by Anna Peterson Macsalka
A few nights ago, I dreamt I was training to be a high diver. I'd steadily climb the ladder gazing up towards the platform, and slowly walk to the edge peering down at a bottomless pit of dark water. Surprisingly, and without hesitation, I steepled my arms straight above my head, held my breath, and leaned forward until my feet left the edge. The water got closer and closer until I sliced through it and continued to go deeper until the acceleration stopped and I could start scrambling to reach for the surface. I remember seeing the glimmering promise of light and air but feeling like I couldn’t get there faster enough. The possibility of drowning felt eminent. And just before the last drop of oxygen left my body, my face burst into the fresh air as I gasped to refill my lungs. And for some reason, I’d pull myself out of the pool with my heart still racing and start to climb the ladder again only this time to a higher plank.
Initially, I wrote this off as some version of mourning the loss of the summer Olympics—which is a quirky obsession I have. Something about watching people in their element and getting to do what they love to do, is something I could watch 24 hours a day. But upon further reflection, it seems to be a metaphor for life.
It’s been almost two years since we lost my dad suddenly and unexpectedly. The loss was immense and felt impossible. I had basically fallen off the highest dive platform and instead of being ready, I flailed and plummeted until the air was knocked out of me when I smacked the water and continued to sink.
My most vivid memory of this time was two days after, and I was standing in the bathroom looking into the mirror on the verge of my fifth meltdown of the day and wondering if I would ever breathe a full breath again. My three year daughter appeared behind me out of nowhere and sweetly said in her raspy little voice, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” I breathed out as if a life raft had been thrown my way and scooped her up in my arms thanking her while holding back sobs of appreciation.
I think the current state of humanity feels like this for a lot of people right now. Scary, dark, and unsure if we’ll drown or not. It is A LOT. And all we can do is continue to reach for the light and “just keep swimming”. And on the days that feel paralyzing, reach for a life raft. Call a friend or family member, meditate, pray, or simply close your eyes and take a breath. Whatever you can do to remind yourself that this too shall pass. Hang in there. Sending love, wellness, and hope to all beings.