When I began taking swim lessons last February, the concept of actually swimming was a complete unknown to me.
Because of past failures, traumas and a lifelong storehouse of fear, any 'swimming' skill I had was self taught and very fragile. So I was starting from scratch. From Zero.
Fast forward to now, nine months, a lot of lessons and dedicated practice later, and I am at the point where I feel like I am at a plateau. (Amazing, right? To get so 'good' as to be bored? Take that in!! Wow!)
I have worked to a certain level of competence, and now I am not sure how to progress forward, how to get better, raise the bar and tackle the next level of challenge.
As luck would have it, Kathy, my swim guru, was at the pool Tuesday, when I was there for my swim.
I told her my concerns, and she gave me some new drills to work on new skills, to move me forward.
So today, when I was swimming, I drilled with a pull buoy and hand paddles...
In other words... In the Big Picture... New Tools, unfamiliar tools, different muscles being engaged, focus on new patterns of movement.
In short: awkward, clumsy, frustrating.
But also, enlightening, liberating and exciting!
As tough as it was using the new tools, doing the drills, I could immediately feel the potential to move to another level of skill. Because of my prior practice, the next level will come faster. I will strengthen areas of my practice...which will strengthen my oveall skill.
Isn't this always how it is when you move to a new level of exploration in any discipline?
Be it, swimming, making art, meditation, relationships, writing,
You will start from knowing nothing, build your skills, then reach a level of competence, of confidence and comfort. Or stagnation and boredom... Then what?
Do you crave challenge? Or do you just keep doing the same old, same old, until you can repeat it in your sleep, safe in the knowledge that you have reached a comfortable level of skill. You can can swim in the shallow end, as long as your feet can touch the bottom..
Any time you push to the next level of achievement you have to let go of the edge of the pool. You have to go into deeper water, all over again. Become a beginner...let go of certainty. It takes a little dose of courage, and the faith that you can do this.
While I was swimming today, I was so grateful that I have found an activity that challenges me to be a total beginner. At this age, we think we know so much! To be humbled by one's ignorance, to be motivated by a childlike desire and an open heart and mind, really is a GIFT!
I try to keep this awareness when making art. The more I know, the more I realize how much I don't know!! Instead of seeing this as a failure, I see it as an opportunity. A fresh challenge.
There is so much more to discover.
Whenever one moves to unfamiliar territory in a art- be it new materials, techniques or content-there will be growing pains. Clumsiness. Frustration. New muscles being challenged.
If one can keep the humility of the beginner, the Know Nothing, everything is a fresh discovery.
There is no failure as a beginner, only fresh starts.
The expert has an investment in certainty, maintaining the known, the repeatable, quantifiable outcome.
I choose to always be a beginner, to let go of certainty, to try new things, to be clumsy, frustrated, to fail and start again...to grow and learn... and start all over.
I'd rather make a blazing, risky mess, than repeat a dull, uninspired formula.
So sad and limiting to be an expert, to be certain, to outgrow the glorious potential and wild openness and uncertainty of a beginner!
I am grateful that the pool is open today, Thanksgiving.
I am grateful that there is only one other lap swimmer and that the pool is quiet.
I am grateful that the pool water is almost warm.
I am grateful that my back feels pretty good today.
I am grateful that my goggles don't leak.
I am grateful that I finally learned to swim.
I am grateful that I persisted despite anxiety and old trauma.
I am grateful for Kathy, my good and sensitive teacher.
I am grateful for the support of the buoyant water, beneath me.
I am grateful for all the air to breathe, above me.
I am grateful for the black line on the bottom of the pool, straight, consistent, repetitive little tiles, counting breath, like a mantra.
I am grateful for a long reach. I am grateful for a strong pull. I am grateful for flutter kick and hip rotation and high elbow.
I am grateful for the sensuous pleasure of the water flowing over my skin, my muscles.
I am grateful for the whoosh of water past my ears, the slight tang of chlorine in my mouth.
I am grateful to float in stillness, to surrender tension to the water and feel restored.
I am grateful that swimming has triumphed over pain.
I am grateful, every moment, for what the water has given me.
Artist, writer, workshop planner, swimmer, dog-mom, wife...I find inspiration in the serendipitous connections between making a meaningful, beautiful life and making honest art.
All work on this site is original by Diane Santarella Lawrence, unless noted, and is
The nature of social media is sharing, so please share respectfully and responsibly and
give credit where credit is due.
Many of the beautiful images taken in the studios of Skip and me are by Joel Kiester and Brian Eiseman of 1513Photo. Many thanks, Guys, for your friendship and elegant work!
And Thanks to my two biggest fans, my husband Skip Lawrence and Rothko the Wonderdog for constantly surprising, challenging, inspiring and supporting me.