It may have been that one moment when I was seven. As a young child, I was forever cold. I always needed a sweater even in the warmer weather. It was a cool day in early June when we went down to the lake for gym class to do our test for pre-beginner swimming. The lake was only a few blocks from the school and we could easily walk. The teacher was our regular gym and health teacher and I didn’t particularly care for him; there were many reasons. That day was just more of the same with that teacher. That day at the lake, the water was particularly cold. I was shivering and I couldn’t warm up. We all stood in chest deep water and we had to put our heads under and I was shivering and just couldn’t do it. I failed. But, my uncle had a solution a month later. He figured he would pick me up and throw me into the water and I would learn to swim because that’s how he taught his boys. I didn’t learn to swim; I freaked out. I may have been that moment. It may have been years of trying and failing.
Freedom is on the other side of your fear. I have heard it and read this phrase countless times over the last 4-5 years. It’s one of those sayings that once you have heard it so many times, it begins to lose its meaning. In fact until we live through a situation where this becomes completely apparent, do we even unwrap the meaning? Usually when we hear it or read it, it is in reference to doing something different or big, like starting a business. “I don’t know how to do that” if used as a reason to not do something is often fear based, and is followed by the the adage of freedom is on the other side of your fear. Once you have tried the new thing and succeeded, you are set on a course where you are free to continue with comfort. Sounds great except the part where you have to get on the other side of your fear and then do it again and again. And that’s not easy. That takes work and sometimes we don’t want to do the work. I have not taken the initiative nor time, to buckle down and do private swimming lessons.
When we were in Mexico we had one excursion booked for our group. We did a catamaran/sailing trip. Not being able to swim does not cause me fear of boats or being in the open water. I can control my thoughts of going overboard, crazy storms and sinking ships. It does keep me from going in water where I cannot touch the bottom. When I can touch the bottom, I feel I have control should my body become the sinking ship. As with all those excursions, there is a time in the trip where they stop for people to play in the water for an hour or more. There are people who stay on the boat for various reasons and one of the guys from our group didn’t go in.
But I really wanted to go in the water; I was just too afraid. I had all the thoughts… not of drowning, that is not a conscious thought creating the fear; the fear just is. My conscious thoughts were “Freedom is on the other side of fear, your fears are just something your subconscious mind is telling you, you can do it, you are going to regret not trying” along with the arguments to the contrary that countered those thoughts. I really thought about how I am not free to enjoy water or to go in the water when on the excursions because of my fear. Sometimes in life there is a pivotal moment or something that changes your course. It may be there is that one friend who
dares encourages you strongly and promises to hold your hand. That happened, and being a follower/people pleaser, someone who just argued with herself with all the thoughts, I went to put down my phone, and my hat and glasses and walked to the edge without further thinking. Of course I went to the edge where the steps were and got a life jacket, and I went in the water with my friend on one side and my husband on the other holding my hands. And I lived.
This past couple weeks we have had a lot going on in the world and it is ever changing. As we practice social distancing and/or self-isolation, we may be feeling a need to keep up with what’s going on in the world, to watch the news or be on social media more. We may find a sudden cough from aspirating our spit causes a mental alarm to be activated, not only in yourself, but your family members. If you have read or watched how the Covid19 virus can devastate the body, you may have some real fears of getting it. For myself, I have a fear of not being able to breathe (hmmmm). It’s been a thing as long as I can remember, a fear of dying because I can’t breathe. Others may fear something completely different when facing the weeks or months ahead. The fear of the unknown is a big one. The fear of losing everything we have worked for. The fear of losing loved ones. Fear can cause people to react in strange ways and do strange things…like overloading on toilet paper. When this has passed, when life gets back to normal, or the new normal, we will have a different outlook. Some of us may have lost some or a lot, but we may have gained something as well. When we are on the other side of this we will have other worries, but we will have the freedom of knowing how long it lasted, how we coped, how we made our world a better place during it, or how we didn’t need some things we thought we did. When it’s done, the hindsight will be 20-20. Until then we can just work on the things we can and have confidence gained from the times we faced our fears and succeeded.
I did not learn to swim when I took the steps from the boat into the water, I didn’t overcome my fear of deep water in one fell swoop. I received help, I received encouragement, I did the scary thing (for me) and I got on the other side. I got to the other side that one time, which means I can do it again. And really, that’s the practice we are going for; that’s what gets us through the next thing and the thing after that. That’s what makes us realize we need others sometimes and it make us resilient. And we will make it through and become stronger.