Yesterday I did something I never do.
I accompanied Bob on a business trip to Des Moines. I am usually the one attending the meetings since I love to attend writing and coaching conferences in fabulous places across the country. Bob, not so much. So I went for moral support.
While Bob spent the day learning about the latest governmental regulations imposed on his business (which explains his reluctance), I spent the day writing and hanging out at the pool.
At 10am on a Thursday, the pool was perfect. I had the place to myself. Was I in heaven? No, Iowa.
My plan to follow up my laps with a floating meditation evaporated as soon as a mother with a newborn, a toddler, and their adoring aunties arrived.
My disappointment over forfeiting the sanctuary of sunshine, water, and wispy clouds was quickly replaced with delight as the little guy’s glee spilled over onto all of us.
Even I began hoping his mom would hurry up applying the sunscreen so he could get in the pool and we could all share the adventure with him.
Because his mom was busy setting up the scene with towels, toys, and string cheese, the auntie brigade* took over. As one auntie burped the baby, the other auntie hopped in the pool and prepared the way for the boy named Brock to fulfill his most ambitious dream of the day.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the water.
He was a vision, standing there in all his glory, complete with water wings, a swimming diaper, a confident victory stance, and a superman cap.
He looked ready.
He seemed willing.
He was perfectly able.
His auntie was ready to catch him.
I was ready to catch her.
The step was right in front of him
He refused to jump in.
What looked like an epic adventure from a distance must have seemed like an ocean of uncertainty and utter terror up close. Suddenly, he wanted no part of it.
The devoted auntie cooed encouraging words and suggested he enter the pool by a less intimidating set of steps inside. He reluctantly agreed.
Together they emerged from the mysterious passage where the indoor pool joined with the outdoor pool. Brock was fine to be in the water for a few minutes. Then he needed a drink.
So he got out, secured his sippy cup of milk, and from the safety of the deck, took a strategic sip every time his auntie mentioned getting back in.
I watched this all unfold as the perfect metaphor for the great adventures and creative endeavors any of us attempt.
Sure, some of us can jump right in, knowing the shock of going from one set of circumstances (like being dry, hot, safe) to an entirely different set (like being wet, cold, and having to stay afloat) will only be temporary.
Most of us can easily get ourselves fired up and ready. But then, like Brock, freak out when faced with the enormity of our adventure. Bridled with the burden of our potential, we hesitate, procrastinate, dilly dally, drink, distract, and delay until we talk ourselves right out of the thing we’ve pledged allegiance to.
You are familiar with terror of embarking on your biggest adventures, are you not? Failure looms larger than any semblance of success. What if you find out you are not equal to the task or not worthy of your dreams?
But what if you find out the water is just fine? What if you discover it’s even more magical than you imagined? What if you discover the secret to the success of any adventure, project, or performance is that when you are present, you are absolutely okay?
If you can stay in the moment and breathe, you are more than equal to the task. If you trust that you can handle anything in the moment and not abandon yourself, you are wonderfully worthy.
This doesn’t guarantee that the path before you will never terrify you again. It only guarantees that you are gathering the grit required to risk, to dare, to dream, to desire, and to do it over and over again.
Failure is a given at some point. Just like paying up front and in full is usually required in the beginning. Eventually you’ll come to see the wisdom in this.
Once you’ve made a splash, jumped in, gotten wet, and lived to tell about it, you are qualified to continue on your quest. And encourage others on theirs.
So, carry on, my brave souls. And, might I suggest, you have a little fun? Because really, the water is fine. It’s even better when you join in.
*I read about the auntie brigade in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Committed. She beautifully describes the auntie brigade as consisting of those of us who have chosen not to have children but are deeply committed to being aunties to everyone in need. Personally, I love being a part of the auntie brigade!