We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face…we must do that which we think we cannot. -Eleanor Roosevelt
I always like fresh starts. New beginnings. The start of a new year. A brand new calendar without a single commitment written down in it…yet.
Last year, I wrote out an entire Word document of goals – four single-spaced pages – it was too much. Unattainable. This year I’m keeping it simple. Instead of starting with a list of goals, I’m taking a cue from one of my favorite writer/photographers, Susannah Conway, and just starting with a word.
Every time I write something and send it out publicly for people to read…I put a little bit of myself out there and that makes me vulnerable. Vulnerable to both approval and criticism. Like and dislike. Understanding and dismissal.
Every time I take a photograph and put it out there for people to look at…a little bit of me is in that photograph and once again, that makes me vulnerable.
That vulnerability can be downright scary.
There are many days when I doubt my abilities and think, “Why am I doing this? Who wants to read this? Who wants to look at this? Who cares what I have to say, or show, or cook?“
And yet, I continue on. Because it’s important to me.
Being a parent can also be downright scary as well. Never sure if I am doing all I can to ensure my kids grow-up to be competent and caring passengers on our little planet. Never sure if I am finding the right balance between independence and boundaries for them. Trying to stay true to what I believe is right as a parent despite feeling as if my children and the entire advertising/marketing/social media world are fighting against me.
But I continue to remain steadfast in my role as parent. Hoping my kids won’t sense my insecurities. My fears.
My 6-year-old still does not know how to swim. He’s scared. He mentally breaks down when he stands on the stairs in the pool, hands above his head like a rocket, and he has to push off, face down in the water.
He has to learn how to swim. We spend our summers at the Pacific Ocean. It could save his life.
Group lessons weren’t working. His peers were moved up at the end of each session and my 6-year-old was still bobbing. I had visions of him at 10, still bobbing, with a class of 3-year-olds. In December, I signed him up for private lessons.
The first few lessons, he bobbed. He learned to swim on his back across the pool by himself. He jumped in.
At lesson three, his teacher told him she was going to teach him the most important move in swimming. “The one that can save your life…how to start out swimming on your stomach and flip to your back…to conserve energy. “
I watched him, there on the stairs, shifting quickly from one foot to another, goggles in place, hands above his head. Clearly scared. His teacher held his hands and guided him through the move the first few times, but once it was time for him to do it on his own, he barely got in the water when he clawed his way up to find her arm, the side of the pool, anything he could grab onto.
On the way to the fourth lessons, he cried. He didn’t want to go. He told me he was scared. I went over all the reasons why he had to learn how to swim and told him that sometimes in life, we have to do things that are important, even if they are scary.
He started out the lesson swimming across the pool on his back, but soon, it was time to work on the flip. As he stood on the stairs, I could hear him tell his teacher he was scared. She was patient. Finally, he pushed off into the water but then, grabbed her arm right away. She put him back on the stairs.
He pushed off again and this time he started the turn but grabbed her arm halfway through.
They were out in the middle of the pool.
She gave him a little push back toward the stairs and off he went, face down in the water. After a few kicks, he flipped over on his back and continued kicking until his head gently bumped the side of the pool.
His teacher looked up at me with amazement and excitement. She hugged my little guy and told him she was so proud of him.
My guy looked up in my direction with a poker face, goggles still on, and simply gave me a thumbs-up.
He continued to do the flip four more times in that same direction.
Afterwards, I hugged him tightly and told him that what he had done was the true definition of courage. Doing something that is important even though you are scared.
Whether you are someone trying to develop a skill or a talent, whether you are a parent, or whether you are a child learning to swim, there are times it can all be a bit scary to try to do those things well. To put yourself out there. To set yourself up for possible failure or criticism.
My hope for myself this year is that I continue to have the courage to put my writing, my photography and my parenting out there because it’s important to me….because I love to write….because I want to learn to be a better photographer…because I love my children…even though there are times when I’m scared.
If you were to pick a word…a single word that you could tape up on the fridge to guide you through 2012… what would your word be? If you want to share it down in the comments I would love to know, but I also understand if you want to keep your word private. Really I do…
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! All the best wishes to you in 2012….. I am so fortunate to have you in my life. xo carrie