Take me to the river,
drop me in the water
I don’t know why I love her like I do
All the trouble you put me through”
—-Talking Heads/Al Green
I love to swim and I have always loved the water. I also love nature and being outdoors.
So why on Earth can I not rectify all these things? Make them one; make them whole?
It’s the lake, you know. That big, beautiful calming water that taunts me from my bedroom window, the kitchen window, the family room french doors, the deck and the dock. The lake that has a still calm one moment and a crisp, inexplicable wave pattern the next. The lake that is spring fed and has fresh water recycled into it everyday from some magical place beneath the Earth’s surface. The same dark, watery source that reflects the bright white of the moon and when you see it, you know that all is right with the world. The great beauty of natural space surrounded by trees that inspired us to buy this house and property in the first place – that lake.
It taunts me.
Every damn day it taunts me.
And now that the weather is warm, okay correction, REALLY HOT, it taunts me even more.
I love her you know. I sit on the dock and ponder what it would be like to swim her. To dive (or jump) without fear into her dark waters and break into a breast stroke or free style (or I would even settle for doggy paddle) and venture out through her cool waters.
I tried it once. ONCE. Just the other day, I went from flotation device to water. I couldn’t see the bottom. I freaked. I breathed. I freaked again. I swam about 50 feet away from the dock, saw a leaf, that in my mind looked like an alligator/snapping turtle/crocodile/water moccasin/water-going pit bull, and quickly high-tailed it back to the shore.
It’s not the swimming part or fear of drowning. I have been swimming since I was three years old. Growing up in Florida, I swam in pools, usually all year-long. You know, those concrete holes with the crystal blue water where you can see the bottom. Those wonderful things in people’s backyards that you can dive into any time day or night and not be afraid of being eaten alive.
Occasionally, I would venture into the ocean but usually not past my waist. That is a whole other discussion. Right now we are focusing on inland water sources.
Anyway, growing up we had a canal in our backyard that had ocean access. So we had all types of water-going creatures living, swimming and hunting in our backyard. This waterway was connected not only to the ocean but had a dam that connected it to the Everglades. So in addition to visiting manatees and the occasional small shark, we also had visiting alligators and snapping turtles. When I was young, my mother warned me of the treachery that existed below the dark surface of the canal. Not only did she scare the living daylights out of me about large, fanged creatures, but also about the possibility of diseases I had never heard of like “impetigo” and “typhoid fever.”
So you can see why I am mental.
I see that lake and I see its beauty. But I also see that lake and I see “canal” and I hear “bad ju-ju,” “stay away,” “do not enter.” Even though there are no alligators or other treacherous animals below the surface, I still feel the “canal panic.”
I have visions of waking up early, doing yoga and plunging into the water and swimming to the other side and back again. I know how wonderful the exercise would be but also how liberating it will be once I accomplish it. It just seems that those purifying visions are often eaten by a 20-foot alligator lurking beneath the surface just waiting for me personally to slip into the water. I see kids on the water splashing and having fun. I see adults (occasionally) swimming its waves. So why can’t I just jump in there and do it?
Because it scares the crap out of me, that’s why.
Whenever we begin a Yoga Without Walls class, we always read a quote and have a short inspiring meditation. It sets the tone for the practice. A few months ago I told a wonderful class of yogis, who I had the pleasure of teaching, that we should all do one thing everyday that scares us. I told them (you know who you all are) that I was going to swim the lake. I explained my fear and that I was going to overcome it.
Guess what? I still haven’t done it.
I thought about that this afternoon as I sat on the dock and watched the water. I tried to break apart what I was really afraid of when it came to swimming the lake. Was it real? No (well it could be, but that was just the hysteria talking). If life is really an illusion, an opportunity for us to grow and to learn and to become the greatest, grandest vision of ourselves, was I missing an opportunity to expand by not taking the plunge? By limiting myself in this way was I limiting myself in other ways?
What is fear? and when we are afraid who is really afraid – is it our true authentic self, that higher part of us that is connected to the Divine or is it the Ego?
Fear is so limiting. We are afraid to go to a party, a new job, a new place to live, introduce ourselves to a stranger, smile at people in public, let someone in traffic, try a new food, speak the truth, tell someone we love them. We never venture pass that line of feeling safe because we can come up with a million reasons why we will regret the action – I won’t know anyone, what if I don’t like the new job, what if they don’t smile back, what if I am late for work, what if they reject me?
So we live with our truth and our music still inside of us. We never take the leap to know what it would be like on the other side of fear. We never know what it would be like if we just jumped off the dock and let go/let God.
I went down to have a minute with the lake again this evening. I was going to make peace with my fear/apprehension/delusion/ego-induced hysteria – whatever you want to call it. Mason came with me and as we approached I saw a turtle head pop out of water.
“A turtle,” I said pointing it out to Mason as if this would justify everything.
“So?” he asked me. “It’s not going to hurt you Mom. geez.”
I felt a little silly (just a little).
We sat on the dock and watched a deer come out of the woods for a drink. We watched some loons fly over head. I watched for turtles, alligators and water-going pit bulls.
Mason started telling me about the bugs on the water called Water Striders and showed me what their faces looked like and described how scared moths must be once they fall into the water and they become prey to these bugs.
“That’s not helping,” I said quietly.
“What would help?” he asked.
“If I just did it,” I said quietly watching a suspicious ripple. “If I just trusted and let go.”
“Then do it,” he said. He reached out and patted my arm. “You can do it,” he said smiling.
I can do it I said to myself.
And I will do it.
I will dive into her cool waves and let her catch me and leave this ridiculous limiting fear on the dock when I do.