or the new black, and friends and family making a big deal and planning surprises that you know are coming due to the hush-hush and ambiguity.  Then a few days later, the excitement was over and I had to face that now I actually was just 40.

Last year, when I was turning 41, no big surprises were being planned, and I turned to my bucket list knowing that until the big 5-0, I may need to take charge of my own celebrations.  I decided that if I could help it, I would never work on my actual birthday.  Somehow taking a surf lesson had creeped onto my bucket list.  Surfing had never been an activity that interested me before, because I never entertained the thought that I could do it.  But a funny thing happens once you start running.  You realize that you are strong and capable…you develop more confidence as you increase your endurance, and suddenly your mind starts to be open about what your body may be able to do.  Once your mind is open, whether in running or in life, the rest is just a sequence of steps that your body follows through on.

So I rounded up a couple of girlfriends who were also surfing virgins, and off we went.  While I wasn’t able to catch a wave last year, I did master falling off my surfboard while screaming 100 times.  Despite all the wipeouts and the sting in my throat from buckets of swallowed saltwater, I felt exhilarated.  At one point I just stood in the water holding my board, and took in the fact that I was trying something so foreign for me, “failing” miserably, and still having the greatest time.  I didn’t want to be the 21-year-old me, because she would have been too self-conscious to be present the way the 41-year-old me was.

This year for my birthday, I knew I wanted to surf again.  A few days before while at the beach with my kids, I practiced my pop-ups on the sand and running in against the waves, wondering if this extra year of yoga and running would lead to more “success” this year.  (It did…I got up several times.)  Part of what I had enjoyed last year, was that those two hours had completely depleted me, and at some point while becoming a runner, I also became a person who craves physically exhausting her body.  Somehow physical exhaustion has become a drug that is an antidote to mental exhaustion.

Lots of wipeouts while surfing also gives you a thorough saltwater sinus rinse that you didn’t even know you need.  The ocean is your gigantic neti pot.  Being at the ocean always reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of recent years, by Isak Dinesen.  “The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.”  I first read the quote in a Kristin Armstrong post several years ago (shocking, I know), and it has stayed with me; so much so that I made a personalized necklace out of it for myself.

Tears have always been a go-to cure for me.  It doesn’t take much for me to get teary-eyed, or cry, or flat-out shoulder-heaving bawl.  Once I’ve cried myself dry, I’ll take some time to calm down and then get over whatever it is.  The sea, water, the ocean…that’s my happy place.  After all, I am a cancer, which is a water sign.  I’m even happy watching water ripples along a pool, so put me on the beach with ocean waves and sounds and sea-air smell; and perspective is regained… making all well in the world.

Sweat has become my cure only in recent years, and it’s the most effective of the three.  Whether I’m stressed, tired, worried, sad, angry, or overwhelmed; a sweaty run is the fastest route back to clarity.  Taylor Swift may shake off what people say, but I literally sweat off whatever the problem is.  If I can sweat it off on the beach, it’s even better.  If I can sweat on the beach while crying, be it tears of joy or sadness…then I’ve transcended to the next level.

So other than more surfing and saltwater, what will the tides of this year bring?  Forty-two will be the year that I run my first marathon.  Interestingly, the LA marathon, also known as the “Stadium to the Sea” run, starts at Dodger’s Stadium and ends at Santa Monica Pier by the Pacific Ocean.  You know my peri-menopausal body will be sweating by mile 2,…the tears, I’m not sure at which mile they will start before turning into sobs… when I finally arrive at sea.

*This post was originally published on 7/14/15

Paria Hassouri