Swimming lessons


8696545Sometimes, when you’re just walking through your life, you come across unexpected things. Sometimes there’s an obstacle in your way.

Sometimes it’s a huge pool, or maybe even an ocean. You can’t avoid it, and you can’t go around, it’s just too big. Sorrows, sadness. That’s the water, vast, scary and yet still welcoming. But please be careful.


So here, a list of cautions:

  • Drowning in your sorrows is a dangerous way to spend your time.
  • Drowning your sorrows with other liquids works for a little while, but it’s just a short term solution with a longer-term headache attached.
  • Wallowing isn’t that bad, as long as the water’s shallow enough and you don’t get too comfortable. You’re not meant to stay forever.
  • Pretending that you’re walking on water (or actually managing it) is best left to the professionals.
  • Pretending there’s no water at all is drowning of another sort, and can lead to padded rooms or chemical interventions of an unwelcome kind.

The pool of sorrows is real, it’s there, and we all have to get in the water sometimes, so it’s best to make the best of it. Best learn to swim.

Your first step is to get to know this stuff. You have to let yourself float in it, make sure you’re buoyant; test it out. If you feel yourself sinking fast, you’re not ready yet. Put your foot in, go slowly. Get used to the sensation without judgment. This isn’t a test. It’s just life.

Get to know the flow of it. Open your mouth and taste it, just a little bit. Let it flow over you and under you. Believe that you can exist with it, neither of you consuming the other. Learn to feel yourself where you are, to feel at peace here.

Now try to move within it. Pick your own direction and go. No, not fighting the water, that’s how you drown, of course. You have to float, glide, partway under, partway above, working with it to keep moving along. Push, relax, and push again. Find your own rhythm. It will come to you when you stop fighting.

Someday, or every day for a little while, you’ll get out of the pool, dry yourself off, and feel better. In the long run, I promise this exercise is good for you. Steady exposure to the water lessens the shock of immersion. Instead of panic, you can tell yourself: Oh, this. I remember this stuff, I better start swimming. I’ll be okay.

And if you fall in too suddenly, if you didn’t see it coming, forgive yourself, forgive the water, and just breathe. Feel the air in your lungs and on your body, mingling with the water. There is always air here. Breathe it in, and remember that you will never be a perfect swimmer. Accept your own strokes, accept your own way of doing things. Give yourself all the time you need. Just keep breathing, and swimming, and head to shore when you’re ready for dry land.

What do you think?

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