My partner Babak and I have started a new Christmas tradition: we head to Grand Cayman for the 5 or so days prior to Christmas. Just the two of us. Tradition is a bit of a stretch, but we came last year and we are back this year because of the magic it brought our season.
I don't have many labels in life, but there is one box I've claimed for close to 4 decades. For as long as I can remember, I've been a swimmer. I was a fish from the start. Swimming on the team at our neighborhood pool before I could really swim the full 25 meter length of the pool, coached by an Olympian from the time I was 8; two-a-day practices in high school and quickly burning out on the sport before I even engaged half-heartedly at the collegiate level.
Among other reasons, I come to Cayman to swim. Every day I walk out to the beach with just my cap and goggles and the ocean takes me away. The schools of brilliantly colored fish dash beneath me in and out of the coral holding all of the nutrients they need, eagle rays and sting rays periodically grace me with their company as they fly just feet below the surface that carries me on my journey. Twice now I've even been blessed with the companionship of a baby sea turtle flapping its way through sea grasses. I don't know my depth of vision in these silver blue aqua waters, but most days it is at least 15 feet. I can swim for hours with the underwater entertainment provided by nature. There is no better way for me to recenter, reconnect to what matters, clear the drama from life and get to the source of what's important than a long swim-- especially here.
When I arrived yesterday, the friendlier-than-usual cab driver, Milton was open to my good hearted inquisition. In a bout of unsurprising swimmer questioning, I asked if the rains brought by el Nino had much of an affect on the water. “Ah”, he said. “Yeah, girl. The surface can get pretty rough, but no matter the weather, if you're just 4 feet down you will find always find the calm. It don't matter what's happening up top, on the bottom it's still.”
As I set out for a 2-miler in the windswept seas this morning, Milton's words resounded strongly. My arms sought to pull me through the chop, my feet not much help with a currently-busted ankle. My breath growing quicker, and my body tossed slightly as the cruise ship in the horizon sent its rocking ripples my way. Finding my rhythm and my cruise pace as as I ventured further from shore, the first of several eagle rays came for a visit, swooping beneath with a steady ripple from its wings. Undisturbed by the chaos above, the ray was in the depths of calm, just as Milton had told me.
To tell you life has been chaotic in the past few months would be an understatement. Despite my resolution to stay in my center after returning to work, I have failed. I've been swept out by my big dreams and the challenges that come with accomplishing them. These dreams usually come to me in my quiet times, and somehow I am gifted at creating a lot of noise in chasing them. I'm beginning to realize I must like that balance-- living in the chaos and adrenaline of chasing the dream, and returning to the quiet and calm of restoring myself and nurturing a place where the next dream can find me.
Moving through the water this morning, I knew more than ever this is the sport for me. I am made for a life connected with both the storms and drama at the surface, and the still calm, the restorative nutrition of a life of depth. My challenge in the coming year is to keep the depth in view, even when I can't live there. To keep my eyes there even when my time might be engrossed in the drama of the everyday, and to be sure I schedule these intermittent times of complete still at the depths of life.
Thank you Milton, for your lesson in a life in the depths of the oceans of meaning. May you each find your depth below the drama that can punctuate the holidays.
My friends, I would love to hear how you are keeping your balance this season: what drama are you diving beneath? How will you keep your heart in the depths even when your time might need to focus on the surface turbulence?