When I was a small child I remember one summer visiting cousins and learning how to dive. I stood in the hot sun with my toes curled on the lip of the pool, crouched and ready, hands held at my chest in a position of prayer shaping the head of the arrow I meant to become when I finally got the courage to spring into the water. And like an arrow that is already lodged in its target, I couldn’t back up or step off.
Days went by and I held my position. They called me to lunch, made me wait an hour, told me to come home for dinner. I slept. Then I went back the next day, and the next. The tension would build, bring me to the brink of accomplishment, and my body would thrill with adrenaline as I thought, “Now! I’m going to do it now!” But at the last second all that forward momentum was met by the brutal wall of fear, forces colliding in midstream, and I remained frozen in place. I was helpless to move forward or back.
Then one day I did it. Pushed off from the edge of the pool, knifed my body into the water and emerged victorious, screaming, “Did you see?” But no one had. These triumphs are often private because anyone who might have cared gave up days (or months or years) ago, sick of watching someone who appeared to have turned to stone. But I made them watch as I repeated it again, and again, and again. Thousands of dives into the water completing each and every aborted action that had built up in my nervous system during my endless hours of readiness.
It’s helpful for me to remember this because there are parts of me that don’t move, unable to go forward or back. Some of these parts have been poised and ready for generations, others for a day or so. I have spent much of my life judging these places as failure, staring at the Medusa in the mirror and turning to stone, ignoring the aliveness in waiting for the right moment for conception to take place, for the arrow to pierce the veil.
In my lineage there is endless betrayal and sadness, trust broken time and again. Lately I am thinking of it all differently. What I am struck by is the part of me that never leaves the side of the pool, that is willing to stand there disappointing myself over and over and over and over, all the while storing energy for that moment of personal best, most likely witnessed by no one, when I will learn to love more deeply.