The dock bobs in the waves as I hang, crouched on the top step of the ladder, contemplating how the cool water will feel if I just let go. My toes tingle in the chill and the lake teases my backside. I shiver with the sensation of cold and hot, the air and water both seducing me. My head tilts back. I stare at the cloudless sky. Everything slows, the air grows still. I close my eyes, breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in.
The shriek I give hovers somewhere between a prayer and an expletive. Eyes wide and breath coming fast my brain scrambles to understand what I just did to myself. The sensation of shock and disbelief is not unfamiliar. The quick and painful release is my favored method of entry… to water, and often to life. While often deliberate, it can be accidental. And very, very shocking.
But I find it best to just let go.
It’s the moment of anticipation right before my hands release that is the most thrilling. It is the moment I hold my future in my own hands. The moment of yes. The moment of no. The moment I baptize myself or scurry to safety.
I used to watch my sister gingerly pick her way into pools and lakes… one step at a time. She was never much of a swimmer. I tried her method once or twice. It seemed unnecessarily painful and strangely anticlimactic. By the time I got all the way in, I was numb and desensitized to the water. Slicing through the wicked cold wetness, head first if possible, seems the truest way to experience the water… to experience life.
Sometimes the fear gets the better of me.
Sometimes the cold is too cold, the wet too wet… the challenge too daunting. Sometimes I scurry back up the ladder. It happens to the best of us, the bravest. We all stay on dry land sometimes.
But the next time I’m there, on the edge of the lake, dangling from the pool ladder, bobbing on the dock… the next time the slapping water and the cloudless sky war for my affections… I know I’ll tilt back my head, close my eyes, breathe in, and…