The frigid water assaulted the protective wetsuit and immediately my whole body tensed. Unconsciously, I stood on tiptoes and lifted my arms so that my hands laid on the top of the water instead of plunging beneath it. Wow, this was cold!
This wasn’t some exotic adventure that had me snorkeling in 65-degree water off the Pacific shore. I had merely decided I needed one last swim in the backyard pool before we closed it for the season. Although I have a wetsuit for swimming in April, May and the early fall, it didn’t feel adequately matched against the chilly water this week as night time temperatures plummeted into the 50s and dropped the water temperature drastically, too.
Finally, I surrendered to the cold and dove under the frosty blanket to start swimming laps, which is an exercise as good for my spirit as it is for my body. Intentionally, I let myself relax. The physics of the wetsuit work when water seeps in and warms against the skin to provide an insulating layer. When I stopped fighting and withdrawing against it, the chill around me was refreshing. Before long, I didn’t notice anything except the pleasing motion of the water as it was displaced by steady strokes.
As I swam I thought of another recent experience about relaxing against an unrelenting force. I use a physical therapy device for easing back pain – a thoracic pivot that you simply position between your shoulder blades while lying down and let gravity and body weight open the soft tissues around the spine. Overwork and stress have knotted my back more recently, and my massage therapist asked about the pivot. “Are you relaxing against it?” she probed. “Just surrender to it and feel the difference,” she suggested. I realized how tense I stayed, even when I was supposedly doing physical therapy or swimming for self-care.
These days are often ripe with opportunities to surrender to the cold. The ice of fatigue, of depression, of challenges of varying sorts make me tense and resistant. My default is to plunge ahead in gritty determination in a frenzied dance of working harder and smarter.
Instead, the pivot and the pool invite me to surrender. For a few moments I can slow down, breathe and accept life on life’s terms. I can suspend the energy I waste resisting difficulty and surrender to what each day has in store. I can become open to the possibility that this season is exactly how it is meant to be.
To my surprise, the result is a revitalizing glide for a stretch or a soothing reposturing of the spirit. Surrender is good for the soul.
Marnie C. Ferree