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Just Dive In, They Say

Not me!

                                 [3-minute read]

I don’t want to just dive into the water, and I don’t care if I’m a rotten egg. I don’t dive into much, actually.

Which is strange, because I love beginnings, the freshness of unstained hope not yet wracked by reality.¹ I think it reminds me of a future that I deny. Go jump in the lake can mean, in the wrong mind, I hope you die soon. Some of my resistance to jumping into water I can’t see the bottom of, I begin to glumly theorize, arises from my diffidence about death. It doesn’t feel like dread, not quite, but I do sense my unpreparedness. Strange waters or familiar, they feel like a presentiment of extinction. This explains a lot of things.

¹ Except for writing. The terror of the start is not quite matched by the eventual, fitful flow of production and the relieved delight of having written. So swimming is like writing, too, except that I don’t imagine ever being competent in water.

Some of this nervous distaste is less abstract. It comes from my blasted confidence in water, stoked by a childhood failure at lessons in my small town’s cracked outdoor pool. Simple stuff, but I couldn’t do it. Ever since, a lake or pool or pond is above all a glorious thing to get out of, to put sand or clay or concrete underfoot again, to gaze from solid ground on the seductive beauty of water in motion, water still, water frozen and forever. I stare at it, fascinated, confirmed to find it in front of me, not over my head.

Diving in, on my preferred footing of metaphor, is letting go of my dried-out conventions and certainties, which is hard to do. I can admit to the occasional thrill when literally doing so, in Actual Water. When hot, even if unbothered, crashing into coolness is a lively shock, and I don’t flounder right away. I just hang there, most of me under the surface. From the hindsight of a desk, I wonder why a man with more than sufficient body fat won’t float with more ease. But suspended in a cold, thought-stunning brew, I always play dead for a while, suspending my next breath until it is gaspingly joyful.

From that point on, water is work. It takes blushingly few minutes before I am utterly gassed.  I flee to sun and solidity, or even just a frisky towelling. I have maximized my natural-born discomfort, seen what my body’s resistance to water can produce in the way of muscle combustion, warming and tightening and tanning and toning myself from within.

It feels so good to get out! My brief bout of thrashing compounds the thrill of the solid ground, the green trees and open skies of living. I figured this out today: I jump in the water as a rehearsal for death, and leave it with gratitude for another day of escape.

Just thinking about swimming is exhausting, even if the dive itself is bracing and the exit from water is a kind of banal resurrection. Meanwhile, my bride’s just off to work, having already made an eager run down to her secret pond, where she glories in the sweet waters of meditation by breast-stroke, mindfulness on the move. She doesn’t understand what I’m talking about.

Comments (2)

  1. Amalia

    How do you feel about ball pits? You know, thousands of colorful balls just waiting for the “splash”? Those freak me out way more than water. Though death may be less likely in a ball pit, I still fear it. I feel your pain, man.

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