What to Do if You are DrowningPosted: March 19, 2012
… in the pool or in Life.
Do you remember swimming lessons when you were a kid? Mine were at the local “Y”.
Every Saturday I went by city bus, sans parents with my younger siblings. In addition to swimming lessons, I took Hula Dancing, Arts and Crafts, and Yoga. I also spent much of my time winding the narrow empty hallways of the building and running the metal staircases, which was good exercise, no doubt, but my parental-self shudders to think of that, now.
I swam for years and years, first doing face floats and jumping in with the help of a long wooden pole, then doing countless laps of the narrow aqua pool, and finally doing some synchronized swimming before leaving to seek quieter waters with less chlorine.
Various swim “incidents” punctuate my memory: the time my bathing suit came down on a dive, having picnics in the lounge with Saturday friends, leaving a yoga class because I was laughing so hard (at the tanglement of myself and my friend), my instructor with her dark-tanned leathered skin putting me at the head of the synchro line because she could count on my even pacing, and also, last but not least, a couple of times when I nearly drowned.
One of these times, the class was taking a test of some sort. (If I had been older I would think it was for a lifeguard certification but I was only in fifth grade or so.) On this particular Saturday, we were in the deep end of the pool in our street clothes. We were supposed to wear layers of clothing, so I had on jeans, t-shirt, and sweatshirt over my bathing suit. We had to tread water. Forever.
Treading water was not a difficult thing. I was certainly used to it. I was a little fish. I could ordinarily tread water indefinitely. However, my sweatshirt was big and long and so heavy, especially when waterlogged. Maybe I was tired, too. (From wandering the hallways and running those stairs?)
I felt like I was drowning. Maybe I was. I struggled to swim, scissor-kicked my legs, flailed my heavy arms. I was sinking. I accidently gulped in water. I sputtered, felt myself choking. I could not kick myself up for air. Where was my tanned instructor with her bangled bracelets and that long wooden pole? Why was she not pulling me out of the pool?
Holy. I could die here! Oh dear Lord don’t let me die.
Now this is a feeling we all likely have had from time to time. Life is overwhelming sometimes. We are drowning. Drowning in paperwork, drowning in decisions, drowning in heaviness. If it’s not a waterlogged sweatshirt keeping us down, it’s a challenging family or work situation, or our own fears. And we really can’t count on a woman with a dark tan and gold bangles to pull us out of a funk, situation, or predicament.
What to do?
What did I do in the pool?
Yep. I stopped struggling, regained my composure, and floated enough for a breath of air, floated and caught my breath.
That is what I have found works as an adult in the Sea of Life, too: stop struggling. Breathe. Find quiet inside. Think positive thoughts, say some prayers if inclined to pray or even if heretofore not, be hopeful. Tune out the unessential until having better bearings.
I am centering.
I am floating.
First I learned to float, and then I could swim.