Today, I'm grateful to be able to FACE FEAR.
So I moved to an island, one prone to flooding and hurricanes and that also has the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen. I know many people here that drive out to the beach every Sunday to relax and rejuvenate themselves for the week ahead. When asked to go, I usually decline and offer that I'm not really a "beach person" - which is true. But the reasoning behind it is because I don't know how to swim and am therefore afraid of water. I remember being sent to the Y for lessons as a kid and when, on the first day, the instructor told me to jump into 12 feet, I turned and left. She tried to console me by telling me that I would "float right back to the top". That didn't work. No thank you, and goodbye.
Fast forward to my move here. As apart of the program I'm in, I'm asked self evaluate every few weeks - thinking through and rating where I am emotionally, physically, spirituality, etc. and then talk through ways in which I can improve. In my first few evaluations when I rated how I was doing physically, it did not look good. I was doing yoga from time to time but that just wasn't enough. When thinking through a full body workout that did not require me to be in the heat, I thought of swimming! Perfect. Oh, but wait. I don't know how. Did I really want the stress of learning to swim stacked on top of the already weighty transition to the DR? Not really, but I thought "If not now, then when?" and signed up.
I'm literally in the slow lane. Swimming - no attempting to swim. If you saw me you would not say that I'm swimming. You'd be utterly confused by the flailing arms, and sounds of choking and coughing. You'd probably also think, "Why is she always standing up?" To my right, you'll notice the 6-year-old gliding past me as she practices her backstroke. She occasionally glances at me with sympathetic eyes and at that moment, I'm so glad for the way that her parents raised her. I'm 33 and learning to swim for the first time. Did I also mention that I have zero coordination skills? No one told me that swimming required so much work! I have move my arms, legs, and breathe at the same time? Have you ever seen me on the dance floor? If not, here's a idea:
This is real, people.
In the next 2 lanes over are the more advanced swimmers. 2 teenagers are in the next lane and 3 adults clearly much older than me are in the next lane racing and doing drills. There is a man that is clearly a "seasoned saint" killing it. Meanwhile, I'm just trying to learn how to float on my back without freaking out! Water is in my ears and it feels weird. I still squeeze my eyes closed even though I'm wearing goggles. Each day, I swallow water, choke, water goes up my nose, my breathing is off, my goggles slide off, anything and everything that can go wrong, goes wrong.
One of the other students mother sits alongside the pool closest to my lane. She occasionally looks at me and says with her eyes, "It's okay. Keep trying." Thank you random woman. I love you just for that. Occasionally, a porter or landscaper will pass by and give me the same look. I don't know you man but your mama raised you well and I love you too!
I've learned that much like learning to swim, life is hard. There's now way around it. Sometimes you feel like you're just stuck. Arms flailing, completely drowning, or just when you think you have the drill down and you're kicking your feet as hard as possible, you realize you haven't moved an inch. Or if you're like me, you've made the wrong move and your arm goes careening into the concrete wall of the pool. How do explain yet another bruise?
But, the only way to get better is to keep trying. Yes, it takes me FOREVER to do one lap. Yes I choke on water every class. Yes my throat burns. And my nose. Yes I want to get out of the pool, drive home and cry. Yes, I think the other students are talking about me, but I don’t speak German. Dangit. Yes, I'd rather not have to do the work of washing and twisting my hair 3 nights a week. It's all just so inconvenient. I can think of a million OTHER things to do 3 hours a week but then I'd still be in the same place. Afraid.
Last week, two new girls joined our class. My instructor excitedly said to me "Apriel, these two girls are at the same level as you!" How nice of him to choose those words. Ha! (I thought: and exactly what level is that sir?) But honestly, I was so happy to have them with me. The three of us were in the same (slow) lane together. Between broken Spanish and encouraging smiles we pushed each other through class that day and it was great. At the end of class, they even taught me a new technique (the dolphin kick). It felt good having someone alongside me. They haven't returned to class since (Did I scare them away?) but I was so grateful for the company and having learned something new. I killed it on the dolphin kick by the way.
Today, I'm grateful to be able to FACE FEAR. Regardless of the details of the process - easy, hard, alone, with others, painful, carefree, frustrated or full of joy, I'm just happy to be facing fear and learning something new, because in the process I'm learning more about me. Why? Because growth never gets old.