Trusting myself is something that doesn't come easy as I often waffle between confidence and cowardice. Some days I know what I want, and will say what I want. Other days I'm swallowing my opinions and clamming up or catching myself asking others what I should do.
This isn't the same as 'if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'. This isn't the same feeling as asking for genuine help, because there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance or advice with tough decisions. It's just that some days I don't trust myself enough to know what's the best thing for me to do and or to say. The situation could be simple, but I'm always thinking (or over-thinking) that someone else may know better or may have said it better. That's stupid, right? Only I should know what I want for myself, how I want to engage with others, but that's because the trust I have for myself is sometimes wrapped up in the craggy foil coldness known as 'fear'.
Fear is something that I've discussed before in concerns towards my writing, my sharing of it, and how I'm trying to utilize fear as a motivator to get me to achieve my writing goals, rather than have the boogeyman, the fear, crowding me in a closet. I am determined to be Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween with my writing. I want to take the hanger and stab the boogeyman (aka the fear of writing) right in the eye.
But as for applying that image to the rest of my life --- that is easier said than done.
Last Thursday, I took a swim.
Swimming is something I don't do often, and I have only recently picked it up again since the beginning of high school when I took my final swimming class, and that was about a good ten years ago. I didn't grow up around a beach, and my parents weren't rich enough to own a swimming pool or afford swimming lessons every summer. Lacking this, swimming has always been this unreachable treat for me. That all changed when my parents moved out of my childhood home to an apartment complex on the other side of town, and one of the 'perks' was that this complex has a nice long outdoor pool. When I moved back in with my parents after graduation, I would from time to time sit by this pool, listening to music, and being hypnotized by the pool's outer fountain gush. That was it. I didn't even dip a toe in. See, there goes that fear again....
I'll admit to not being the greatest of swimmers. I wasn't terribly afraid of the water, just that lack of pool access, and dismal swimming classes built this sort odd apprehension I have about water and me being immersed in it. The last swimming class I took was at the local YMCA and it was disappointing for me because the instructor was kind of an ass and he told me I couldn't float, backstroke, dive, you know, all the things he was supposed to be teaching me how to do.
Floating was the biggie as everybody in the class could do it except yours truly as I kept failing my arms, and well, panicking over my 'eventual' drowning. Fear had struck again. When the class ended, you were 'rewarded' a certificate of completion (yep, that ol' time Millennial religion again), and then you were ranked. I was ranked a "Guppy" --- the bottom runt --- and the only one in the class awarded this ~special~ ranking. Me being young and sensitive to what people thought of me and thinking I had failed massively, I cried about it, and vowed to never swim again. Dramatic, I know.
Last summer, something magical happened. Something call confidence happened. I got tired of sitting by the pool and decided that I needed to let 10 years of Guppy-dom go bye-bye. So I dove in. The water was fine. I was fine. I wasn't drowning and --- shock of shocks --- I could swim, even without my trusted floating Noodle. Just like riding a bike, I didn't forget the basics. I realized oh so late that I had applied what some jerk said about my swimming technique, and had created a fear of the water and of myself in the water off of that. I didn't trust myself to know better. So there I was swimming the length of the pool, back and forth, building up trust and confidence weekly. I would go one lap, two, then several, over the deep end and back to the shallow. I was thrilled.
This year, I took it a step further --- I decided I was going to learn to float once and for all.
As much as I could swim in it, I feared floating in the water. I feared lying on my back, and coasting across it, letting the water encase me from all sides. Floating is all about trusting yourself. You can't trust the water, its rushing, its flowing, it's still --- it's just going to do whatever it wants. You control you, and you have to --- no you must --- relax. You have to just focus, and trust. After so much apprehension, I began trusting myself in the water, and voila! a slice of nirvana was achieved.
The photos you see sprinkled through this post are of me on my back, floating, and looking up skyward. Yes, I took my nice new phone (hey, the "special feature" is that it is waterproof...) into the middle of this pool, laid on my back, and started snapping, watching the clouds mutate, and trusting the coast of the water.
Let's just say it was a FABULOUS feeling. It was just me out there with the water, the sky, the clouds, and nobody else (well, my overly cautious Mom was watching me from the apartment's fitness area next door). Still, I was out there, watching clouds mutate and the birds fly by. No fear, just pure bliss between me, the sky, and the water. It was a very Their Eyes Were Watching God moment as I was reminded of the end scene where Halle Berry's Janie Crawford was floating down the river having her personal epiphany.
Okay, for safety reasons I did put the phone up after snapping these pictures. I know full well that seeing life through the lens of your own senses can 'snap' a better shot more than anything. Still, while floating, I thought about how I had always been afraid of lying on my back in water, there hovering over a deep depth, but that has changed, as well, I got over all the fear and doubt that had harbored inside me for way too long about swimming and floating.
Right now I'm struggling with unemployment. I'm struggling with finding a clear path to what I want to do with my life. I'm struggling with my writing and fitting into that world. I'm struggling seeing my parents getting older and them not being the same people they were during my rosy colored childhood. I'm simply struggling with growing into an adult, yet I need to not fear these things.
I can and need to trust myself, trust life a little bit more (nod to Mama Angelou), trust that things will turn out to be okay. That these fears I have, while not fully subsiding, will be minimized. I have to not give into fear. I have to float and be calm in the middle of the chaos. I have gotten over one fear now, and there will always be others to conquer, but as I learn to trust myself and trust what I can do for myself, all I need to do is when I have these fears and doubts is to look up at that big sky and see the wide range of possibilities that await me and simply float on.
Cue Kate Bush: