Every muscle from my waist to my head aches. Yesterday I took my children to start a membership in a swimming pool, and we began a sort of home-schooled attempt at swimming lessons. Not to be outdone by my hard-working children, I thought I’d swim a couple of laps.
Both children have been in tears over swimming in their P.E. class. As kids who haven’t done swimming lessons for a couple of years, thrown in amidst South African kids who have been swimming laps since before they could read, my kids are reeling. For the next six months, every week they’ll be swimming an hour of laps, mostly freestyle.
There are few experiences more discouraging than heaving to catch your breath in a poorly executed crawl, especially when you look up to see your classmates pushing a pool-length ahead.
So the kids begged me to teach them better swimming. What they know is, I understand their emotional needs and won’t push them past the point where their bodies shut down in panic. What they may not know is, I also swim with a lot more gulping and flailing than gliding and floating.
Thank God there are websites. Teachyourkidstoswim.com has become our lifeline. Another site gave us step-by-step instructions in flip turns. My daughter managed to master them in time for next week’s school assessment, and my son’s back float and front glides made huge improvements.
Even though it’s been a couple years since I swam more than a hundred meters, even though I hadn’t stretched and I probably wasn’t hydrated, I felt lame leaving the first lesson without a little exercise.
Two laps later, I seem to have over-extended every muscle in my torso. Thanks to those websites, I can read about every mistake I made to cause my body such trauma, and all the ways I’m supposed to adjust my swimming strokes so I won’t rip my body to shreds.
Learning how to solve most problems in life is not that hard.
But I confess, on our second lesson, I didn’t swim a single lap.
I stood staring down the length of that long cold pool, shivering and stiff, my children gliding and kicking their drills behind me, and I distinctly heard a little voice in my head complain:
“If you haven’t learned this yet, don’t bother trying now.”
Old dog. New tricks. I went to get a towel.
Doing life badly, like swimming badly, hurts badly. But it’s easier to check out than fix what causes the hurt.
The more I do research about attitudes toward work, the more I marvel that we all don’t just slide into lazy apathy.
Sure, the human body can learn a lot. People run marathons. They relearn to walk and talk after head injuries. They go home from wars and learn how to become gentle parents. They take up new careers in their 60s. They even get PhDs in their late thirties (ah hem).
People rely on all sorts of motivations to make life changes. The encouragement of others. The push of harsh necessity. Pride. Logical evidence proving they will succeed.
I stood in that pool void by any of those motivations.
Encouragement, necessity, pride, and evidence will only get you so far. When most of the significant changes in this life need to happen, those motivators have abandoned people.
So what have I found that gets me past those stuck points in my own life?
It comes down to a desire to be fully human. Thomas Aquinas said Homo non propie humanus sed superhumanus est – to be properly human, you must go beyond the merely human.
Nothing thrills me like those superhuman moments. The high points of my life mark discoveries that I can become something I never knew I could be. Making positive life change happen is a miracle – it’s seeing something created out of nothing. It’s driven by faith, supported by hope, gifted by grace. It’s some of the best evidence of the supernatural we’ll ever experience.
And I’m addicted to it.
So I’m going back out into that pool, dead set on learning rotations and breathing and kicking, inviting something supernatural to happen.
What’s the impossible change you need to make happen? What motivates you?