Blog Your Blessings: Swimming Sideways

Last summer Della and I swam the swim of our lives at North Topsail Beach in North Carolina. We were caught in a rip tide, and for what felt like forever, we swam and swam and swam. Sideways. Because my dad told us to. After what felt like forever, we were able to stand just as an elderly gentleman in a Speedo and swim cap was mounting his board to come get us. I loved that man even though we didn't need him after all. I was so thrilled we could stand.

I remember he and a younger fella were laughing as we found our feet. I wondered then if we had swum harder than we had needed to or whether they were simply relieved we hadn't drowned. Drownings do take the shine off a summer afternoon, after all.

There are moments I still see that gray wall of water rising (imagine a wall rising, please) and leaning and crashing over us and my screaming to my daughter to swim and to watch. She was so annoyed with me for shouting. (I tell her I am the embarrassing relative, but that argument hasn't bought me much of anything for a long time.) Those moments I see that wall are specific. These are not random flashbacks. They are moments over which I have no control, though I know damned well what outcome I want. The Atlantic says to me, "You are nothing." I can't argue.

In those moments I hear myself again: "Swim!"


What else are you going to do when the entire Atlantic Ocean is about to land on your head because it has had about as much as it can take of the Iberian peninusula, Africa, and what have you?

You swim. Sideways. Because Grampa said so. He read the "how to survive a rip tide" sign before the dunes swallowed it, and he told you about it. So swim sideways. Let those looming gray walls crash on you and do what they will, but keep swimming.

Swim sideways, get up, go home.

That's the story. No need for drama.

Thinking of that story, I wonder how it applies to living well on dry land. I feel overwhelmed by every mistake I have ever made, banged up by every insecurity that has kicked me behind the knees every time I was about to take a step forward. I am disgusted with and disappointed in myself for the damage I have done, for the hurt I have caused, as a result. I am my own worst enemy.

I need to become a stronger swimmer, to stay low, to learn this lesson:

Tao Te Ching, Verse 61
when a country obtains great power
it becomes like the sea:
all streams run downward into it
the more powerful it grows
the greater the need for humility
humility means trusting the tao
thus never needing to be defensive

a great nation is like a great man:
when he makes a mistake, he realizes it
having realized it, he admits it
having admitted it, he corrects it
he considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers
he thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts


  1. Thoughtful words. Thanks

  2. there's the pogo phrase...I have met the enemy and it is me. Try writing down the negative self talk and then counter it with two positive-keep swimming don't give up on yourself. It works-we all have riptides in our lives and they continue daily until we die...great post. By the way kids never listen but they do see your example and one day learn from their own experiences.

  3. Beautiful and very true......It's easier to let life swallow you than to swim against the pain and rise above it. Just like it is to admit your faults and correct them. It's a lesson I have to learn every day.

  4. oh my gosh, such a powerful post!
    I've been caught in rip-tides over the years but was lucky to get out rather quickly, & yes it was by swimming sideways.
    I think of all the times I've swam in the ocean without a lifeguard and after reading this, that memory conjures up a metaphor for my life!
    great post & Taoism. Thanks Sandy.

  5. Well said! We need to remember that there are times we need to move sideways and then continue our journey.

  6. Sounds like the Atlantic really threatened your life, that must have been terrifying.
    Nice poem.

  7. Don't look back. Look ahead. You have obviously learned a great lesson no matter how painful it is. Keep swimming.

  8. alady'slife.12:35 PM

    Sooo True Sandy.

    My son and his friend almost drowned when they jumped in where the beach pilings
    were, beside a long wharf on the beach in Hawaii. The waves kept pushing them under and banging them against them.

    They needed a lot of strength to jump out and luckily they did.
    And I was sitting sunning myself on the beach.When my son came and told me what almost just happened I was in shock. Well Now they learned something I would never be able to teach them cause they don't listen anyway lol

    We just have to write it down as just that. A Learning experience.

  9. Thanks for coming by to tell me about malware. I don't know what it is, but will have to have my daughter figure it out.

    I now have more colors of lilies blooming along with some day lilies.

    The riptide sounds horrific. I am glad you and your daughter are strong swimmers! ♥♫

  10. You are so lucky to be able to swim anyways, let alone side ways. That sounded positively dangerous!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  11. That's a scary story! And we all need to be stronger swimmers as most of us are easily overwhelmed by our mistakes.

  12. Thought provoking post. Well-written, and has given me much to reflect on. I also have battled a few riptides in life. Be safe out there.

  13. I can relate to your personal riptides.. the insecurities .. the negative thoughts. Do keep swimming sideways. And remember that there are others about to go in after you at any time. Stay safe, Friend.

  14. Dear Sandy,
    Good Morning from THRISSUR,KERALA.
    I love swimming.We ,ust learn to swim with the tides and against the tides;though it's difficult.
    Great thoughts and you have expressed well.
    Wishing you a wonderful day ahead,

  15. am disgusted with and disappointed in myself for the damage I have done, for the hurt I have caused, as a result. I am my own worst enemy.>>> something good definitely comes out when we handle challenges the right way.

  16. So, that is swimming sideways to conquer the wall. But first, I gotta learn how to swim :)

    Indeed, every life's lesson can be traced or uncovered from simple things (like swimming).

    Thanks for sharing!

  17. You must be a great swimmer and you are an excellent philosopher as well! The ocean is very impressive and full of dangers.


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