Almost since I got to Guadeloupe I have been thinking about the theme of “aloneness” which I know is not a word, but in this case I would like to use a made up word and not a noun like loneliness or solitariness or isolation, or any number of other words that deal with being alone that have negative associations. Aloneness, has been a problem for me, because I lack the confidence to make things happen individually. I could use many examples to illustrate this, but since I’m on an island, I’ll use the metaphor of swimming in the deep.
The woman I live with, her name is Francelise, goes swimming every Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. I started going with her to the beach every time my schedule allows, which has become quite a fulfilling routine. I had never really swam (for exercise) in open water before, and it turns out that it is quite relaxing, freeing, and really enjoyable. The first day I swam, I swam with a group of people; it was Francelise, her coach (tall, skinny, exercise-addict, who is always talking with an English accent in French just to be funny), and a few other assistants. The coach (G.P. which is pronounced “GEE pay”), suggested we swim to “La Barre,” a random metal bar that juts out from the ocean about twenty meters from the shore. It looked kind of far away to me, but I was down for whatever. We stopped one time before getting there to catch our breaths and make sure the whole group had not drowned or given up. When we reached the bar I looked back at the beach and felt a great since of accomplishment.
Ever since I have progressively gotten more bold in the water. After this first pilgrimage to the bar I went along with another friend. This was a bit scary because I drifted out to very deep water, I saw a giant sea turtle, and then I couldn’t locate the friend that I was swimming with. I swear if anyone was looking on during this particular swim they would have thought I had Turrets because every time I touched a piece of seaweed or I saw a fish that might have been a little bit bigger than I had expected I jumped or twitched or did an-about turn that startled me even more. I got to the bar with heart pounding and really hoping that no sharks roamed in this part of the ocean. En fin, the water world was foreign to me and I was lost at sea (figuratively and literally).
Since these first trips to the bar, a distance that is not that far, mind you. It’s only about 2,5 km or so, I have become more comfortable with the water world around me. The first couple times I went to the bar alone I wore my flippers. “For protection!” I told Francelise whimsically. “Next time I will go without flippers, but this time I need to feel safe. In case of attack or something weird,” I added. My training wheel tactic worked and now I can go to La Barre sans problème. On the way, instead of jumping at every little foreign object I can enjoy the fish swimming alongside me, feeding at the bottom of the ocean, and I can feel the water on my skin as I swish through it with precision and purpose. I am by no means an expert, I still ask Francelise’s coach about the currents, different strokes, the usefulness and the dependency on flippers, etc. It’s always a learning process, but I have become comfortable with the activity and environment and no longer feel so intimidated.
I suspect this is how I approach most new challenges and new things in my life. I jump right in, thinking that there is an adventure ahead and I would love to participate—to stretch my limits, to realize the scope of the possibilities presented to me, but then there is a period of adaptation that is scary and that is quite unnerving. Getting past this point is key in continuing the path to realization. I am currently on this challenging path in other areas of my life, and it’s hard to keep a goal in mind when it seems so far away. Additionally, I feel as though this period of adaptation is ridiculously long for me and I become frustrated with myself for being cowardly and too precocious. This is an area that I need to work on, so if anyone has tips on being more confident in areas where you are not an expert, send them my way!
Going back to the word aloneness. I think that many great things we do in our life are in the company of others, but the older I get the more I realize that the things we do for ourselves, all by our lonesome, are the ways in which we actually integrate what we have learned and make it actually happen. In this way, I want to use another word to describe “going it alone”: oneness. Oneness is a word with positive connotations that can mean harmony, unity, integrity, wholeness, etc, etc. A word that I always hear in my yoga classes and have come to really appreciate, because oneness also implies a link to solidarity (something that I have valued more than oneness, maybe because of my Mennonite upbringings, but we’ll save that for another post). As I embark on the next periods of going it alone I want to keep in mind the positive way in which we can become one with our surroundings by getting out of our comfort zones (albeit in a zone of proximal development) in order to then, eventually, tackle things on our own to become more comfortable, confident, and courageous with what was before an absolute unknown.