Treading Water

I close my eyes. I hold my breath. I jump.

The water is cold, but bearable.

Suddenly, I am the 10 year old shell of myself, like a fish in the water. Not a care in the world but the temperature of the water and keeping it out of my wind pipe.

I press my arms and hands forward and feel the bigness of the water, its freedom.

In this moment, I release life and focus solely on my destination, on the buoy ahead.

On my breath.

I push the water behind me with each stroke. I feel the coldness of the river rush over me as I inch little by little towards the buoy. I can see it each time I come up for a breath.

Head up, breathe; head down, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Just when it seems like I’m making no progress, like I am merely treading water, I look back and see the dock far behind.

I press forward.

My arms are tired. My legs are burning. My ears ache, for with each breath I submerge deeper and the pressure builds; I long to know there is space for it all, for every ounce of myself; limbs and toes, fear and pain.

Under the water, I hear the roar of the boats. They are miles away, but they ring loud.

I am spent; I have nothing left.

But then I look up and realize I am only two feet away now.

As my hand touches the buoy, I exhale hard to catch my breath and realize I am yelling. I don’t fully know why or how or when I started or when I stopped, but I know that with each shriek I feel release.

I feel free.

I look back at the dock, my starting point; it’s so far away now.

I take one more big breath before heading back.

Breathe, push. Breathe, push.

Over, and over, and over again.

Finally, my hand touches the dock.

I’ve made it. It turns out that what felt like treading was not in vain.

And though I am tattered and exhausted, I am thankful to feel. It is in this depth of feeling that I realize I am, in fact, alive.

With every ounce I have left, I pull myself up onto the dock.

Now, I rest.

Now, I am still.

Now, I am whole.

 

Alex Hanson

Wife to Nate, mommy to Lucy and Zinnia

 

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