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Keep swimming, you never know where the tide will bring you December 6, 2009

Posted by jassnight in Change, Job Search, Life, Love, Relationship.
Tags: , , , , ,

Proceed with cautionWhen a person gets caught in a riptide, the natural reaction is to try to swim directly against it to get back to shore. At first it seems like the easiest, most logical way to save himself. Fear is a powerful force and in the face of death, the mind reacts instinctively to find what it thinks is the easiest solution to get to safety. Unfortunately, swimming against the current it is the worst thing a person can do. Eventually the swimmer becomes exhausted and drowning is inevitable.

The ending of a marriage or long-term relationship, the death of a loved one, job loss, diagnosis of a disease, mid-life crisis – good or bad, change is scary and people tend to react instinctively. When people are thrust into change, whether it by external circumstances or self inflicted, there is fear, anxiety, depression, and aggression. A person instinctively makes quick reactions to deal with the struggle. They fight the tide and thrash about to the point of exhaustion. It can take the form of hiding in drugs or alcohol. It can be quick fix tactics such as shady business deals or gambling. It can be short-term ego boosters like a one-night stand or a quick marriage. The tactics are as endless as they are destructive. At this point they see no other way. They just keep trying to swim against the current.

All a person needs to do to survive a riptide is to let it carry him out until it no longer has a grip on him. At that point the maneuver is to swim parallel to the shore to gain distance from the original danger and find another avenue to return to safety.

To be able to let change carry you away from comfort and familiarity is numbing and difficult to do. It takes courage. Letting go of what we know to enter a world of uncertainty takes strength. However, this is the best way to see new opportunities. Only then can change be assessed and evaluated to plan for its management and eventual solution. When the waters clear, fresh viewpoints can be seen.

Once the swimmer is away from the danger, they can then turn in toward shore and begin their trek back to the beach. This may not be a direct course since other riptides can be encountered and a return to the open sea will be necessary before another attempt can be made. However, the swimmer now sees that this is the right course of action and it is only a matter of timing and placement before he is successful in his return.

With new viewpoints and pro-active ventures, change can now facilitate a gentle move back to normalcy. This can take the form of further education to learn a new skill, a move to a new community, a new relationship based on trust, friendship, and love, a fresh commitment to health and fitness, a new and challenging career. Other strategies may involve timing. Sometimes the best solution is to wait it out and find the right moment to begin the swim back. Moving too early may throw you right back out to sea. Moving too late can be a missed opportunity. There will still be false starts and abrupt stops. There will be missed opportunities and there will be distractions that lead down the wrong path. Regardless, the strategies and attempts are now proactive and each failure can be learned from. Failures are a way of testing the waters.

Once the swimmer discovers the right path back to shore, the successful swim is made. They find themselves standing safely on shore. However, by swimming parallel to the shore to find the best path back, they have landed on a completely different section of the beach. A much better place from where they started.

With persistence, strength, patience, and growth, a person in change will find solution. However, in most cases, they land in a completely different world from where they came from. Their experience has brought them to new surroundings and new possibilities. They have come to a land better suited to the person they have become for in the time of challenge and struggle comes growth and wisdom. Not only will they have substance to carry them through the next darkness but they will have the gift of deeper understanding to share with others who cross their paths on the way to their own new world.

I know and love so many people in change today. I know they are struggling and are dealing with pain.  I want them to always, always remember…

Keep swimming, you never know where the tide will bring you.

“In order to discover new lands, one must be willing to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” – anonymous



1. FrancesLee - December 6, 2009

I really enjoyed this blog and I think it’s clever how you related it to being caught in a rip tide

2. Nicki - December 6, 2009

Great way to correlate life to a rip tide and so true.

3. BigLittleWolf - December 6, 2009

I love the metaphor, but I think if you’re caught in riptide and caught in kelp and trying to save others at the same time and then a storm rolls in and it’s dark and now you can’t see a shore line much less anything else – you get where I’m going.

Then what?
(Not being facetious. Genuinely asking.)

jassnight - December 6, 2009

Ahhh, something like the ‘Perfect Storm.’ What did they do? They kept working the problems as they came, until the very end, no one gave up. We do what we have to do, and then we keep the faith that things will work out. We have to believe in who we are and never lose sight of our identity. No one can take that away from us except us.

“Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.”
– Anonymous

BigLittleWolf - December 6, 2009

Well I say bravo for linking to Momalom’s half-drunk challenge. and looking forward to intoxicated ramblings post Wednesday. I know there is much wisdom here, but wisdom isn’t always actionable.

So pick up your horn, which surely is your own sort of drunken celebration of being alive, and play us a soulful, rousing, arousing, sexy bit of brass brazenness. And put up a wav file for us to bask in. While we’re sipping hot toddies, far from shore. (Floating St. Bernard. Never leave home without one.)

4. Ambrosia - December 7, 2009

Riptides are dangerous. Learning to flow with them requires effort. Tremendous effort. Isn’t it our natural desire to fight against those things that scare us? To continue moving forward, despite the hazard of becoming worn out?

This metaphor captures a natural human foible so perfectly.

5. Kristen - December 7, 2009

What a powerful metaphor. I’ve always thought that I am pretty good at dealing with change, but it occurs to me in reading this that maybe I am actually just good at going with the flow – letting the tide carry me where it will. But thinking about BLW’s comment, I do wonder if my changes haven’t actually been challenges per se – just the ebb and flow of life – and that maybe I would resist a challenge much more, particularly if it came packaged with others as in her example.

6. Natalie - December 9, 2009

🙂 This reminds me of my favorite part in FInding Nemo, where Dori methodically, rhythmically says, “Just keep swim-ming, just keep swim-ming.”

Well said.

jassnight - December 10, 2009

I had completely forgotten about Finding Nemo – what a great analogy!


7. Kigmagnungamy - December 11, 2009

Great post, good looking weblog, added it to my favorites!

8. gg - December 11, 2009

well done. I’ve stopped fighting the rips, and am floating with my face skyward … arms outstretched and looking for pictures in the clouds.

Another day in the life of Affliction. ~smile~

9. mamamaureen - December 13, 2009

I identify with this, but not in a good way. I am afraid of the water, especially the sea. If somehow I were to get caught in a rip tide and pulled away from shore, I would most likely have a panic attack- no longer able to think or act rationally. Rather like my second divorce. Well, the whole marriage, really. No rational thoughts or acts, lots of panic. And when you’re a marginally intelligent person who gets stuck in an abusive relationship, you know. I knew I was in one, and I knew I was stuck, and I knew it was my own damn fault. I knew how to get out. But it’s so very tiring to swim parallel to the shore, seeing it but never touching it. It’s so lonely to keep letting the sea drag you back out, knowing that if you don’t want to help yourself, no one can help you.
I’m not that strong of a swimmer, never was. And even following all the right steps, sometimes you just can’t last that long. I think even the best swimmer, trying to outlast, outswim one riptide after another, always swimming parallel to shore and never reaching it, will tire, give up, let go.

10. TheWildMind - December 13, 2009

This was an amazing post! The entire riptide analogy describes the last decade of my life and especially since my divorce two years ago. There’s just so much here to think about for me.
And, mamamaureen, are you my twin or what? The only difference I can gather from your comment is that I’m a very proficient swimmer. Your experience and thoughts mirror my own many times over this last decade. I know I’ve walked in your shoes, or if not, I’ve at least worn the same brand. How very brave of you to share that. It encouraged me.

I agree with mamamaureen. Even the proficient swimmer tires. The hope (jassnight, correct me if I’m wrong) is that by going with the tide rather than fighting it we conserve our energies till the opportunity to work more proactively on our return to shore presents itself. The hope is that opportunity arises before we tire beyond the point of no return. If we try we have a shot, if we give up or fight against it…we are doomed.

11. jassnight - December 13, 2009

Exactly WildMind. There were many, MANY times when I thought I was done – exhausted and ready to give up. It is a horrible sinking feeling. It has always been two strokes forward, one stroke back during my journey. Sometimes, just floating for a while is warranted until you see an opening for the next attempt. The trick is to stay focused and leverage what you have at the moment and stay above water. When the next tide comes in, you ride it like you have never ridden before and see where it leads you. Sooner or later, you will reach that paradise.

jassnight - December 13, 2009

The amazing thing is, I am close, very close, to landing on that beach. It is scary, exciting, horrifying, thrilling all at the same time. Like I said, I am leveraging everything I have into making landfall…. in 7 days.

God I can hardly breathe!

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