I was terrified. My toes curled around the end of the diving board. I closed my eyes so I couldn’t see the deep water below. The board was small, but I felt as if I was on a 30-foot-high Olympic diving platform. My swimming instructor held a long pole with a net on the end blocking my escape route off the board. It was clear. I had no choice but to jump. I froze in fear.
This is the memory of my childhood swimming lessons. I hated them. On Friday nights I would sneak into the linen closet to find a feather pillow to sleep on. I knew my allergic reaction to the feathers would create a stuffy nose and cold-like symptoms by morning. When I woke up, I would plead with my mom that I couldn’t attend the weekly Saturday swimming lesson because obviously I had a cold and felt terrible.
I love water. I have enjoyed a life of water skiing and boating. I love streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. The thought of soaking in a warm bath brings joy to my heart. I swim with my children and challenge my grandchildren to beat me in a race across a pool. I have experienced the energy of a pod of spinner dolphins’ race around me in the ocean. The sound of water features fills my home with peace. Water calms me and cocoons me in contentment… and yes, I love to swim.
I didn’t learn to swim in swimming lessons. I learned to swim by putting a towel around my shoulders and riding my bicycle to the community pool and jumping in. I learned to swim by jumping off the side of a boat so that I could slide my feet into skis and skim across a lake filled with water that looked like glass.
I love swimming, but my fear almost kept me from ever doing it. That swimming instructor believed that standing me on a diving board and waving a pole at me would somehow force my learning. What it did was force me into a space of fear. A space that blocked me from doing what I wanted to do. It didn’t work for me and in fact, almost separated me from one of my lifelong pleasures.
The lesson I learned from this is to find another way. If something doesn’t feel right to you- if something causes more pain than pleasure- find another way. Be creative. It is our nature to move away from pain and move towards pleasure. That feather pillow helped me move away from a swimming instructor's painful teaching technique that didn’t fit with my way of learning. I wanted to be in the water. I wanted to swim. Learning by fear was not my way. My way was through the fun and enjoyment of water. I found another way.
Has this happened in your life? Has fear kept you from trying, learning, or doing something you know you would love? Can you find another way to work around the fear? Don’t allow fear to win. Find your own way. Jump over the fear and into the water.
Pennie’s Life Lesson: “Don’t allow fear to keep you from doing what you love to do. Find another way.”
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