y comfort zone is triangular-shaped. I'm walled in by the fears of a) threatening dogs, b) deep and turbulent water, and c) icy driving conditions. This gives me considerable latitude to travel the world, but, I've realized, not complete freedom.

I'm on Oahu with my 11-year-old daughter, Emma. We're staying at Turtle Bay Resort, on the North Shore, famous for its big surfing waves. Turtle Bay offers surfing lessons. I know Emma would love to try surfing. I know she would love for me to try it with her. And I'm pretty sure surfing involves deep and turbulent water.

In the calm of our New York apartment, I had decided the boundary of my comfort zone needs to be challenged and signed us up for lessons. In the calm of our resort room on Oahu the night before the lesson, I decide I'm having an anxiety attack. A demon keeps whispering in my ear, "Surf's up!"

Aaron Lambert, my instructor at the Hans Hedemann Surf School at Turtle Bay, is very reassuring. He says he can even get me a life jacket if I want. I reply I would rather face the inky depths than implant in my daughter's memory the image of her father wearing a life jacket on a surfboard.

Meanwhile, Emma is bonding with her instructor who, much more than Aaron, fits the surfer-dude archetype. "S'up. I'm Drew." "I'm Emma." "S'up, Emma." "S'up, Drew."

We paddle out, and Emma gets the first wave -- she quickly stands and rides it in.

I get the second. I rise from prone up to my knees. I'm enjoying the ride -- I don't need to stand.

Emma and Drew paddle over to where the larger waves are breaking.

On subsequent rides, I'm ready to stand, but I'm finding I'm not as physically flexible as I once was. (In fact, I'm finding myself questioning if I ever was physically flexible.) I'm having trouble getting my feet under me while still holding onto the sides of the board.

I tell Aaron that I guess I should have taken up surfing at a younger age, but he's not buying it and tells me his mother took her first lesson at age 57, and she could stand before it was over.

I try again, to no avail. Emma shouts advice. Aaron tells me to forget what he said earlier about taking my time -- just stand up.

After two hours, on the final wave, the pressure is really on. I manage to get unsteadily to my feet for a few seconds before tipping off into the not-so-deep, not-so-turbulent water.

Early the next morning, I'm calm, feeling well-centered in my triangular comfort zone, taking a jog along the Kamehameha Highway. I glance to my right as I cross a driveway. First I see the sign: BAD DOG. Then I see the dog, in the driveway. Facing the house.

I lighten and quicken my step, relieved, but only for a moment -- I realize that, unless I want to run the entire circumference of Oahu, I am going to have to cross that driveway again on the way back.

"Surf's up," the demon whispers.

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