But not in the bad way, not like you’re thinking. I mean it as in swimming lessons, as in my three-year-old who loves the water but is afraid to put his face in or actually go under. (Not surprising, considering his first total submersion in conscious memory involved falling off a dock…)
I mean it in the sense of this extended metaphor, that life itself is this vast and beautiful body of water and we dip our toes. We wander along the strand. I’m working on wading all the way in, and what I find is fear. Not of drowning, per se, since I’m awfully good at survival, but of never wanting to get out. (Here my fellow Mainers are laughing heartily, since the waters here are COLD. Staying in is not a winning proposition.) But you hear what I’m saying.
I know artists (of many stripes: academics, builders, designers, cooks, writers, painters, photographers, etc.) who get so immersed in their work that it’s hard for them to resurface. They skip meals and neglect their families and commitments, or at least experience transitions back to dry land a little like a fish: there’s gasping and often a little thrashing about.
I am afraid of that.
I LOVE the work I am doing — the reading, the writing, the scholarship, the design; the complexities of play with children; the management of many lives. But I’m always afraid that if I dive right in to the art, to “my work,” I might not be able to come back. And I NEED to come back.
This is where you’re wisely examining my metaphor and saying, “But Anna, who said you had to look at life as a matter of safe, dry land (dry in every sense) versus joyful, life-giving sea?” And you’re right. It’s a false binary. But for survival-oriented kids, and perhaps anyone taught that creativity and contemplation were wasteful, it’s reasonable to see a divide. So here I am.
The intention today, then, is to put my face in the water. Perhaps even to try going under.