Maybe it’s important for you to know about my relationship with water. Maybe you should know that I both love and fear water – that there were times in my life that I swam daily, and that I’m awed by the power and beauty of water. And maybe you should know that I’ve had asthma since I was five, so breathing has been a thing for me. Breathing while swimming has always been particularly interesting. Maybe you should know these things before I tell you about swimming in Portland.
So there I was in the Portland Hilton (which is a lovely hotel, by the way). As it happens, this hotel happens to have a salt water swimming pool. Salt water is delightfully buoyant. I’ll get to that.
Since there was this lovely pool, and since I was in Portland for about a week, I took advantage of the pool, and went swimming one day. I like swimming laps. I like the rhythm. I like the sensation of hearing things in the water and out. I heard my first calling – to nursing – while I was swimming (in the Yates Field House at Georgetown University, as it happens). The water was a good temperature – not too warm, but not too cold, either. And, perhaps because of the day of the week or the time of day, it wasn’t at all crowded. I had half of the pool (a giant lane) to myself.
So I swam. I prefer breaststroke. I have trouble working out the breathing with freestyle. It’s not very free for me. Breaststroke is comfortable for me. But sometimes, to switch it up just a bit, I do a little backstroke, too. I swam some breaststroke laps. Back and forth. I got into a rhythm with my breathing. I listened to what the world sounded like above the water and below. I reached the wall and touched the wall and turned around. And then I did a lap of backstroke.
Backstroke is a little different. There’s a lot more splashing. And the water sometimes laps up over my face a bit. And things sound different. Also, I tend to get more aggressive with the backstroke. So I was tired out after that.
And there I was, on my back in the pool. And that’s when I decided to just float there for a while. In the salt water. At first, I was doing some of the work. At first, I was holding my legs up, and my arms a bit, and even my head. As if I didn’t really trust the water. And then a thing happened. What happened was that I decided to surrender. I gave in to the water. I dropped my head back. I let my arms and legs go completely. My back arched a bit more. And suddenly, I was doing nothing. The water was doing all of it. And nothing hurt anymore.
Now, just before I’d gone to Portland – well, maybe a week before, I’d really hurt my back. I mean, I’d really hurt my back. Muscle relaxers and pain killers. I even wore an over-the-counter TINS unit on the plane. But floating there in the pool, nothing hurt.
And then I had to wonder why I’d been fighting it for so long — and what else I’d been fighting. I mean, I did hear my first call in a swimming pool. And there’s the hearing of the call and the answering of a call. And that isn’t necessarily an immediate thing. And I recall that every time I’ve surrendered myself to God — EVERY time — things have worked out. So why is this so hard?
Well, I suppose there’s the unknown. And the fear that I might drown. I mean, when I dropped my head back, my face was a lot closer to the water. But the water never actually covered my face. It never covered my face. The water is there. The world is there. Scary things are out there. How do I know that God is holding me up and keeping the scary things from swallowing me whole?
I know because God has always held me up. I know because when I surrender completely in the water everything is better, and when I’ve surrendered completely to God, everything is better.
This doesn’t mean that I never argue with God. I’m all for arguing with God. There are definitely times to argue. But there are also times to surrender. And with complete surrender comes relaxation and clarity. It might seem paradoxical, but I think it’s because with complete surrender there’s no energy spent on fighting. There are no distractions. It becomes easy. Easy – that’s a thing worth trying.
I think I need to float more often.
That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.