I am a terrible swimmer. When I took swimming lessons the custom was: If you didn't jump in by yourself, they threw you in. Sink or swim, baby.
To this day the smell of chlorine makes me nauseous.
Not wanting my children to be equally as traumatized, I sought out kind, nurturing swim instructors who would introduce my children to the skill of swimming in a gentle, loving manner. Mrs. H. taught private swim lessons in her own pool each summer. I signed up my daughter Ashleigh first. Within six lessons she went from barely getting her hair wet to executing a lovely front crawl. Mrs. H. was perfect! She was nurturing and kind, yet firm—in a loving way—when she needed to be.
Anxious for my son to benefit from this woman's incredible teaching skills, I signed Joshua up the next summer. Secure in her embrace, he did gentle dunkings beneath the surface of the water, just as his sister had done, and held onto Mrs. H.'s arms as he happily practiced kicking his little legs. But when the day finally came for him to jump into the pool on his own…
His little arms clung to the side of the pool in a death grip. No amount of kindness, gentleness, cajoling or bribery would pry that kid loose. Then loving, gentle, nurturing Mrs. H. uttered the words that sent me spiraling back in time and I experienced my own personal version of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.
"Sweetheart, if you don't jump in on your own, I'm going to have to throw you in."
What?! Was she serious? My gut clenched.
Josh just shook his little head and held on even tighter.
I sat, frozen, as Mrs. H. climbed from the pool. I wanted to stop her. To say something! But my mouth and throat went dry as paper towel.
"I don’t want to jump in. NO! Noooooo!" my little guy cried.
I could feel my own heart race as she detached his skinny arms and lifted him from the pool.
"Hold your breath, honey."
I leaped to my feet, complete panic galvanizing me into action. Although I lacked swimming skills, I prepared to dive in and save my baby when his dark head suddenly bobbed to the surface and he dog-paddled the few feet back to the edge.
Mrs. H. looked down at him.
Josh wiped his nose and looked up at her, grinning. "Can we do that again?"
I sank back down, slack jawed, he LIKED it?! Was he nuts?
Mrs. H. dropped him in several more times that day and he LOVED it. The nut!
Remembering this story got me thinking metaphorically again. What happened with Josh is what happens to a lot of us when it comes to our private goals and dreams--like my desire to write novels (published novels!). Maybe you have the same desire to write, or you'd like to go back to school or make a career change. We happily kick around in that dream stage. But when the moment comes to actually dive in, we balk. Sure, we've got loads of great excuses. Life is too busy. Now is not a good time. We don't have the money right now. But what it really boils down to is fear. Fear of failure? Fear of success?
So we procrastinate.
I was blessed with the equivalent of a psychological toss into the pool from a writing class I took. Now I've got a finished first draft of my novel to show for it and I'm swimming my way through revisions. What about you? Do you have a secret dream you've kept tucked away, hidden from everyone's view—including your own? What's stopping you from jumping in?
Image by: Grace Family