I’m not sure why this scene is playing in my head, but I’m going with it.
And I’m there, floating on top of the water, as small waves move me around rhythmically. I let the water carry me where it will. I could do so many things. I could swim a little bit, get a different perspective on the situation, or I could dive deeper. I could also get out of the water, and completely avoid what’s waiting for me at the bottom, but I’m not quite there yet. I’m not ready to make that move.
Waiting at the bottom is an entire ecosystem of fish, people, I suppose it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that everyone is busy about their day, engaged in their activities. I laugh smugly to myself because it doesn’t seem like people have given much thought to their decisions, but at least they’re doing something. I’m so paralyzed by my overthinking and indecision that all I can do is float there, inert, not sure what my next course of action is. There has to be a next course of action.
Getting out of the water isn’t nearly as grim as it may sound. To me, it’s always looked like leaving everything behind, maybe living in a log cabin somewhere, you know, just disappearing. I’m glad I never pulled that trigger, as if I would know how to survive on my own in the deep woods of wherever it is I would go.
I won’t do that, but that would be doing something. Rather than doing something, I’m still floating there, on the periphery, not wanting to go any deeper. I’m not ready to put in the work needed to figure out my life’s goal, or even what I care about. I’m floating there, deciding that inaction is better than action. I’m so terrified to make the wrong decision, to commit to something I don’t want to commit to. It seems easier to stay in the background, to live my life, and listen to stories from others as I stay off to the side, too confused and messed up from when I was more involved with life at the bottom of the sea.
I wondered how long I could stay that way. I figured that something would come along that would give my life direction, but I floated for much longer than I meant to. I spent years trying to figure things out, but maybe I should give myself some credit. I still managed to accomplish a few things, but when you’re surrounded by talented and driven people, when they compliment you, you feel like they’re patting you on the back because the bar for you is just so low. They’re meeting you where you’re at, and you appreciate it as much as you can, but you still feel woefully inadequate, and you decide to float a little bit longer, waiting as long as you can before you actually have to make a commitment.
It’s easier to float, or it was for a while. Floating can be good for your state of mind, or maybe it’s a prison, I can’t decide which. I know that for me, floating was a way to avoid going in any direction, to kind of just stay put. I wanted things on my own terms. I wanted to be able to eject at any time, so I could just pick up and leave. That potential freedom, to be able to bail when necessary, sustained me for years.
The goal was to be able to make an easy exit. When a situation is out of your hands, when someone or something leaves you, it leaves a mark on you that isn’t easy to erase. Try as I might, I haven’t been able to avoid that fact of life. I wanted to control my life. When you lose that feeling, it’s incredibly hard to get back because now you know the truth. You know that you’re not controlling much of anything, that outside factors are calling the shots, and that you can react, but rarely can you dictate. You try as hard as you can to remove that knowledge from your brain, but I doubt you’ll have much success.
I found a reason to dive deeper.
The further down you go, the more moments of doubt you’ll have. You’ll wonder if you’re absolutely insane, and you may even consider turning around and going back to the surface. These are important moments. Either you’ll address the doubt head-on, figure out a way to make peace with it, or you’ll walk away, perhaps a little dejected, wondering what the next course of action will be. Either you’ll figure it out a way to continue, keep pushing, or you’ll decide that the weight of the doubt is heavier than the strength of your convictions.
Whether you realize it or not, when you do go down a certain path, you are forsaking others, if not all of them, at least for a time. You are choosing to walk this certain route, and you hope that your time and effort will be rewarded. The good news is that yes, you will be rewarded, but maybe not in the way that you want to be. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll learn things about the world, and more importantly, about yourself. Any path that you pursue, it may be easy at the beginning, but once you pick up speed, it’s going to get harder and harder to stay with it. The temptation to walk away may never fade. You can learn to handle or make peace with the temptation, or you can decide that for now, you’ve come as far as you can go. Maybe you’ll be back some day, and maybe you’ won’t.
Swim deeper and push yourself. It’s so tempting to bail, especially when you get humbled every step of the way. You’ll have moments of doubt, moments when you want to go back to floating because it hurts less. Fight that urge. Stay submerged. Keep going until it stops making sense. Learn to sit with the doubt or concern and work your way through it. Maybe it’s the thing you can’t get past, or maybe it makes you stronger in the process. Thanks for reading.
4 thoughts on “Floating and Doubt”
Is it me or are there similar messages here as some you shared in “The Wilderness” post?
I was a competitive swimmer and swim coach. I still lose myself in a pool though I now swim simply to maintain wellness. Comfortably then, I relate to many of your water references and metaphors. And I enjoyed them.
When you speak of being so paralyzed by your overthinking, I smiled. Not because of the paralysis aspect but because I (quite well) know how endless laps in the water is when/where I can lose my overthinking. Wondering then, have you found a space or experience that open you to less paralysis? I hope so.
Metaphorically, I fully concur, Adam: floating can be (and I would add, is) good for your state of mind. I think any time we can find peaceful and calming places and people, they can lend to quieting our state of mind.
“…when you go down a certain path, you are forsaking others, …” Your words in this paragraph strike close to the heart for me. Yes, every path is likely going to be different, so in your example, swimming deeper may well favorably affect doubt, pain and/or fear. I will again apologize for linking one of my past posts but one of the three considerations in the post’s conclusion (#2) speaks to the forsaking of others. It can be a critical juncture for some people. I’ll link it in a quick follow-on comment.
“Learn to sit with the doubt or concern…” Amen! Isn’t that akin to floating? 🙂
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A really beautiful post. I loved the three suggestions at the bottom. I’d love to know who wrote that second quote. There’s a lot of useful information and advice for living. It’s almost spiritual in nature.
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Truly, one of my favorites… the second quote was written in 2003 by American speaker and lecturer Michael Josephson.
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