During my teen years I taught swimming lessons at Big Ridge State Park. I loved walking down the grassy slope from the parking lot to the field stone wall that wrapped around the sandy “beach.” The clear blue lake water in that mountain cove lapped right up against the hardwood trees, all green and happy in the warm August months. And out in the middle was a floating wooden platform- a rite of passage, of course, to swim that distance and then fling yourself off into the “deep side” of the lake.
I loved it all, except the part about treading water. I didn’t mind teaching it, I just hated to do it. Still do. It just seems like a waste of time- all that energy and going nowhere.
But treading water is a great analogy for my life on those days when I’m expending a lot of energy and apparently going nowhere. Have you ever felt that way? A day when you can’t seem to finish, or make progress, or move forward? I’d like to swim to shore but I just can’t seem to get there, in fact, at some point I am almost too tired to even think about it. And then, somehow, that day turns into a week, a month and all of a sudden a year.
But how long can you really tread water? An unsympathetic person might say “Sink or swim, baby!” But I have another option: float. Chances are, once you stop all the effort you won’t actually sink at all. In fact, your body is naturally buoyant. You might not be good at it, but you can be still in the water.
The solution for being too busy is not always found in a course on time management. Like the peace of floating in the gentle rock of lake water, there is a mental peace that comes from clarity and purpose in your work. But you need space to discern which direction to swim, and whether the breast stroke or back stroke would be better. It’s counter-intuitive, but if you’re stuck treading water you just need to stop. Float for a minute. You can even float with a friend if that helps you figure out what to do. And when you’re rested and ready, start swimming to shore.