The other day I went swimming with my husband. Well he went swimming and I went paddling. You see I much prefer to hang out on the side of the pool where my feet just about touch the bottom and I paddle along nicely there, however according to David, my husband, that is not swimming.
“Come on out into the deep end” He called, determined to share with me the joy of doing laps. I shook my head. He came out to meet me and tried to show me some basic moves. “Just relax and let go” I stared at him blankly…let go into what, didn’t he understand the panic that rose up inside of me, the new sensation of being completely underwater was so uncomfortable that I kept jumping up gasping for air? Clearly not, because he kept pushing me to come out of my comfort zone, to go deep, so to speak.
I decided to take swimming lessons. So eventually I will really learn how to swim properly hopefully.
However I was thinking about how that experience is like a reflection for life. So many of us paddle along thinking that we are really living; we deal in the superficial, focusing on the aspects of life that keep us from drowning, (or so we think) a big house to live in, a fancy car to drive, a marriage that looks good to onlookers, designer clothes to rock and so on.
When something doesn’t feel right we address it on the surface. We feel inadequate because we don’t have what others in our social circle have, so we hustle to make it, in order to keep up with the Jones. We feel a little unsure with our looks, so we weave, paint and glue on, false pieces to embellish our sense of identity. We starve ourselves if necessary not to be healthy but to fit into a contrived version of beauty.
We only focus on what is on the surface. And I don’t blame anyone, going deep, going underwater is scary. You feel as if your lungs are going to explode and that life as you know it will no longer continue because you might drown.
Here’s the thing I am finding.
No matter how much you are paddling and how cool you look in your bathing suit with your hair not really getting wet, David was right, you are not swimming. No matter how comfortable your life appears and how glamorous you may be, if your life serves no purpose, then you are not living. Simply existing. If I can be morbid, you are a walking corpse, albeit a fabulously dressed one.
Whose life have you touched? What heart have you inspired? What kindness have you proffered that has impacted someone’s existence? What is your life’s purpose? What were you born to do?
I was coaching a woman the other day and she said “I have no idea what my purpose is. I don’t know what my passions are either.” Now this woman holds a professional degree, is a mother, wife and has been working in corporate America for more than a decade, but recently she came to the conclusion that she wanted to change her life. She was dissatisfied with so much in her life. Her marriage wasn’t quite what everyone thought it was, intimacy between she and her spouse had all but died, she felt like she was shortchanging her children because she never had any quality time to spend with them and while she was a competent worker she felt like she would never reach a certain pinnacle of success at work. And moreover, she just simply wasn’t happy. So we talked about what it would take to create the life she wanted.
At the end of that conversation, she responded with “Ekene, I just don’t know, you are asking me to change my life, I don’t think I can…” I smiled and reminded her that I wasn’t asking her to change her life, she desired to do so, but her response was what I expected. She was like me, content to paddle along and watch others swim powerfully, slicing through the water and creating a new path. I was afraid and so was she.
Going deep isn’t easy. It’s about looking at yourself and dealing with what lies underneath. Not focusing on the extra weight you are carrying about but dealing with the reasons why you are carrying it around (I could write a book on this…wait, I am writing a book!:)), not fretting about the cost of that designer bag you feel you have to have, even though you know you can’t really afford it, but facing your feelings of inadequacy that push you to have it, it’s about getting to the core of who you are, discovering your weaknesses, fears and strongholds and dealing with them, strengthening your core.
In the world of fitness, you will hear a lot about strengthening your core, it is where your true strength lies. Well going deep is about doing just that, strengthening your emotional and spiritual core. Understanding and accepting who you are and the value you add uniquely to this world. It takes work, it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not about a man shrugging his shoulders and saying “yeah, I cheat occasionally, it’s just who I am”, It’s about recognizing that you have the power to be better than who you think you are and pushing past your comfort zone to achieve it.
I say this, not because I am there yet, but because I am in the process of going deep. And it has been painful at times and exhilarating at times. I have looked into what lies underneath my emotional responses to things, why did I make some of the choices I made in my past, who am I really, under the words and the sound bytes? What are my areas of insecurity, what are my areas of strength?
Going deep is a process and it is scary at first. But just like you won’t drown while learning to swim, you lungs expand and your endurance builds, your life changes, you get stronger, wiser and deeper. When you choose to leave your comfort zone, then you can begin to live in a way that is purposeful and impactful to the world at large. Then your actions and choices will begin to add positivity to your life.
Then you can really begin to swim.
Writer – Ekene Onu is a writer, speaker and coach. Her new book “Can I be real?” is soon to be released. Visit her at www.lifelovefaith.com
Photocredit – Photodisc