Finding a Rhythm When Change Occurs

4177103525_692236011f_oby Amanda Edwards

I swim. Lap after lap, my arms repeat their circular pull through the water. My legs pulse and propel me forward. I measure my breath and pace my strokes, adjusting for sprints and laps of endurance.

Something changes when I swim. Stagnant muscles grow stronger. Latent lungs expand with purpose. The change is more than physiological. With a blue cap snapped tightly over my ears and goggles sealed around my eyes, I submerge into an aqueous womb. I am cocooned from the persistent slap of swimmers’ strokes, water aerobic instructions and swim lesson play. My rhythmic water dance calms my mind and organizes my thoughts. Sluicing away tension, the laps open a channel between my head and heart. The water dilutes my biggest concerns. By the time I pull myself up the silver ladder back to the din of the everyday, I am centered and focused with a clearer sense of purpose.

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Before I started seminary others told me how much I’d change during my years of formal theological education. People offered wistful recollections of their own pivotal life experiences. Tales of travels through India and remote mountains inspired a sense of adventure. Stories of raising toddlers in cheap graduate student apartments with paper-thin walls acknowledged the give and take of pursuing something you love. One woman’s narrative of calling off a wedding just weeks before the big day was a lesson in courage and honoring one’s deepest values. Chronicles of moves big and small were reminders that in our efforts to take bold new paths forward we inevitably leave pieces of ourselves behind.

People’s reflections often concluded with gentle words of warning for my upcoming experience. “Brace yourself-you won’t know what hit you!” “Are your loved ones ready for the craziness ahead?” I heard on more than one occasion, “You know, some marriages don’t even survive what you are about to do.” When I heard these things, my heart beat faster. My hands got clammy. Fear gripped me. Their warnings highlighted the unpredictability and risk of doing something new.

When I asked another first year seminarian what he hoped to remember about the time before he was forever changed, his answer surprised me. “I don’t expect to change.” He, like me, is a mid-career student going back to school. We are solidly in the middle of our lives, seemingly already formed. He explained he views this time of learning as embellishment and seasoning rather than massive alteration. His attitude was not one of fear, but of anticipation. I felt relief. My past shapes me. I have the capacity to successfully encounter new challenges. I will be stronger for doing something new. I move forward eagerly, anticipating what is to come.

I feel that same sense of expectation when I swim. Recently I was the first to swim on a vacant side of the bulkhead. In this well the water was like glass, with no lane dividers. Within minutes the effect of my strokes could be seen a few hundred yards away. I adjusted the angle of my head when I breathed so the returning waves would not suffocate me. I worked on the water, it worked on me.

I suspect the changes that result from our pivotal life experiences are like the rhythmic interplay of swimmer and aquatic environment. We arrive fearful or expectant. The effects of our first tentative efforts ripple outwards, altering the frequency of our surroundings. We get feedback. We adjust. We engage some more. The ensuing rhythm determines whether we learn gracefully or or through struggle. Hopefully, we emerge stronger, centered, and with a clearer sense of purpose.

 

Amanda2 2-14A former teacher and camp director, Amanda Edwards is a mom of three who is passionate about life, learning, faith, and building bridges with others. Amanda recently started blogging her way to the Authentic at http://writingtruenorth.com. She also founded and facilitates Interfaithful Moms Gathering, where moms and faith meet to create a more peaceful world, one conversation at a time.

Read more of Amanda’s posts at http://firstdaypress.org/tag/amanda-edwards

     Image: “blue water texture by Errortribune via Flickr

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