When I was in high school, we lived in San Diego. Perfect year-round weather afforded me a delightful routine that I started when I got my driver’s license. Once or twice a week, I would drive our VW bus to La Jolla Shores, park in the public lot and head out for a swim, alone. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, which was pretty dumb, but kids are stupid and do stupid things. I would stick the keys under the bumper, drop my towel on the sand, and dive into the Pacific. I swam out as far as I could, until I got tired. Then, I would stop and look at the distant shore. I spent a few restful minutes floating out in the deep water before swimming back.
I wasn’t very insightful or self-reflective at sixteen, but a few things appealed to me about my swimming routine. One was the solitude I craved. Out there, peacefulness filled me up and calmed my nerves, which were pretty frazzled at the time. The other benefit was the expansive feeling I got from the ocean beneath me. It was scary swimming out so far, but I loved imagining the deep sea beneath my body as I floated above it. My fear was rational, as I wasn’t a particularly strong swimmer, and I often felt other swimming things bumping into me. But in order to get what I wanted, I had to go way out there. I had to brave the deep.
Our emotional lives are much the same. We can wade in the shallows, where maintaining control is easy. The variables there are simple and predictable. If we stay where we can touch the bottom, it’s easy to get out of the water if we want to retreat. We can focus all our attention on what we can see and hear and touch – the external things. We don’t have to think about the deeper challenges and risks, like trust, compassion, faith, and acceptance. We can concentrate on preserving our own comfort.
Creative endeavors require similar risks. Unless we are willing to venture out beyond the safety of where we can stand in security, we won’t get to experience what the deeper spaces hold for us – full expression, true intimacy, real connection. Sure, it’s dangerous. There are things out there that might hurt us. But we have to have faith and trust that we belong there.