Swimming. From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. It took me 27 years of my life to decide to learn to swim. A blatant candid confession, it’s more than the fear of the water (yes it still persists), I couldn’t help ogling at those darned women and men with their perfectly sculpted bodies in beach wear, sand in the hair and long ,unending legs that lead to eternity. And as if all these were not enough to haunt me, there was more. Life brought me to Sweden where kids learn to swim before they actually talk, I mean fluently. All of a sudden, my education, city life began to seem small as I had not yet learned one of the basic lessons of life. So, I packed my newly acquired black swim suit and made a dash to learn one of the important lessons of my life, intensively for 10 lessons. I emerged from the waters, a tad wiser and a swimmer.
Swimming taught me:
1. To be at ease.
Clean blue water lures you, invites you and engulfs you. When I started taking lessons, I would step into the pool, trembling, shaking a bit wondering when will the ordeal end. Damn you, Michael Phelps of the world! But then, I had two smiling angels, the trainers who were beside me, announce, “we will just feel it, feel the water through our head and body.” Quite a relief. We were asked to dip our heads in water for two seconds and speak out our names. Leg movements were shown and then we were done for the day.
2. To let it hurt.
I was having the time of my life. I was in the water, flapping my fins, spluttering like a fish, blue skies everywhere and blue water. Hastily I was woken up by the scorching sun on my face.Oh well; it was a “wet” dream!. Instead I woke up to a sore body, pain in the thighs and heaviness in the head. Later, when I entered the water, all my pains were washed away instantly. Then I learned, my muscles had never been stretched that way before
It’s the same about being acclimatized to things like in life. A heartbreak, passing of loved one, losing a job initially seems like the end of the world, but it’s going to be OK with time.
3. To hang on and float.
Don’t Swim. Just float. Lie down on the water. It is just water. Similarly, life is about keeping yourself afloat. Use your support systems. You won’t drown. Trust yourself and let it flow.
4. To take baby steps.
There is nobody as brave as a baby taking her first non-stop five steps alone from its parent’s hands. We all have been there, haven’t we? Practice till you get better and better but slowly. Of course, jitters happen, but you can’t learn or do everything in one go.
It has been said a habit takes about three weeks to develop. So it is.The way you go slow in life takes you places.
5. To give yourself some air.
Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go. I was doing just OK, but I was not happy with how far I had come from the day I entered the pool. In this skewed perception of my accomplishments, I discounted my efforts and belittled myself! “Give yourself some credit,” my trainer exclaimed. Finally, I realized I had focused on what I had not done, instead of what I had achieved.
In life, we often shave away our self-confidence by ruminating on our shortcomings, unable to trust in our own abilities. Similarly, recognizing what we’re doing right doesn’t mean we become complacent and stop striving for improvement.
6. To trust yourself but not to push it.
After the initial slips, scares, water in your nose, swallowing it up accidentally, floating and pushing the water with your legs, you can get exasperated. You get frustrated seeing others perform, over-perform and try to excel. Even after a fit of rage you still are who you are. Did the thoughts help? No, it made you feel worse.
Remember those times that your friends got themselves new bike or a dress and you waited for your job. Sometimes you are going to do or get things at a different speed than other people. You can’t always be the first person to do or get something. Sometimes, somethings will take you longer. And that’s OK.
7. To swim like nobody is watching and to live life the same way.
Sometimes I felt the trainers eyes ogling me or other group members watching when I was not able to stretch my legs? Or I thought about drowning or my simple swimwear. After a while, I realized that I wasted 10 minutes out of the hour in the pool with useless thoughts.
Close your eyes take a deep breath, smile and swim, with all your flaws, awkwardness and beauty. What others think of you should not govern you or the way you lead your life, let alone swimming.
8. To learn it when you are on your own.
There’s an old adage: “The sensation of drowning reminds you of everything you ever knew about swimming.” The real test is the first time on your own. No support system, no trainer to watch you like a hawk – you are on your own.You may cough, take in too much water, freak out, panic, or even curse like a maniac initially.Then after your panic has died down, you just dive in and take the plunge .
In life, you learn most things while you are struggling with day to day things outside of the comfort of your own home. Remember the time, you were finding a place and asked a passerby for directions and it didn’t help you much. Then, finally you opened up your own mind (or Google maps) and you found your way!
9. To let it go.
“I demolish my bridges behind me…then there is no choice but to move forward.” – Fridtjof Nansen
10. To stretch beyond your limits.
Kick some ass! Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius. With each lesson that ends, you learn something new and the next day you are hungry for more.You will never know how much you can stretch if you just don’t try. So shed your inhibitions, swim, and fly beyond your horizons.
This life is like a swimming pool. You dive into the water, but you can’t see how deep it is. It is remarkable how much analogy in life is related to swimming. The calm before the storm. Swim against the tide. Swimming upstream. Up a creek without a paddle. In and out of the swim of things. Sink or swim. Be in the swim of things.
Featured photo credit: Synchronized swimming via bhmpics.com