This week’s Focus Pocus post is by my friend and Nia student, Sara Marks. She’d told me about her “floaties” and I loved the image. I knew she was a writer, so I asked her to guest post. The first part (posted yesterday), I love as as an awesome depiction of recent posts: Rush the Resistance and Structure, Expression & Wasabi Peas. The second part, below, I just love. I hope you do, too. Thank you, Sara, for sharing your art. ~ Susan
Floaties, floaties, floaties. I just like saying it, so I do — again and again. If I close my eyes I can see her. My daughter, my beautiful, curly-topped Sophia. Her bright eyes are all intensity, intelligence, and strength. I’m amazed at her will and tenacity and filled with wonder how I could have even partially created that. I see her bobbing around the water in her purple Nike floaties. She looks like a red and white fishing bobber, bobbling along in the Coralla pool.
She lifts her arms when her head gets too hot (much to the dismay of the lifeguard who now thinks for the third time today that she is drowning) and dunks herself under the cool water. She pops right back up and smiles, amused with her little game with the unsuspecting lifeguard.
We had argued earlier. I knew she could swim. I made sure before we went on vacation that she could swim. I had watched her in her swimming lessons and I knew she was a good swimmer. She knew, I knew. Somehow however, in a hastily packed pool bag, her floaties made it in. At four, I think she’s too old for floaties. They are for babies I told her, not for big girls. “Are you a baby?” My words sound harsh as I remember them now, but frustration and expectation had pushed me to the edge.
I couldn’t see it yet. I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face, smiling at me. “Look at me! Take my picture! Look at me here in my floaties.”
I use floaties. I use them all the time. Not actual floaties, of course, because ( A) they don’t make purple Nike floaties in my size and (B) people might think I’m odd. I don’t want to be odd, I want to be the normal, well, normal like the cool people. That’s why I’m afraid of writing. I’m certain that if someone read anything I wrote, they would think I was a fake. Or odd. And not in a cool way. I’m not enlightened or brilliant or anything, because if I were, then naturally, by now, I would be a writer.
My secure, safe, spectacular floaties carry me through my day. Effortlessly, I drift along, and I miss things. I miss connections, relationships, and joy. Real joy takes energy…and risk. “I’m sorry, I can’t play now. I have to clean this, bake this, do this, avoid that. I’m sorry, I can’t engage in conversation about politics, it’s too hard, I feel too strongly. How many children were killed? Where? I used to live near there. I’m so tired.” It’s scary, so my floaties are on.
“Slip sliding away.” I nap. I daydream. I read rubbish and trashy magazines about reality TV stars. I give in to fantasy and block out anything I deem too hard. I do everything I can to not engage in reality, to not be actively involved in my own space. This was my life. “A good day ain’t got no rain.” Everyone knows the song, and I am sure that if I asked Paul Simon what he wrote this song about, he would answer, “Floaties. I wrote it about floaties and I wrote it for you.”
But, after years of floatie-wearing, something is happening. I am happening. I’m not really sure when it started, how it started, or why it started. I started. I’m starting.
Whatever the reason, I began to see. I go to Nia as always, though now I raise my eyes in class. I used to tell myself that I needed to look down at my feet so as not to fall. Raising my eyes requires effort, and it is startling, strange, and surreal. The faces I was so apprehensive about are reassuring, smiling, comforting, and inviting. I doubt at first that the smiles are directed at me, the awkward tall woman who can’t keep on beat to save her life, stumbling around aimless, alone, and afraid. I’d tell myself, “just go dance in your little corner of the room, they’re not smiling at you.” But they are.
I am dancing my own dance to my own beat. All I need to do is show up, really show up. I was looking at my joy all along — my rhythm is mine and I am the one who needs to be happy and at ease with it. I smile back. I begin to raise my eyes in other places, too, and see more smiles and feel myself smiling back.
For some reason, I reach out to Susan while she’s on sabbatical. A radical act of bravery and courage that led to more. A domino effect. Susan, my friend and my teacher, is one of my hero-ific friends. The friends and the people who inspire me to aspire. It occurs to me that we all affect each other in ways that we might not realize. So I wonder: what affect do I have with my floaties on … and with them off?
I begin to spend less time in the floaties and more time on my real legs. Treadmills give way to long, quiet walks in the woods where I really look at what was blooming and growing and really listen to all the buzzing and chirping. I walk with my family, and my dogs too. Board games and UNO take the place of the trashy magazines. Daydreams become more embedded in reality. When I engage, I became more engaging. My conversations become richer. I talk with strangers, who then are no longer strangers. My wit becomes less snarky and my relationships blossom.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love my floaties, but I use them differently now. Floaties are part of being human. I use them for fun and rest as long as I put my feet down more than up. My floaties now have a surgeon general’s warning imbedded on them. “Use when necessary, DO NOT OVERUSE.”
If I close my eyes, I can see her again: my bright, bobbing Sophia. Maybe she was tired that day and her little legs and arms didn’t want to swim. After all, she was on vacation, too, right? Maybe she wanted to float for a bit, her big brown eyes facing up to the sun and dream big and fantastic and unflawed dreams.
She was right. Everyone deserves to use floaties once in a while. Occasional floaties give us a respite from bills, stress, and troubles until courage to deal presents itself. I’ve learned to recognize when I need them and when I don’t. I see how useful they are, but how tight and restrictive they can be. Mine help me stay on my rocker until I can get a firmer grip, but then off they come and out I go on my long, strong legs.