Two years ago, we bought a camper. If you had told me two-and-a-half years ago that we would buy a camper, I would have smiled politely while internally rolling my eyes at the crazy person. But we bought one called Le Que and now, contrary to all my expectations, I love it. Honestly, it’s like having a play house that we pull around with us to beautiful places where we go hiking and biking and it is more fun than I ever could have imagined.
Anyway. We love our camper and we love planning trips and we love going to parks (Virginia has some incredibly wonderful state and national parks, btw y’all). But the transition, from being home to going out in Le Que? That is almost always a bumpy ride.
The planning goes fine and the packing is always fine and even loading up the camper is perfectly fine, but when it comes to the moment when we shove off out of our driveway, something almost always happens. I either slam the truck door too hard or I forget to get the yellow wedge things from behind the tires or I leave the truck door open when I get the yellow things nearly asphyxiating Frank with diesel fumes. Whatever it is, we have a rough patch as we move from doing one thing (being home) to doing another (going out in the camper).
After a few times it dawns on me that I am bamfoozled by transition in a lot of situations. It is often difficult for me to switch from doing one thing to doing another thing. The places between movements and songs in my teaching are devilishly tricky. Moving from one pose to another in yoga wobbles me something fierce. Shifting from working alone in my office to being with other people feels clunky and stiff. Transitions, it appears, are awkward for me.
And now, Frank and I are embarking on a big and multi-staged transition out of one house, into a handful of temporary situations (for us, our belongings and our cat), and then into another, smaller house (albeit one with a super-fine man cave). I see these next few months looming in front of me like a long exit down a four-month bumpy driveway with Le Que towed behind us.
Given all this thought about transition, I did what anyone would do: I talked to my 14-year-old niece about flip turns. My niece, Olivia, is a competitive swimmer and has been for most of her life. She’s a speedy thing in the water, I’ll tell you what, and she goes careening down her lane and then – shazzam! – she flips around and is zooming in the complete opposite direction just as smooth as you please. I figured if anyone could tell me a thing or two about transitioning from one thing to another, it was Olivia.
So here is the first ever Focus Pocus interview between Olivia and me (with annotations by Auntie):
ME: What makes an excellent flip turn?
OLIVIA: An excellent flip turn has three parts: the approach, the wall, and the push. The approach must be faster than ever, and the flip to the wall must be precise and fast. The push should be like a squat off the wall.
The first thing that strikes me about this is the one-step-at-a-time of a flip turn. I find that when I’m approaching a transition, it all feels like a swirly mess. But if I break down what’s happening to, say: the sorting, the packing, the storage, it feels less confusing and disorienting and more like I’m just doing what’s in front of me.
The second thing I notice is the boldness of a flip turn. In order to make it work, you’ve got to swim into it “faster than ever.” A tentative approach leads to a lack-luster turn. Once the decision has been made, approach with confidence.
ME: Sometimes you’re not just changing directions, but changing strokes, too, like when you’re swimming an IM [individual medley]. How is the turn different in an IM?
OLIVIA: In IM you do what is called an open turn, and you touch the wall with both or one hand depending on the stroke, and take a breath when you touch. Then you push off into the next stroke.
This transition thing is a complicated business and here I notice that in the midst of the one-step-at-a-time, Olivia mentions when to take a breath. So how do I do that when I’m changing from one thing to another? When do I take a second to nourish myself and get the energy I need to do what needs doing? Seems best to think ahead about when to breathe.
ME: It seems like flip turns would be scary. When you were learning them, were you ever scared at all?
OLIVIA: For me, no, but one thing is that no matter the depth, you can do the turn. You won’t hit your back on the bottom.
She’s a brave thing, my Olivia Jane. Unlike her, I feel all kinds of anxiety when I’m making a change. But I love the confidence of this: “no matter the depth, you can do the turn.”
To recap Olivia’s flip turn wisdom:
– take it one step at a time
– move into a transition with confidence
– know when you’ll take a breath
– and it’s okay. You can do this.
Wise counsel. Now maybe she can come down here and pack a few boxes.