This week I began work on a goal that has taken me a long time to believe I could accomplish. It may seem like something very small to most people, but for me, it has been a hurdle all my life. This week, I have started swim lessons.
Something most people don’t know about me is that I’ve always been uncomfortable in the water. I never took swim lessons and though I can swim, I don’t do it well. I’m about the slowest swimmer there is, I hate the feeling of water in my eyes, I almost always have to hold my nose under water, and treading water is enough to send me into a mild panic and have me swimming for shallow ground. It has always been a frustration for me, and occasionally embarrassing. Worst of all, it’s something I have believed that I can never change about myself. And the root of it comes from not trusting myself to be able to keep myself safe in water.
I have always marveled at people who appear to be completely comfortable in water. Drew was like that, like a fish. And Mike even more-so since he was a diver in school and taught swim lessons. I have watched them both in complete awe.
I’ve believed all my life that I can never have that sort of safe feeling in water. That it’s just not in the cards for me. For years, I’ve wanted to at least try to challenge that belief. So this past week, Mike and I got a membership to an indoor pool for the winter, and he has started working with me.
After just two lessons at the pool with Mike, there I was, just effortlessly treading water like I’ve been doing it forever. Suddenly all the fear went away. All the panic and anxiousness that I have felt my ENTIRE life in deep water… GONE. I couldn’t even believe those feelings could vanish so quickly. And suddenly, for the first time ever, I began to feel some glimmer of that comfortable feeling in water that I have envied in others all these years. Some glimmer of trusting myself in the water. Even more importantly, I challenged a limiting belief about myself, and I decided that I don’t believe it anymore. With his help, I am beginning to trust that I can do this.
One of the things I am most grateful for in this widow journey is the people who have been willing to help me stay afloat…
The whole idea of treading water has had me thinking about this. For a time, grief is like being dropped into the middle of the ocean. There’s no swimming out of it, at least not quickly. It’s a marathon that requires us to pace ourselves and stop to rest often. Sometimes, especially if we haven’t been through any major losses before, we aren’t so good the treading water part. We haven’t had the practice. And we feel unsafe. And scared. And our person isn’t there to help keep us afloat either. It can be terrifying to feel like you’re alone in an ocean.
Land may not be near, but people are. People who are in their own stormy seas, trying to get to someplace dry and safe. People who are willing swim with us for a while… not to rescue us, but to help us rescue ourselves. Sometimes they teach us better ways to stay afloat, and in turn help us to trust that we can make it through. Other times simply their presence and support beside us in murky waters is all we need to keep treading and swimming until we find our way. These are the people we need. Not the ones who stand on land and wait for us, concerned, from afar… but the ones who are willing to tread water right beside us. I am grateful for the widowed community and many others who have been willing over these challenging years, to tread together with me.