I’m standing by the side of the pool. Goosebumps prickling seven-year-old legs, bony toes curled around the edge of the rough, cold cement. Further below, that cement is covered with plaster and painted a pale blue to make the 60-degree water more inviting, but I know better. It’s freezing down there. I press my knees together to keep them from knocking and I take the pose again: arms above my head with hands clasped awkwardly together (right hand over left? hooked thumbs? palms pressed in prayer?) I go for hooked thumbs but I probably should be praying. I think I know how to do the motions. My brain does a quick dress-rehearsal. Yes, hands in first, then body. NOT body first. I just don’t WANT to go in that water. And I most certainly don’t want to do a belly flop. Most of all, I don’t want water up my nose and I don’t want my head to hit the bottom by mistake. My sister has already finished. She’s two years older, knows how to swim better, and has more cushioning and more pluck. She dove in, swam to the side, and pushed herself out. Most of my swimming class has gone, too. I promise I’ll go on the count of three, but don’t push me, in fact, don’t get anywhere near me. I shoo imaginary would-be-pushers to the side of me with my hands. I’m really going to go. I just have to brush the hair out of my eyes and take a deep breath and remember to blow out through my nose. I really hate diving, don’t you? You risk cracking your neck, and why? When you could just JUMP in the pool. It’s so much more natural than going head first. I straighten up. My teacher (I love her tan and her brown hair) is standing beside me. She takes the pose with me. Okay, I’m gonna do it. I close my eyes. Take a breath. Dive in. It isn’t a belly flop and I swim to the surface. I did it.
Fast forward 50 years. I am standing by the side of my professional life waiting to dive in. It’s cold down there, and everybody else has jumped in. I’m scared to take the plunge, to put myself in there. Do I remember how? Arms out in prayer position waiting for inspiration. Hands curved over the keyboard. Eyes fixed on the monitor, looking for opportunities. Focusing not just on daily writing but on a purpose. My heart is fluttering for a life with more depth. A guide comes to my side. She shows me the pose again. I am ready. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.