When I first learned how to swim at a neighborhood Y in my mid-20’s, I couldn’t float. I learned all the other strokes, but I couldn’t let go into the water and let it hold me. It didn’t seem possible that the water itself could keep me from drowning.
That point of view makes sense to me now because everything I had learned to do to survive was just the opposite of “floating.” From an early age, growing up in a crazy household, I learned the “chase life before it catches you” method of coping. I left home early and ran away constantly—living in 16 different cities and towns over 20 years. I strove hard to prove myself, to accomplish things, succeeding in some efforts, failing in most.
By my late 30’s, I was depressed, exhausted, broke and alone. I put down some slim roots, got a steady job, and eventually started working with a therapist, seeing it mostly as another strategy to get all the things I wanted: the perfect man, the ideal job, creative success, money. For years I worked and waited for my rewards. What I got was something else entirely. I “got” myself. I got peace and fullness and joy. I got trust in the goodness of life.
A few weeks ago, I left my teaching position to become unemployed. I’m a single woman and I live in an area where jobs are hard to find. Some people think I’ve taken too big of a risk. “What will you do?” they ask. I don’t have much of an answer for them except, “Clean out every room in my house” and “Pray a lot!”
I don’t know how this will all turn out. I’m somewhere in the middle of it, floating around on a big lake, buoyed by the current. I’m not chasing after a list of “what I wants” anymore so much as listening to a life that is calling me, a life that has to do with staying in the current, giving up the fight, focusing less on what I want, opening more to what wants me.
Nothing is certain, and I know I’ll have to do some paddling here and there, but I have come to believe that when I let go and float, life is always there to hold me.
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