I’m just waving and not drowning. I’m keeping afloat through sheer effort and will, and that won’t let me sink. Sometimes I can switch off all these emotions, and just drift away, but I know that’s not good, and I’d rather feel too much than nothing at all. I know these feelings intimately, I know the murk and apathy that sometimes comes calling, after months of pretending that you’re just fine in this big ocean, that the effort it takes to keep going isn’t dragging me backwards like a swell that is building and building.
The first step is to wave to shore. To wave and say, ‘I’m not drowning, but I’m close.’ Or that you’re tired, and your arms hurt with the effort it takes to keep going on your own. That try as you might, your heart is heavy with rain and your mind is tracing circles like a shark. All I know is that to get back to shore, I need to learn to swim again. To give myself the strength to change my mind from a shark scenting blood to something resembling myself again. A changed self, but myself all the same.
How do I learn to swim? I admit to myself that I can’t do everything. That it’s okay to put some things to the side, and focus more on others. I want to, first and foremost, finish this essay book I’m writing this year. It’s a commitment I’ve made to myself, and something that has been a constant in this year of emotional disruption. It’s my future, and a movement in the direction of hope. I have to learn to build myself up, rather than tear myself down. To give myself a strong emotional foundation, to have the strength I need. I’m frayed around the edges, and I need to sew up the loose threads.
This is a letter to myself and to those struggling through this year – put yourself first, for once. Give yourself what you need – love, rest, time to take stock – time to learn to swim again. And it’s good to wave to shore. There are people who can help. Who understand. People who will send rafts or who will join you as you swim back.
‘When you truly sing, you sing yourself free. When you truly dance, you dance yourself free. When you walk in the mountains or swim in the sea, again, you set yourself free.’ – Jay Woodman.