Learning to Swim in Life

In life, we come full circle. I’ve often wondered why I’m such an overachiever. Why am I always striving? Why do I have such a need to accomplish? Why does it feel like work to slow down? Here I am at age 49, and I finally see it.

All of my life, I’ve been running.

Running away from myself, while thinking I was running toward me.  I thought I was building myself up, shaping who I am, getting stronger. But as it turns out, I was masking. 

The best schools. The best jobs. New York City. Marriage, great kids, running marathons, traveling across the world for charity work, Manhattan Beach. Starting this blog. Self development courses. Establishing a fine jewelry business. Achieving whatever it was that I decided I wanted.  I became an expert at gaining validation from all things external. 

“When life breaks you open, you’re forced to look at yourself in the most raw form. With nowhere to hide, all your fears, insecurities, inner child needs, and coping mechanisms surface. I am here. And I am doing the work to rebuild my foundation. Taking a rewind to myself as a little girl to get to know her better. Where it all started. Where I started- Age 0-8. These are the most formative years of our lives. Have you visited your inner child? What is she/he like? Focusing on the heaviness on my journey to become light! Let’s go.”

I posted this on my Instagram yesterday morning, then went for a run. With tears in my eyes, I spent those 3 miles thinking about how I’ve been coping with my life and the broken pieces of myself over this past year. 

I was untethered, floating in an ocean with nothing but myself to survive. I am learning how to swim on my own, but it’s hard.

Lost in the ocean, when I’d see a raft or even friendly shark, anything to help me float for a bit, I’d grab it. It was a nice reprieve. Let me rest for a while and gain some energy, I thought. It felt so much better there. Let me build the strength to learn how to swim. I’d enjoy the warmth of the sun on my body, the ocean breeze brushing over my face. It felt good. It felt peaceful. It felt safe.

But then the wave would push me off the raft or the shark would swim away. I am left under water again. I am scared. I only know how to doggie paddle. How do I do this? How do I teach myself how to swim?

I see rafts in the distance. I see sharks circling. But I no longer want their help. Breathe. Slow down your system. Think clearly.

Finally, I see the shore in the distance. I paddle over to solid ground. I feel my feet on the sand! I take a breath. Rest here. Let’s learn how to swim, step by step. 

When the water feels too deep, I’ll come back to shore. As I gain the skills, I’ll swim a little further out. Eventually, I’ll be deep in the ocean again, but this time, my body will be gliding through the water. Graceful, relaxed, and with full control. The next time I feel the sun and breeze on my face will be as I joyfully float on my back, on my own.

When love and security isn’t internalized as a child through the attention of our parents, we spend our whole lives looking outward to fill that void. 

Once we recognize this, we can do the work to find inner peace from within. 

So many of us have wounds from our childhoods that influence our behavior and how we live our lives.

Most of us are in denial. I am learning, those of us who have the opportunity to look within ourselves are blessed. Usually, it takes something that destroys us to force us to face ourselves. 

I’m ready. I’m open. And I see myself. Here I go! I’ll be back after I make more progress on learning how to swim, and I will share how I did it. 

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. By Jen Oliak.