Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thanks So Much For Sharing

Karen swims in our Masters group darn near every day she is in town. Links to her and her wisdom are at the bottom of this blog. She contributes greatly to the humanity of mankind.

Just Show Up

by Karen Drucker

The Four Rules of Life:
1. Show Up
2. Pay Attention
3. Tell the Truth 4. Don't be upset at the results.
Joan Borysenko

These last few months have been a doozie. Stress on top of stress. So much so that I threw my back out, caught a cold, walked into a wall and wound up with a big gash on my nose, and then I had to speak, sing and do a concert all with laryngitis! Wouldn't you think that maybe I could listen to my own songs that talk about breathing, letting go, and surrendering? Yet maybe that's why I write those songs - to remind myself when I forget. I must say, though, that what sustained me through this stressful time is my new favorite expression: "Just show up."

It's really a motto that I live my life by: Just show up. What that means to me is that when I would much rather hide under the covers, be in denial, run away from a problem, eat a pound of chocolate and chase it with some Ben and Jerry's - the bigger idea is to just show up and face it, whatever "it" is. It might mean pushing through my fears of going for it, or just staying in the room when I am having a disagreement with someone, or making the commitment to sticking my butt in that exercise class I signed up for in January when I committed to lose those 10 pounds. Or it might mean showing up for myself - making that scary phone call for a job, putting myself out in a social situation that might be uncomfortable, or telling the truth to myself about a situation. It's just bringing myself to the party and seeing what happens.

Easier said than done of course. There have been times when I was just too scared to do something or felt that the time was not right. I wrote a song called "Gentle With Myself" where I sing about being gentle and kind to myself and only going as fast as the slowest part of me feels safe to go. I believe there are times to sit back and wait until the time is right, and then there are times when I know I have waited long enough and it is time to just go for it.

The way that this shows up with regularity is around my swimming practice. I have been a competitive swimmer since I was six years old. I quit after high school vowing to never get near water again--I was done and finished. No more chlorine smelling skin, green streaky hair and no social life. But at some point, after a break up with a boyfriend and having daily pity parties, I started back slowly on an adult "masters" swim team just for fun. Since I had swum for so many years it all came back to me in an instant, and it was the one place in my life that I could experience ease and effortlessness.

Fast-forward about 20 years. I have been swimming regularly, even got into long distance open water swimming, and I am now in a very steady routine. But that was the word: routine. I had been swimming at the same club for years and feeling like "just showing up" was enough - I wasn't working very hard, I wasn't motivated, and I wasn't pushing myself, I was just swimming along about 2-3 times a week. Normally that would be fine but then I would justify that I could eat a huge cheeseburger and fries cause I "had just worked out" - well not really!

The switch came when someone told me about another club that was having master's workouts in my area with two fabulous coaches - one of whom I knew from years ago. I showed up one day and was hooked. New people, new routines, new sights to look at and a whole new commitment to swimming that I had not felt in years. Don, one of my coaches, even gave me some stroke technique that I had heard before but I guess was finally willing to try. Seems that I had been swimming for 40 odd years with two hammers in my hands - slapping the water like I was purging all my emotions from my pores into the water. He would encourage me to try swimming with "soft hands." Soft hands? He said for me to just imagine I was gently putting my hands in the water and pulling the water through with ease and gentleness. Could this be a life metaphor for me? Going through my life with ease and effortlessness as opposed to thinking I had to try hard, work with intensity, and pound my way through life? Could I actually allow it to be soft and gentle?

I keep showing up and practicing swimming with soft hands...and lo and behold I seem to be swimming faster and easier than I have in years. Given this stressful time that I mentioned in my personal life, I found that the only constant in my life was showing up for swim practice. Even though my life was spiraling all around me with a lot of drama, I would show up, every day, practice my soft hands and notice that life was working out somehow.

So now before I go out on stage, or begin a business trip, or start my day, my daily payer is to treat life with "soft hands" and just keep showing up.

Thank you Karen! To find out more please follow the links below. And while we are at it, what about you? How has swimming helped you find out how life works more smoothly? See you at the pool soon!!

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