The title of this post is the closest I have ever come to articulating my personal philosophy about life-living. When making big changes, I think the swan dive is too much to wish for. Change can be wild and gritty. Change can be cumbersome, like that moving box that isn’t quite too heavy to carry by yourself but you just can’t get enough of grip on to move for more than a few steps. I don’t expect to handle great changes gracefully, especially as stress builds and instability seems to permeate everything. There will be some thunder. I will get wet on this ride.
I think belly flops are for people who can’t change position fast enough. You see the surface coming and know how badly it’s going to sting, how the sound of the pain will resonate and the way you’ll pause underwater, stunned for a moment, before limping up to the surface. All you had to do was swing your legs up to your chest or pitch forward, point your arms down and slice right into the water. Somehow being a participant in the spectacle of the thing makes it worthwhile for some – reminds me a bit of how some middle school kids rationalize their behavior, actually. If you have something you care about, like an exciting idea or, you know, your internal organs, why not position yourself better before jumping in?
I’ve always had a fear of heights. It was never severe enough to keep me from thinking I might do whatever it was, from traveling by zip-line in Girl Scouts at age 10 to riding the Zambezi Zinger roller coaster at Worlds of Fun at 15 to jumping off an insanely huge boulder into Lake Powell at age 20. I chickened out easily as often as I actually did these things or – even worse – stood for interminable lengths of time pondering the worst case scenario, listening to my heart pound, wishing I were anywhere else.
Even so, in terms of the all-out adventure of life-living, the cannonball is, for me, the finest option. It is bold and captivating. A skillful cannonball also involves the audience in the exhibition. I’m bored by the perfection of swan dives and wince even thinking about belly flops, but I could watch cannonballs all day long. Approach, anticipation, giant splash, laughter. Isn’t that how we want all of our greatest adventures to turn out in the end?
Now I need one of you to get a running start…and push me off the edge. I can take it from there.
(I promised myself after my last post that I would not bore y’all or myself with any more posts that centered on my internal struggle about whether to quit my job, how this new business idea is going to work, how to help support my family financially and be able to be present emotionally and physically, too. Easier said than done. The truth is that I feel no closer to accomplishing all that than when I wrote my first blog post. I am so much better at managing these decisions when it’s only my very own ass on the line. Knowing I can survive on rice and beans and Goodwill clothes and friendship and cheap wine has made many big decisions in my life so easy. Twelve years ago, I sat on the floor of my friend Rachel’s house, rolled a Magic 8 Ball in my palm, read the bubbly triangle of advice and resolved to move to Spain. On my own, no decision (or mistake) ever felt irreversible. But I often wonder how head-of-households justify these risks. My best justification for moving forward with the plan in my heart is to be the living example for my kids that IT CAN BE DONE, whatever IT turns out to be for any of us.)