The other day I was meeting a friend for a walk.
We had exchanged texts about where we would meet but when I got to the agreed-upon spot, she wasn’t there.
Anxious to get my steps in, and needing to stay in her line of sight, I began walking up and down the block, not getting anywhere, just back and forth on the same stretch of sidewalk.
At some point, I looked down at my watch and saw that I had walked over a mile and a half. I had to do a double take, not quite believing that I had covered that much ground without going anywhere.
Most of my life has been about getting somewhere; moving towards a specific destination or goal.
Maybe moving, even without a designated end point, is beneficial in and of itself.
I thought of the phrase “treading water” and what a negative connotation it has always had for me.
Is anything worse than treading water in your career?
In a relationship?
As I gave it a little more thought, I wondered how I might reframe my take on treading water.
I thought of Henry Miller’s quote: “One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things."
So I began looking at it in a new way.
First of all, it’s hard to tread water; it’s physically challenging, moving one’s arms and legs, without a break.
Not only that, but treading water is a survival technique; the way to keep from drowning. The definition of “tread water” is to “stay upright in deep water by moving your legs and arms so that your head stays out of the water.” Is anything more important than that?
As a meditation coach, I often guide people to a place of “floating” (a synonym for treading water), on a lake, or maybe a cloud. The direction is towards a peaceful spot where one can be without doing. When we float, we are in charge of our own well being, a critical component to self-care and personal growth. We keep ourselves afloat.
Similarly, when you are treading water, you are in control of your own safety, committed to keeping one’s head above water.
Treading water requires that you be 100% present.
While walking back and forth on the street waiting for my friend, I was fully present. I looked up at the trees, saw houses and people I’ve noticed many times before but had never truly seen. I was able to focus on things around me with more clarity. I didn’t have to figure out where to turn or where I was headed, and my mind quieted down quickly.
I was free to focus on bringing in thoughts that nourished and strengthened me. There was something freeing about the experience.
Perhaps you are treading water in one or another area in your life.
Maybe, rather than being hard on yourself about it, you might want to take a closer look.
Is it a time of slowing down?
Are you figuring out next steps but not yet there?
Are you focused on one particular area of your life, needing to simply stay afloat in another?
Are you finding out more about yourself by staying put, not jumping into the next thing?
Is your presence heightened?
Or are you just relaxing and is that so terrible?
There may be lessons learned from treading water.
Rethink your position on perpetual motion; on always having a clear destination.
Consider the words of the brilliant T.S. Eliot:
“We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
Wherever you are is where you should be.
Stay open, curious, kind and compassionate.
Move, even just for the fun of it.
See things through new eyes and perhaps you will arrive where you started and know the place for the first time.
And always be proud of how you stay afloat.
With love and light,