It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe: You look around and nothing seems right or normal about your life. You feel lost. You feel uncomfortable, like a fish out of water. That’s the best I can do with it. It’s not a good feeling, that I can say for sure, but it’s not one that lasts forever.
This morning, I had my first official “swimming lesson.” At 52 years old, I’m learning how to swim for the first time in my life. I mean, of course I could dog paddle and the like, but not real swimming, not like the other people at the fitness center who glide along in the water, like no big deal for 20-30 minutes.
A little embarrassed to admit I couldn’t swim, I began all by myself using only YouTube videos for instruction. At first my attempts were horrible. I choked, sputtered and panicked from one end of the pool to the other, but I was pretty determined. After a few months, I started to get a little more comfortable using techniques I found online, enough to admit to others that it was something I was doing.
When I found out that a friend at work raced in triathlons, I asked for a little advice about a few things I couldn’t quite get and that’s when he offered to give me some pointers. Now my secret was out; I’d be sharing this “face the fear” moment with another person, and it suddenly became more real, more important.
So today we met at the pool, and initially I had my nervous self on because I’d be exposing my not-so-good side. Even so, I was excited for the instruction and the learning of it. He watched my first lap and announced I looked pretty comfortable in the water.
Phew! He should have seen me seven months ago when I couldn’t even make it one length without sputtering to a stop!
He came up with a few drills for me and encouraged me to keep working on it. His final words sunk deep in my bones. “You just need to retrain yourself to be comfortable in the water. You’re not a bad swimmer; you just need to overcome your fears of not being able to breathe here. You’re never going to drown in four feet of water. Take your time, get confident with the baby drills and you’ll build the trust you need to do more.”
Sounds simple enough…right? Could be advice for anything, or everything for that matter!
Those few words of wisdom at the end of our lesson made a greater impact on me than any of the drills, technique or mechanical advice he gave me. Not that those aren’t important, but they’re merely the tools we use for training our self to become what we know deep down we already are.
What I never said during our half hour lesson was that I had a lot of bad experiences in my youth in the water. All my life, I just stayed out of it due to fear. I proclaimed myself, “not a swimmer.” But the truth is, I love the water, but it was always easier to avoid it than to really face my fears and get comfortable with myself there. Swimming is an example, one little thing of many that I avoided in life because I was afraid. I made a decision early on that swimming was simply too dangerous for me.
My friend’s words reminded me why I was learning to swim all these years later.
If we have desires and our fears are preventing us from accessing those authentic parts of who we are, we will often feel “less than,” uncomfortable and a little bit lost. A fish out of water feeling is a sign that you’re living outside the power of the divine, whatever you call it. It’s the source of our well-being where we know we’re supported, protected and loved as a divine expression. When your fear cuts off your access to that, you simply feel bad.
A fish feels best when it’s in the water being a fish. Maybe you’ve always had an urge to go back to school and learn Chinese so you can travel there and explore the ancient cities. Maybe you secretly love to sing and wish there was a place to let your lungs open up and praise the airwaves. Maybe deep down you wish for the time and energy to follow through on all your Rube Goldberg ideas. Desire is a sign that some part of your soul wants expression – ignoring it will produce another sign, not nearly as positive – until you go back to the first.
These might seem like small things, but one by one they add up to creating the kind of life that feels normal to YOU. Learning to swim might not seem like a really big deal, and in the grand scheme of things it’s not, but for me it represents learning trust and letting go. I feel natural and comfortable in the water now, but until I learned to swim, my bathtub was the closest I ever got to “enjoying” being submerged.
Our gifts and talents begin as seeds of desire that only require our belief for them to grow. And belief is like water; once we dive in we realize we have a built in buoyancy system designed to support us there. Honoring and living our Soul’s desire should feel natural, but it’s also scary for all the reasons we’ve been avoiding it forever. Once we retrain ourselves to relax and trust, we’ll gain the confidence with each passing day to stay true to who we really are, to live in our authenticity while feeling the love and support we were born to.
Thanks all for reading. What little desire will you cultivate today?