I had the great pleasure of enjoying a sea-swim with my 81-year old Dad over the summer. We swam at high tide late one afternoon at the Bull Wall, from the Men’s Changing Area, the changing shelter furthest beyond the Wooden Bridge which links Bull Island, a man-made island to the coast at Clontarf on Dublin’s Northside. It was doubly special given that Clontarf was my old ‘stomping ground’ having spent from 1975 to 1980 in St. Paul’s at the top of Sybil Hill. But swimming with my dad was the main event and took me way back to many summers and many swims.
The difference this time? Whilst Dad is wonderfully healthy despite many operations over the years, the fact is, he is 81 and as such hasn’t the strength in his upper arms that he enjoyed when I and my siblings were small – me, I’m older too and at this moment the stronger of the two.
The weather was fine; sunny and windy, there were lots of people out and about and dozens of men and women swimming (separately). I was first in. Large swells threatened to push me first this way, then that. Dad took his time, using the handrail to enter the water more slowly – I know he prefers, as do I, to dive straight in, to ‘get it over with’, get over the cold shock, but on this occasion it wasn’t possible.
In he came and swam out to me, and we bobbed around together chatting and nodding with the others close by.
Meantime the swells continued.
After a short while, we decided to head back in and began swimming in the direction of the steps. I was swimming just over his right shoulder keeping an eye on him and eyeing the swell for safety. It was then we both realized we weren’t making progress. The swell was one thing to contend with, the less obvious one, because it was unseen was the undercurrent and it was working to keep us stationary. Had we stopped swimming, we would have been pulled further out.
There was no danger; we were surrounded by men many of whom are sea-swimmers all year round, so I wasn’t at all fearful, just aware.
I swam a little harder and managed to make progress myself and nudge dad along until we could finally touch ground. Timing the swell from that point was all that remained for us to do to get back on Terra Firma.
It was great. It was lovely. It was refreshing. It was me and Dad time. It was special.
Why am I recounting this today? Because I was talking with a friend over coffee during the week and we were both commenting that we struggle at times to get past negative comments – we can get tons of great reviews for our work and then one negative, whether justified or not, and which one do we focus on? Yep. The negative. Know anybody like that?
I told Sabrina our conversation reminded me of a piece I read in a devotional some time back which I had saved in my ‘blog ideas’ file on my phone which goes:
“So with you, and I lay it on you as a command — no looking back. Give yourself, and all you have ever met a fresh start from today. Remember no more their sins and failures, or your own. The remembrance is a current of disappointment that hinders the swimmer.”
That last sentence is what reminded my of my sea-swim with Dad and, always looking for connection, knew this was the right time to connect these dots.
So, negative thoughts act on us the same way a sea current acts on a swimmer, both threaten to hold us back from our goals. Negative comments from negative ninnies can produce those negative thoughts and while on the surface everything may look fine, underneath we struggle.
What can we do about it?
Three things actually.
The first thing is acknowledge it as being real. No more than when swimming we need to look out for danger signs, we need to be aware that an undercurrent of negativity can hinder our progress.
The second thing is to know where we are headed. Dad and I knew where we were aiming for – the steps at the Men’s Area – so we kept swimming in a focused way in a very specific direction, and because of that we took the shortest possible route. We didn’t just swim for swim sake, we swam with a goal in mind.
That brings me nicely to another ‘blog idea’ from my file which says:
“Write your vision on an index card and carry it with you. And start acting like the person you expect to be when it becomes reality – and it will!”
This is a favourite topic of mine – if you don’t know where you are headed you will end up somewhere else! I have written countless times about the need to have a focus and a destination in mind, otherwise you could be like a swimmer just swimming – eventually he or she could drown by running expending energy with no purpose.
Coincidentally (and yet there are no coincidences), I had decided on this ‘Coffee with Colm’ subject and the use and connecting of the two above with my Dad’s swim, an hour before meeting Sabrina (accidentally, yet there are no accidents) for coffee! (eerie music do do do do…).
What’s number 3, Colm? Read on…
So, what’s this week’s ‘Coffee with Colm’ challenge?
Take some time out (start with fifteen minutes) and sit quietly and ponder the Harry Potter question- “If you could wave a magic wand over your life, what would it look like this time next year?” Use the answer as your goal for now and … “Write your vision on an index card (or in your phone) and carry it with you. And start acting like the person you expect to be when it becomes reality – and it will!”
Then when the negative ninnies come calling, focus on your vision and swim on by, knowing that when you do, they will eventually be behind you, watching you succeed!
So, the third thing to do is, as Dori sang in Finding Nemo:
” Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, just keep swimming.”
Just make sure you know the direction!
Thanks Sabrina, and thank you dear reader for thinking with me today.
See you here this time next week for another ‘Coffee with Colm’
Watch | Listen | Read | Think | Act
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- Commercial Loneliness is Not Cool (and what you can do about it if you are a ‘Lonelypreneur’) – click here.
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