Prompt #29:

Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down a major life goal you have yet to achieve or even begin to take action on. For each goal, write down three uncertainties (read: fears) you have relating to each goal. Break it down further, and write down three reasons for each uncertainty. When you have three reasons for your fear, you’ll be able to start processing the change because you know where the fear stems from. Now you’ll be able to make a smaller changes that push you towards your larger goal. So begins the process of “trusting yourself.”

(Author: Sean Ogle)

Response:

This question seems to explore a familiar theme, and I feel as though I have addressed this for myself a few times already. So I am going to chart a new route through these waters.

One of my favorite literary characters Atticus Finch once explained that you have to have the courage to walk around in someone else’s skin, if you really want to understand her. I have been reminded of this the past few days, as Katie’s relationship with swimming continues to unfold. A couple of readers have asked for updates about how she is doing this week, and it just so happens that a conversation about “fear” is highly relevant here.

After a joyous day of swimming with Boppa and with me last week, Katie seemed to be her usual self in the pool. She still sat out all of her class last week, but I was content that her fear seemed to extend only to her class. Taking her swimming again this weekend, we were having fun together when all of the sudden—she seemed to panic, catching hold of the thought that I might drop her (AS IF!) and then, despite assurances that I wouldn’t ever drop her, she wanted out of the pool immediately. This was a difficult moment for me, because now it seemed as though we were regressing: not only did she not want to take her class to learn new skills, but now she was refusing to practice the skills (jumping off the wall, crab walking, etc) that we learned last year in our mommy and me class.

Bewildering. Never once has she been afraid of the water, the pool. She started swimming with me when she was nine months old in her Nana’s pool. I have often described her as fearless when it comes to the water, and now I see her trepidation growing.

I have had to take yet another step back from this and not worry about it, while at the same time I owe it to her to try to be inside of her skin and understand her fear. One thing I know for sure: it has grown bigger by sitting in her head. Her fear feels bigger than she is.

So it has been time to back up and change strategies. I haven’t made her go to class for the past two days. Of course I wonder if this is ethically the best decision—I was never a class cutter, myself. Yet it seems to me that, in the time that she has been sitting watching her class, perhaps the fear has had time to fester. She was begging not to go to class this morning. Maybe the thing I need to do in this case is just back off, let it recede from her immediate awareness. I feel like I am bungling this swimming gig with her left and right. I don’t know what to do…except, I know it begins with understanding her fear and finding empathy for it.

And what do I fear? I fear that her life will be bound in by fear. I worry that this will keep her from living her life to the most passionate, most curious extent. I fear that she will miss out, that she won’t let herself feel it all. I worry that she will limit herself, will not experience the true joy of utter abandonment to life’s simplest pleasures. I worry that this is a trend, and not a phase. I worry that I am an inadequate guide for her. I worry that I will not know how to help her… How do I guide her to peace within herself?

So I did today what all mother’s do when faced with these challenges: I pulled up on my bootstraps, and started anew. Katie asked me to stay home from Toastmasters today, and so I did. We made a yogurt pops (ice, strawberry Greek yogurt, lowfat milk, bananas, and strawberries) and froze them in our popsicle maker tray. I got out the wading pool and filled it up to let the sun warm it, and by the afternoon, we were all playing in it happily and eating our treats. Katie was jumping, somersaulting in the water, floating on her back. We cheered for her and I told her, “You were created for the water! You are my water girl.” She shouted both of these ideas at the top of her merry lungs. She was happy and not fearful at all. Maybe she just needs to feel the absence of any pressure, class included.

We also painted items for Boppa’s birthday (on Friday), and she helped me to sew some more pennants for Eric’s birthday bunting while he slept. We read a little, and just enjoyed our day. It is feeling so much like a magical summer to me. Bare feet…the scent of sunblock…fresh fruit…afternoon light…bathing suits…frozen treats… Lovely.

 

 

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