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Off the Deep End

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How did you learn to swim?  Lessons in the neighborhood pool?  Or maybe swimming looked more like flailing your arms wildly after slipping off of your whale-shaped inner tube in the deep end?

From the beginning, lessons weren’t my thing.  Technically, I don’t remember the day I learned to swim but my parents do, memories of which I have adopted as my own.  I was much too young to remember that infamous day at Glenwood Hot Springs, the outdoor pool reeking of burnt eggs (sulfur) and other minerals that apparently provide a plethora of health benefits despite the sour smell.  Undoubtedly drunk off the mineral cocktail seeping into their pores, my parents decided to indulge my stubbornness and toss me in the deep end.

Snaps must be given to said parents for having the courage (cojones) to bypass the floaty pool noodles and get straight to the point…because it worked.  Reportedly, I started to swim immediately after I was no longer in the safety of my Dad’s arms.  But this brings up another point entirely.

Instinct.

You know, fight-or-flight, the physiological reaction when faced with a threatening situation.  Yes, this critical brain function may have developed in our neanderthal days – being chased by blood thirsty creatures will do that – but I would argue that this trait is still very much in vogue in today’s stress-consumed world.  Okay, so we’re not running from, or fighting with, saber-tooth tigers anymore but there are plenty of times when we must choose whether to sink-or-swim, fight-or-flee.  In other words, how do we know when to let our instinct take over?  Can we train ourselves to be rational rather than reactive?  Would we even want this type of control?

I surely do not have answers to these vexing questions, nor do I think anyone does.  But how do we, as humans in this beautiful and complex world, try to balance instinct with reason? We must have both to survive, but too much of either action can send us over the deep end, literally and figuratively.

With another wearisome week in the books, one that I can’t quite wrap my head around, I think it’s time for a swim.  Care to join me?  It’s okay, you can bring your pool noodle.

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