Sink or swim


I learned to ride a bicycle when I was about five. Or, if you like like, I learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels when I was closer to seven. I realize that may have been a little late in life, considering I learned to dance on my tiptoes and climb trees at more or less the same age. In hindsight, that also makes it rather ironic: I was happy to risk breaking my toes or neck, but lived in fear of scraping my knees from falling off a bicycle.

It was my father who achieved the feat of teaching me to ride without the training wheels. He got tired of my mother’s mollycoddling and helping me balance myself without the training wheels, so one evening, he took over and when I wasn’t looking, he gave one hard push that sent me sailing down the street on two wheels. And the rest is history.

After that miraculous evening, my mother kicked herself for not doing what my father did. After all, she had signed me up for swimming lessons and left me alone with the instructor, quite certain that if I had nobody to turn to for emotional or moral support, I would pay the utmost attention to the instructor and at least, quite literally, learn to keep myself afloat.

So when I think about it now, between my parents, they taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life: no matter what life throws at you, you take it in stride, do with it what you will and, with a little tough love, you move on.

This is something that I’ve had to do a great deal over the past year. When I realized that my job was turning into a sinking ship, I threw caution to the wind and abandoned it. When I fell in love with someone whose life circumstances I knew I would have a hard time getting used to, I took a big breath and allowed myself to fall anyway, thinking that I would learn to deal with the circumstances along the way. When I took up a new job with virtually no idea how to do it, I figured I’d wing it and feel my way around on the job and learn how to do everything myself.

But what happens when you end up getting more, much more, than you bargained for? What happens when you suddenly find yourself riding your bicycle downhill, with no way of stopping or slowing down without crashing headfirst into a tree or freefalling off a cliff? What happens when you find you have a cramp in your leg and the currents come sweeping along and end up pulling you under, and you have no way of clawing your way to the surface?

I thought that if I jumped in the deep end myself, I would be able to swim to the surface, however long it took, break it and then keep myself afloat. I thought that the circumstances which have defined my life and what I am for almost a year would eventually become easier to live with. I thought that even if they didn’t get any easier, in time I would learn to care less about them and handle them the way I’ve always handled my problems: divide and conquer, and take the spoils later. Instead, I seem to be regressing day by day, becoming increasingly bitter and resentful, and finding, to my horror, that I’m capable of taking my thoughts and words to the darkest depths of human civility.

God knows how much longer I can keep this up. God knows how much longer I can swallow my anger and resentment, before I end up saying something I can never take back. But come hell or high water I will beat this, because at the end of the day, if there is nobody to pull back my bicycle or drag me to the surface, I will have to break the surface myself.

2 thoughts on “Sink or swim

  1. J Browne

    My thoughts are with you at this difficult time. It takes time and I pray that all this will pass. Take care and all the best. You certainly deserves all the good that is coming your way.

  2. Reuben

    You need to come have dinner with me. Obviously, I won’t be able to help much but I’ll be able to take the edge off, albeit temporarily.


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