This image defines what I WANT it to feel like.
I found out a couple of months ago that I had been accepted into the graduate program in English at Creighton University. It was the only program I applied to, so I was thrilled when the acceptance letter finally came in the mail. Then reality set in (mostly in the form of dollar signs). Even though Creighton is in Omaha, Nebraska, the very city we’ve been hoping to move to for several years, the logistics involved in actually making that move happen have been a bit overwhelming.
We have jobs we love here. We have a community and church that we love. We have friends we can’t imagine leaving.
But we also have dreams in our hearts of life in the city. Dreams of hours in Dan’s parents’ family room watching football together or planning to take over the world. We have degrees to earn, museums to haunt, music to make, and new people to love.
We’re between these two extremes of emotion – these extremes of being – right now, and it isn’t easy. Necessary, I think, but not easy.
I want it to feel like that image of Macy: Feet up, cool water lapping at my underside, laughter all around, someone offering free drinks and snacks poolside. Instead, it feels like a different image I saw at the hotel pool this weekend, one I didn’t capture digitally but I think I can describe with my words.
First of all, you have to imagine Claire’s body type compared to Macy’s. Macy is still little girl chub in all the cutest places. Claire, from a combination of genetics and cerebral palsy, is cut like a super-toned athlete. Seriously, grown women envy Claire’s chiseled arms and trim legs. She does, however, stand a bit awkwardly thanks to that CP. One hip twists a bit outside and the heel on that foot likes to pop up and make her a little unstable. All of this, and this is true for any body, is exaggerated in a swimming suit.
She steps into a hot pink floatie and then walks slowly toward the ladder of the pool. She edges down one step and then two, gripping her floatie and staring bravely ahead at the 3 foot depth of terror in front of her. Once she reaches the final step before hitting the actual floor of the pool she stops. She sits down. She spreads out one arm and then another in a swimming motion but doesn’t move from her spot.
She dips her face in the water in front of her. Wipes the water from her eyes and smiles. She laughs at the cannonballs of her cousins. She watches Macy, who technically doesn’t know how to swim, speed around the deep end in a small pair of orange water wings, sputtering and smiling and having a blast. She watches Ada creeping around the edges. She’s taller and sure on her feet and the 3 foot depth is not a challenge to her balance. Claire knows those 3 feet will sweep her away. She grips the floatie but she doesn’t trust it. She stays put.
She leans out toward the expanse of the unknown. Leans until she almost drifts right into it. But just before letting go she leans back in and stays on the step. This goes on for nearly an hour.
If Dan had been there he would have tossed her in, watched her scream and cry, and then laughed at how happy she would have been once she figured out the floatie would hold her. But I’m here instead and I want her to have faith for it herself. Probably because I need some too.
“That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? The part when you know you have to take the last step and push into the deeper water?”
“Yes,” she said to me over dinner that night. “It’s so scary!”
I know. It’s the logical side of your brain saying, hey, this looks like a large collection of stuff that will drown you – maybe think twice before just diving into it? The faith side of your brain is saying, dude, this floatie can totally handle it and the ride is going to be awesome!
“I know,” I assure her as I spread blackberry jam on her cornbread. “That’s why swimming is so fun, really, because it’s also kind of scary. Floating is awesome because it seems like you are doing something you shouldn’t be able to do. But it’s still hard to take that last step.”
But she did it. More than once. Never alone, though. The first time she begged for help, “Ada, can I hold onto your neck?” You know, Almost drown you so I can feel safer? Ada said yes. Ada always says yes. She’s that sister.
The second time Aunt Charity coaxed her in. The third time Uncle Ryan made it into a game. It took a lot of encouragement and more solid ground than it should have, but she did it.
So, yeah, I wish this transition could feel like Macy in the lazy river, but it feels more like Claire balancing on one good leg on the only solid ground left before she has to make the leap. It’s going to be good – it’s going to be awesome – but someone needs to get brave.
And don’t say you’re just going to throw me in, but this might be me asking if I can hang onto your neck!