Neil loved water: oceans, lakes, pools, showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, he loved it all. And he enjoyed being in it in it, whether to swim, kayak, sail, float or simply sit in the sand feeling the tide wash over his toes. I enjoy looking at water, but I don’t need to touch it. I’m perfectly content to watch a waterfall from the path or feel the rhythm of the ocean from the shore. How you feel about water depends on your perspective.
My water hesitance is based on several things. First of all, water is often cold. I hate cold. Second, water is often deep. I can’t swim. Neil coached me for a while, but I couldn’t master it. I could probably float well enough to save myself or one of the kids in an emergency, but to swim for fun is beyond me. That brings me to the third reason I don’t go in water very often.
I was taking swimming lessons at our local park in the summer after third grade. I did fine until the day it was time to jump from the diving board. I explained calmly to the teacher that I wasn’t ready and didn’t want to do it. He said, “Of course you’re ready. You’re up next.” I walked over to my dad and told him the same thing. “Dad, I don’t want to jump in. I’m not ready.” “Of course you are,” dad told third grade me. “Go ahead – it’s your turn.”
Nobody is listening to me. I mumbled under my breath. This is not going to be good.
I took my place at the edge of the diving board and without any hesitation marched straight off into the deep end of the pool. Somehow, I was upside down in the water. I got disoriented, and when I realized I wasn’t in control, I panicked. I lost sight of the bright sunshine above and gravitated instead to the dark water below. I couldn’t tell top from bottom and I was running out of breath. The end of the lifeguard’s long metal pole poked me, but it confused me more. I didn’t realize it was there to help and tried to escape from it. Finally, an exasperated life guard jumped in and dragged me out.
I was embarrassed and otherwise fine. I sputtered a bit and caught my breath within a few minutes. From then on, though, water became symbolic for me. It reminded me about perspective. From the bottom of the pool, water is a very scary thing, but looking down into the calm blue water from above is a completely different experience. Water can be beautiful, life giving, and as faithful as the daily tides, but it can also be unpredictable, dangerous and destructive. It taught me that a lot in life depends on your perspective:
Time alone can be an opportunity for reflection and creativity, or it can be solitary and depressing.
A job can be a source of pride, fulfillment and financial security, or it can be a boring, tedious way to spend the hours.
A snow day can be peaceful and cozy if you’re reading a book at home in front of the fireplace, or it can stressful and exhausting if you have to shovel snow and drive to work on icy roads.
When I am struggling to keep things in perspective I remember that day in the pool. Sure it was terrifying, but I was actually safe the whole time. My dad, the swim coach and the lifeguard were all right there watching over me. I wouldn’t have been so disoriented if I hadn’t let panic distract me. The experience would have turned out so much better if I remembered to look for the sunlight or reached out to grab the pole that was there to help me.
Keeping things in perspective can be a challenge, but life is so much sweeter when we do.
So remember, don’t look for the dark waters; look for the sunshine instead.
Don’t let fear or worry distract you from what’s important.
And when you feel alone, remember there is someone who can help if you just reach out.
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I’ll be sharing this post on Thought-Provoking Thursday at http://3dlessons4life.com