This decade is one in which conquering fears of the past seems to be the order of the day.
i am sure if you Google Scotland and McDonald and Olympic swimmer you won’t find one hit. We Scots liked to keep our feet on the ground.
There are occasions though when we must encounter water and it seems, swim.
My brother and i recounted recently the number of beginner classes we took and not completed growing up. THREE. For various reasons were not completed and it remains a childhood scar.
A trip to a friends yacht this year demonstrated the need to learn to at least FLOAT. Everyone else was free as a breeze to float, swim and cavort with the waves. I sat onboard going in and out but never staying long. FLOATING was my weak point.
So this week when a Red Cross approved course came along at the University I jumped at the chance; well I floated toward the opportunity.
Arriving at the class at 4:30 to a bleacher full of what I though were fellow ‘floaters’ I was some what surprised when nearly a dozen young students turned, in unison and said, “Our first participant is here”–turns out the only participant. I mean a University of 34,000 and no other NON floaters…sounds like a research proposal.
So for the next hour I made my way through the 6 stations of the ‘cross’ –i was keenly observed by these students as I made my way through each station..surfacing from gathering coloured whales from the bottom of the pool with a “you are good at this”..well try beginner lessons four times and see what you can do. Station 4 seemed forever. It was the moment of truth. Can he float? Can we make him float. 25 LONG minutes with two young female students and one instructor on deck shouting commands—get him to breath through his nose…expel the water with your nose…as if GULPING it in my throat wasn’t enough. One young mermaid hold my feet, one cradling my head and the shouting commands.-raise your belly button up…head back, chin up…float you stone scotsman , float.
Slowing my bottom rose and my head sunk and I had the moment of feeling like I was on a waterbed. SUCCESS..after an hour of feeling waterboarded, the instructor offered this up-You are doing great. An couple hundred hours of practice and you will do just fine.
I finished much to the relief of the ten students waiting to get on with their lives. So with renewed hope and 3 stickers I move on to the next stage…beginner lessons.
Reflecting recently on Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz and one of his beloved characters-The cowardly lion. He was rough even tough on the outside til you poked him and he became what I think many of our on the inside: afraid, uncertain and a little bit insecure. So we bluff, we posture and sometimes roar.
What the cowardly lion needed was courage. One of my John Wayne coffee mugs says, “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyways”. Most recently I have felt like the Cowardly Lion…insecure, lacking confidence to have and get what I need and want as a human. I have lived a long time dancing, entertaining, sometimes roaring but inside needing courage. I have lived serving others, genuinely in two careers; compassionately. And then a strange thing happened; someone loved me. Someone had the courage to reach out to me. Someone had the courage to know me. It transformed me.
Being afraid I roared and bluffed and didn’t believe it could be. Now I have the courage but not yet the chance. So i have learned through a very hard path, that courage isn’t all that hard it is reaching out and holding what is before you; instead of dancing and bluffing and being afraid. The Cowardly Lion had lots of strategies to cope but what he needed most was courage and in the end he found it and it made him a new LION..er man..er human.
I am not sure what magic occurs when you hit fifty but you can remember the past. So you live with the memory and you face a future that mathematically is shorter.
So when you are young you make choices, immediate consequences but time to change or overcome. The less time you have the more impact the choices have.
I have no more answers only questions..maybe that is the wisdom of being north of 50.
The philosophical question of the century..WHY? The answer: WHY NOT?
Reflecting on why i make decisions. Not the simple ones like Chocolate cake or white cake: no contest, chocolate…but with white icing. Is that taste preference or simply I can’t decide. Actually it is the former.
In big decisions about life, marriage/divorce, job/career, meaning/purpose…ah these are harder. Things we held to firmly when we were young, like the belief that the Toronto Maple Leafs would win the cup, diminish in the face of reality. Even when a decision is made there is ‘buyers remorse’..was it the right decision? Was it made on emotion or reason or some other tenant, or societal norms?
The thing about being north of fifty is you don’t have as much space as you once did to recover from decisions. You have a shorter window to recover. Ah life you are fickle and cruel at times. So here I sit north of fifty pondering decisions and choices.
I had someone tell ask me that. Apparently after certain surgeries, the greatest need is to release gas buildup.
I thought about the request : toot…horns toot, not people. People fart. Okay maybe when we are five year old the word toot is more acceptable. When we get big enough we learn the word fart. See Fart….Full Acceleration of Released Tension…Toot= Total olfactory outlet task….which one makes more sense?
So leave the tooting to horns and the farting to what is best accomplishes..release of tension.
An old Scottish woman in a nursing home i worked at put it best, ” We’re you be let the wind blow free, for twas the wind that did kill me.
Nothing like Roy Orbison and only the lonely to mellow the mood.
There goes my baby there goes my heart…..seemingly sappy lyrics but how many hearts have sung that song? it is a long weekend….emphasis long. I will have to find something to do instead of listening to Roy all weekend.
Hard times bring out the real you. It is well known that many of the worlds best comedians had lives that were often tragic. Comedy becomes a vehicle for dealing with pain by making others laugh or worse, a cover for the complex emotions that roil under the surface.
Living in the midst of a city recovering from a tragic flood, there are a variety of responses; from despair to heroic cleanup efforts, community bonding and caring. As i wrench through the despair of this chapter of life, i feel very much like like a recovery story. I have used humor most of my life to cope and now life doesn’t seem like a strategy that works.
I look for signs of hope, sometimes it is the presence of an online friend, whose light indicates they are there. Sometimes it is the simple breeze on a warm summery day. Other times it is the quiet assurance of hope that is born of nothing rationale but then, that sometimes is what faith is.
The muck and mire will go away, the scars will be there, the memories and the hope that something will change.