“You cannot make progress without making decisions” – Jim Rohn
Just as January is all about plans and goals, February is about making decisions. Decisions are the catalyst that moves us forward. We can ponder thoughts for hours, we can discuss them with friends, review our options and seek out opinions but in the end the decision is up to us. Sometimes decisions terrify me, but once they are made I am empowered by them.
Last month I bumped myself from swimming 1km in the pool up to 1.5km. It may seem like a small step, but for me it is big. I find swimming hard. Each time I lower my body into the pool, I take a deep breath and tell myself I love it. I look to the other end. I see the waves crashing against the rocks in the distance. I see the sunbathers along the wooden deck on one side and the old codger beside me swimming with slow determination like he has done it all his life. I think to myself, “I have options, I don’t have to do this.” Then without another thought, I kick off.
I am not elegant in the pool. At least I do not imagine that I am. My left foot is all silly from the car accident of ‘96 and it follows me limply, threatening to cramp. I suck in water, I splutter, I remind myself not to try to breath under water. You would think I would know this by now! After four laps I want to get out and my brain is telling me all the reasons I should:
“It’s been a long day.”
“You work so hard.”
“You should be cooking dinner now.”
Any line that will convince me that it is okay to get out.
So lately I have developed a plan to trick myself. I tell myself I can get out after ten laps and then when I get there I say it again. After twenty laps I tell myself it was easy and I should try for another ten, that I will feel like a true champion and will see that it was easy! Of course none of it is easy, but that sense of accomplishment when I finish is great. There is nothing like the feeling when I scoop out those little yellow foam things from my ears and the sounds of the sea are again audible; then peeling off my cap that is tight around my throbbing brain and diving under the water. Every hair follicle thanks me for releasing it and I dive, pretending I am Ariel and that my hair is glistening in the slow setting sun. As I walk to the car I feel sanctimonious. There is something incredible about breaking through a barrier.
All around us there are circumstances that limit us. It can be as simple as the thoughts in our head, or the way we see ourselves, or a past experience that tells us we will never amount to more than this. The truth is, I think, that on the journey through life there are roadblocks, things we must experience to get us to the next stage with compassion, grace and wisdom for what comes next. Our struggles, our trials and our greatest grief often are the things that position us best. I thought about this today when I read Anna Bligh’s story in the Herald Sun.
It’s easy to settle for the place we are in, to accept the boundaries, to shrink back from dreaming that there could be more. Yesterday my husband and I went down to the surf to cool down. He is an incredible swimmer and surfer, having grown up on the beach, having lived here all his life. He crashes through the surf with great confidence, ducking and diving his way out the back. I find myself stuck in one place, getting pummelled by the white wash and holding onto my bikini top for dear life. Any minute now someone will say, “Hello Mrs Froggatt!”. Trust me – it happens all the time when my dignity has been dumped by a wave.
I told myself I was happy to be cool and wet, but really I wanted to be out the back, chatting with my husband, bobbing up and down.
I think this is my problem in life – I tell myself I am happy way too easily while inside my head I have grandiose plans. I shelve those plans, I push them aside and I settle but sometimes the monster raises his head: the hateful, jealous monster that craves for something else. Do you have one of those? He turns up dressed all ugly, every now and then, wanting to be fed.
What do you do with that guy? With that inner voice that tells you there could be more? Do you walk away? Do you show him your hand, like the face isn’t listening? Or do you listen? Is he really so ugly, or is it your fear hiding in shadows and sillouettes, telling you that it can’t happen for you? Are you being limited by the voice, and past experience, and a series of bad luck?
Sometimes you have had a little taste of the thing he is showing you might be possible. Like mastering the first ten laps, or getting back up after being dumped by a wave, or marking time before the marching band starts playing. But in your head, the 1.5km is not for you and neither is ‘out the back.’ But then you realise you are there, standing in the water, wishing it was possible.
When I was a schoolgirl, every year we had a tradition of marching before the Athletics Carnival. For weeks we gathered in our house groups, giving up recess and lunch to train. I remember the boredom of it all, the repetitions to get the counting right, and the precision it required for all of Kent House to take off on the right foot. I remember with clarity the tediousness of marking time.
From ground level, marching seems fairly pointless; but come Athletics Carnival day, suddenly it was worth it because the prizes were given out. High up in the bleachers there were adjudicators watching us, analysing our formations from an almost aerial view. This was the day when it began to make sense, when the preparation paid off and ribbons were handed out.
Maybe in the season you are in, you are confused by the motionless, monotony of marking time; but just around the corner the rhythm of your steps and the connections of your community may be about to form a spectacular display. What are you doing today that is getting you ready for the dreams of tomorrow?