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Treading water..


Warm brown concrete, drops of water evaporating quickly from its surface, drops of water dripping from wet little bodies in an array of colourful swimsuits. Muffled giggles, sniffles and conversations. Learning how to swim at Nkhwazi primary school in Lusaka was amazingly fun. Since I attended the ‘Little School’  ( 1st and 2nd grade) first, we splashed around in the pond with Mrs Kirby’s dogs.Then we eventually graduated to the shallow end of the boundless swimming pool at the ‘Big School’ which taught all the kids from 3rd grade to 7th grade.

We got tested in our swimming skills as we went along, getting certificates as we passed each level. Some were much better swimmers than others ( I never got the gold certificate but I did get  up to silver!) and had to learn a few things in order to be a good swimmer.

One of these very important things is treading water.

Treading water is simply staying buoyant in a swimming pool (vertically) while keeping your head above the water. You do this by moving your arms and legs, gently and intentionally.Not the manic splish splashing of a person that is unable to swim (or drowining!).

While you tread water  you are constantly moving but staying in  one position.Staying relaxed and even having a conversation with the other people treading water around you. After two minutes your limbs have a dull ache in them but you are in control, and floating.

Now, with your head above the water you can watch what is going on in the pool around you. The ambitious ones swimming laps, the beautiful ones laying in the sun at the side of the pool, the lifesaver observing everyone and the little ones with their colourful floaters.

As you become a better swimmer, treading water becomes easier.

‘Ugh look at those swimming laps, don’t they get tired? We know they can swim do they have to do it so hard!’ you murmur absent mindedly to the person treading water next to you. You’re both tired, occasionally swallowing chlorinated water, tired. You’re now a swimmer but have to tread water from time to time…. or choose to do it all the time.

The muscular swimmer swimming laps is done, lifts themselves out the pool and walks away. Having swam 5 km , muscles glistening in the fading sunlight. You get out of the pool too, muscles tired. You were treading water for the same amount of time, but your demeanors are different. You fee like all you did was survive and that swimmer was swimming laps around you , getting things accomplished.

You are weary.Maybe even a little resentful to the swimmer  that strides away, powerful shoulders squared in their clothes.

Its not that you cant swim.. its just that swimming laps takes energy and you couldn’t be bothered.Actually you are a little bit afraid of swimming laps because people might see you are not that great of a swimmer and that you are a fake. Maybe swimming was not meant for you, you’re more of a treading water person and you’re good at it now so why would you change ? Yes its tiring but heck, its what you are used to.

There are so many excuses you make to stay in your little corner of the pool, treading water.Stop it.

Make the application, leave that job, open that bank account.Yes it takes energy. Nobody is born just naturally having a go getter attitude. They have just mastered how to make themselves do things, whether its thinking of the reward, or not wanting things looming over them.They get up and get it done.

You have to get the momentum going and stay with it.

Where in your life are you treading water?



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  1. Get the momentum going and stick with it. When you get it going it feels great. But sometimes something happens–you trip or fumble and your momentum is disrupted. You’re off rhythm. It can be easy to dwell on that than to keep going. That’s what I struggle with. But I try to remember that failure is part of the process and the only way to grow to be great is by carrying on with compassion, patience and understanding for myself in light of those failures. Don’t beat yourself up, b.

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