The Meaning of “Like As The Waves”

Perhaps you have wondered why this, my personal mental health blog, is titled Like As The Waves. Well, today I’d like to attempt to demystify that for you.

What’s in a name?

In searching for a title for this blog, I kept coming up short. I wanted something that held meaning for me, that spoke to who I am and also related to mental health. I’m confident that, without the context, it might be hard to understand how this relates to mental health at all. The explanation is personal and layered, but I hope you’ll enjoy it. At the very least, I think you’ll learn a bit more about who I am and what is important to me.

The words, “like as the waves”, open my favourite sonnet by William Shakespeare, sonnet 60. I first discovered this sonnet in my teen years when I attended a Shakespeare program at an arts camp. There, I was taught to perform Shakespeare’s pieces and appreciate his work. In my teens I was heavily involved in theatre, a passion I still hold but haven’t practiced in years. My final performance for the camp was a scene from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, but sonnet 60 was one of the pieces I practiced with. Back then I was entranced by Shakespeare’s work for the wordiness, drama and rhythm of it all. Too busy learning iambic pentameter to delve into the most important part of any piece of literature – the meaning. I lacked a real understanding of Shakespeare’s work, so I had trouble interpreting it.

There were other things I struggled to interpret at that camp. My time at that camp was the setting of some of the earliest panic attacks I can remember. I was away from home, I had to socialize, take care of myself and do things I wasn’t always comfortable doing. At the time, I knew I had asthma and assumed my panic attacks were just asthma attacks. It was only years later that I was able to see that I struggled significantly with my mental health during my time at camp.

I think it’s fair to say, I’ve struggled significantly with my mental health ever since, too. I’ve had periods of happiness amongst depressive lows. A pattern which I eventually began explaining as waves. It’s common, when I’m talking to someone I trust, for me to reference my waves (e.g. “this low wave is lasting too long” or “I feel the next wave coming on”). This phrasing isn’t uncommon amongst individuals with mental illness, and its link to my favourite piece of poetry didn’t occur to me until recent years.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,

So do our minutes hasten to their end;

Each changing place with that which goes before,

In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

 

Nativity, once in the main of light,

Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,

Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,

And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.

 

Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,

And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,

Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,

And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:

 

And yet, to times in hope my verse shall stand,

Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand

William Shakespeare

Sonnet 60

I believe, all these years after his death, it is up to us to interpret the meaning of Shakespeare’s work. Certainly, we can draw on the work of expert scholars for sound interpretations to trust. But, if I may be so bold, I think poetry is as beautiful as it is because it is interpreted by each person who reads it. Ten plus years ago, in camp, I didn’t fully understand this sonnet. It was just a lyrical collection of pretty words. Now I see it as a powerful piece with themes of time, loss and water.

If you’re interested in much more in-depth, academic and, I’m sure, accurate interpretations of this, my favourite sonnet, a simple Google search will bring up hours worth of reading.

Sonnet 60, to me, speaks to how time gives and takes. It tells a story of how time changes us, it brings us in the world but also ages us and takes us from it. I often find depression and anxiety cause me to fixate on time. When I come out of a depression I often feel a sense of grief over the time and life I lost while I was in it. During a panic attack, time seems to be rushing by so quickly, every second can feel like a minute, every minute like an hour. “Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end;” With time we can recover from mental illness, with time our mental illness can worsen. We wish for more time or less, depending on how we are at that moment. Time, along with language, is one of the principal ways I feel we construct our world.

Back to the waves; they are at once captivating and predictable, tenacious and fleeting. A tidal wave can pull you under, while the splash of a wave on your feet can make you feel alive. Waves vary in strength, in number and in size, but through it all they never stop for long. I experience my own waves of many kinds too– happy waves, anxious waves, depressed waves, but time keeps moving and I keep going.

I find water to be a powerful source of imagery in describing my life with mental illness. Beyond just the use of the word “waves”, I also find myself using other depictions. “I’m sinking”, “I’m drowning” and “I’m treading water” are other phrases I use regularly. I’ve always been a bit of a water baby. My mom is a fantastic swimmer who always shared her love of swimming with me. As a kid, I also had access to a great outdoor pool at my dad’s home. One of my top coping tools for hard days is taking a bath. A long-term goal of mine is being able to get out to the public pools near me. Given a choice between the four elements (water, fire, earth and air) I will always choose water. Water is my element, I’m in my element with water.

IMG_20180707_141715

I was in the middle of planning this blog when I flipped through my Complete Works of Shakespeare for inspiration. In revisiting my favourite sonnet, “like as the waves” seemingly jumped off the page. I couldn’t think of anything else afterwards. No other option would suffice. Yes, I sometimes wish my blog title had a clearer message to everyone who reads it. Yes, I do find it awkward capitalizing the “As The” in the title; while that’s not proper English I visually can’t get past how odd “Like as the Waves” looks. I may change the title someday. However, to me, this blog title is perfect. It’s me. It’s my mental health, my mental illness, my passion for theatre and literature, and my story all rolled in to one confusing (to others, I assume) package. I’m okay with that. Mental illness is confusing. I’m confusing. This blog is at times confusing. There is a certain beauty in uncertainty and confusion, anyways.

If you’ve made it this far, I sincerely applaud you! I’ve tried to write this a few times before and struggled to find the right balance in which I avoided making a lengthy essay while still hitting all the major points of the meaning the title holds for me. (My longest draft was over 5 pages long – so at least you were spared that pain!) I’m not sure if anyone will quite understand this, but it feels cathartic to put it in to words anyways. This is me, I’m Fiona, and like as the waves, I keep going.

Take care,

Fiona

Both images included in this post are my own

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8 thoughts on “The Meaning of “Like As The Waves”

  1. You can tell when a blog post has effort put behind it and when someone has their heart poured into it. I think I can safely say yours hit home in that way as it shows a true sense of passion that not many manage to capture anymore.

    I also want to say I agree that poetry is unique and beautiful for the same reason you stated. Everyone can equally find meaning in a poem or in a structure, but that meaning and interpretation can be and often is varied. I used to be a poet back when I was a teenager as I felt it was the best form of expression for someone who was troubled or lacked any direction, but I forgot about most of it until I read this post. So thank you for that in terms of rekindling my own passions for poetry!

    Great post Fiona, don’t you ever stop being you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Brian, your comment completely made my day. Thank you so much for not only reading but taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment.

      I used to write more poetry as a teenager too, as a way to express myself and cope. Sometimes I think I should give myself more time for poetry now too.

      Thank you for making me feel like being me is something to be proud of. I’m so grateful to you for your kindness and support.

      Liked by 1 person

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