Since I probably won't be traveling to Greece anytime soon, I decided instead to seek out a slightly altered version of water in this frozen city of Minneapolis. I've been wanting to do this forever and tonight I finally did it: I went to the Jewish Community Center and went swimming. And, well, it was as wonderful as I had hoped it would be.
I chose to do this today because it has been an especially bad day filled with just way too much self-doubt and double guessing--two things that I am getting much too good at. Because the work on my project has not been coming easily to me, I was starting to believe (wanting to believe) that the act of swimming could somehow unlock the words that have been struggling to find their way to the page.
Instead, what I found out was that swimming can be just as hard as anything else. It can even be as difficult as writing if I wanted to make it that way. The knee that's been bothering me hurt at first. So I floated on my back. Then I held my breath and swam underwater. I got water up my nose (a few times). I did slow laps doing the side-stroke. I attempted to touch the bottom of the pool at the deep end. Most of all, I tried to let go of everything that was bothering me and just swim. Of course, things like getting water up my nose made it hard to attain complete transcendence...but it was a start.
As I swam I began to realize that nothing comes for free. There was a part of me that hoped that by going swimming (even just once in a pool at a community center) the words would start to flow a little bit easier. Before getting out, I took extra time to just float on my back and relax. Maybe I should have floated longer. Afterwards I sat in the blue tiled hot tub with water that was almost the exact same color as the photograph that inspired me to seek water in the first place. Then I took a steam bath--something I've never done before and, oh, it was a 107 degrees of steamy heaven.
In the end, none of my problems have magically disappeared. The challenges that I set aside for a few hours tonight, will again be waiting for me tomorrow. Writing is a challenge, but like swimming, the more I trust myself, the easier it is. And so I've decided that maybe I'll go swimming more often...because learning how to let go doesn't happen over night.
"Swimmers know that if they relax on the water it will prove to be miraculously buoyant; and writers know that a succession of little strokes on the material nearest them--without any prejudgments about the specific gravity of the topic or the reasonableness of their expectations--will result in creative progress." ~William Stafford, from Writing the Australian Crawl.