SWIMMING LIKE A PINEAPPLE
Posted on 13th May 2021 at 10:54
Do what you think you can't do. Be afraid - have a go anyway. Notice what you DID achieve, not what you didnt.
Is there any hope?
When I was in the early years of senior school we went swimming each week to the pool in town. I have happy memories of the too-hot-to-drink powdery soup from a machine and a bag of crisps or a wagon wheel, munched quickly with wet hair before getting back on the bus to school.
What I don't have good memories of, was the swimming itself.
The baby class
I spent the first few sessions in what was known as 'the baby class'. This was in the shallow end for kids who couldn't swim.
However, I made good progress (from pineapple to splashy novice. Kinda like a pineapple with limbs) and was upgraded to the deep end, to swim with the kids who moved like dolphins in the water.
The main problem wasn't my lack of swimming style, though graduating to a pineapple with arms and legs wasn't in any way pretty! No, the real problem was my fear of deep water. But, my PE teacher allowed me to stay within reach of the bar at all times. And I was doing ok.
Cruella De Vil
Then one day we had a different PE teacher filling in and she, seeing my reliance upon the bar, shifted me to the furthest point away from it. About 6 proficient dolphin types bobbed between me and my comfy blanket. Oh dear. This was not going to end well.
I won't mention the teacher's name because I believe she's still alive and kicking (someone).
I was really worried, not least because the more advanced swimmers had yet to learn how to fetch a brick from the bottom whilst wearing pyjamas (really!?) and I wasn't sure the teacher would dive in to save me either.
We were challenged to do a width of the pool without stopping. I took some deep breaths. I believed I might manage it if I tried really hard not to think of how far below me the floor of the pool was.
I'd never done a full width, I'd usually grab the bar a few times along the way and have a little moment to myself.
Now there was no bar. Stopping was not an option. Or at least, stopping was a REALLY stupid option as it would result in a swift, brick-like descent. (Did I mention I couldn't tread water either?).
It gets worse!
How had I been fooled into thinking that was all there was to it!? Probably because it was already bad enough! But no, we were to do a width of the deep end WHILST NOT USING OUR LEGS.
Now I was seriously panicking. My flailing, unpretty, are-you-sure-she's-not-drowning style of swimming was pretty dire, but couldn't be done at all without the use of my legs.
Ready, steady, go!
We set off from the side of the pool and I managed two, count them two whole strokes with my arms before starting to slowly sink and, in a desperate life-saving effort, brought my legs into the mix. Phew, I was now afloat and, as a bonus, moving forward!
I carried on, focusing on the other side of the pool instead of the acres of water below me. It felt like to biggest expanse of water since Moses needed to part the red sea. But I made it. I wanted to cry with relief. The pain in my lungs from the exertion, the ache in my legs and arms from my very first unassisted width of the pool, was nothing compared to my delight at not being dead.
The delightful teacher sent me straight back to the baby class. But not before tearing me off a strip for taking the easy, lazy option to cross the width of the pool.
I walked, a little wobbly in my tired legs, back down the other end of the pool, feeling a little humiliated. But then, and up til this day, I held tight to the feeling of "Yes, but I DID it!".
Comparisonitis and Expectations of Perfection
Two things that can stop us having a go and prevent us from celebrating when we do make an attempt, are comparing ourselves against others and the dread of doing something imperfectly. I felt like a pineapple next to those dolphins. I was told off for not getting it right. But in amongst all of that were some of the most valuable things life has to offer;
• Doing something you didn't think you could do
• Being afraid of getting it wrong and having a go anyway
• Noticing what you DID achieve, not what you didn't
Teresa Amibile's book The Progress Principle, describes the research that shows that of all the things we might be motivated by at work, the key one is 'support towards progress'. In order to feel that motivation, we need to notice the progress we're making!
I wish for you, a week of doing all three of those things. But especially the third one. It's the A of my CARE Wellbeing Model - Acknowledge. Whatever happens, every single day, you get things done. Even if it's just brushing your teeth or making a cuppa. Notice what you do, count them up. Realise how every day, you show up and do your thing.
And whether you think of yourself as a pineapple or a dolphin: "You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here" so says Max Ehrmann. And me.
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