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Why Sink or Swim is Really Stupid and How to Move Beyond Fear

"Sink or swim!"

Ever heard that advice or had someone try it on you?  Yeah, me too. What pathetic advice.

I was thrown in three times before the age of 18 (Not by my parents!  By other people. Just want to clarify that.)

Three different idiots threw me in a pool in an effort to get me to swim. Each time somebody had to jump in and save me. The last time I remember it happening was in high school when a friend thought it was a joke when I shared my fear and asked to not be pushed in or splashed. She pushed me into the deep end thinking I'd end up swimming. She was wrong. Her brother who was in the Marines  was keeping an eye on things from the other end of the pool and when I never popped up or got out, he realized I needed help. He ended up jumping in to save me. Thank God for the Marines! :) 

I used to think I must be the fattest kid in the world since I stayed at the bottom. You  know how people say, "Jump in! It'll be fun and you'll spring to the top!" No, that never happened for me either. Every time I was pushed in, I'd just languish at the bottom, waving my hands frantically and waiting to die or for someone to save me. 

I now know from my kids (who are all three great swimmers) informing me that when you panic and don't move properly you can keep yourself under water. I also learned it has nothing to do with weight. But I didn't know. I just felt like a loser.

In my adult years I learned basic swimming. I do okay now but I still don't like my head to go under. I avoid submerging my head but I love going to the beach and paddling around and floating. However, until I was an adult I was scared to death and buffoons throwing me in never did me any favors and only delayed my progress.

So, how then do we get beyond our fears? I believe the shock factor is rarely if ever the answer. It may work for some but, for the majority, it starts with dipping our toe in and gradually realizing we can do more. It takes trying step by step and building confidence. Being in an atmosphere of trust and encouragement is important. If a person, child or adult, is learning to swim, having swim lessons with someone they can trust is a fabulous way to learn. The instructor will gradually get the student used to the water and move them forward in their quest to swim.

I met my husband when I was 18. I explained to him my fear. Whenever we were around water he threatened to maim anyone who came near me with the intention of pushing me in or under. He always stayed by me when we were in the water and gave me freedom to learn to swim and become comfortable with the water without being in fear of someone dunking me or pushing me into the deep end. After years of easing my way in, I've gotten really comfortable. Going to the beach or being in pools is one of my favorite things now.

I have blogged for over 6 years but have always lived in fear about posting on the topic I wrote about yesterday. To my surprise, within less than a 5 minutes of publishing the post, I already had mail in my inbox from people wanting to share with me about what I wrote. Every letter was positive.  Some said they cried almost the entire way through the post. Some have encouraged me to keep writing on the subject of adoption.

I'm not ready for that yet.

Just like being thrown in the pool didn't work, throwing myself into the adult adoptee blog fray is probably not the best thing. But I think dipping my toe in, then wading in, and possibly even submerging at some point, may be a really good thing. It will be a process.

I was perusing several of my favorite adult adoptee blogs yesterday and noticed something for the first time that seems to have escaped my previous perusings. Some of the blogs invite writers to apply to be a regular writer on the blog, and others accept guest postings as long as the person is an adult adoptee.

The thought occurred to me that this may be a great way to dip my toe in and share my thoughts in an atmosphere of support.  These bloggers do allow comments and some of them are dissenting views, almost exclusively from people who are not adopted, or those who are adoptive parents who disagree. However the throngs of adoptees who answer those commenters is comforting. 

I'm considering applying to be a guest poster and maybe even applying to be a feature writer on one of these blogs would be a positive thing for me. It will be a good way to move beyond my fear  being that the overwhelming majority already agrees with what I'm going to say. Not that my own blog hasn't received a great amount of support over the years.  I'm so thankful for everyone who comments here. It's just that most adult adoptees are so misunderstood when they really share the nitty gritty of what we feel and believe. And having a soft place to land when you share your words (especially when it takes you great courage to even say them on such a super-charged topic) is a really important thing.

So, on this subject, I'll still be in my cocoon here on my personal blog, at least for a while. I'll keep blogging about everything I normally do here. But I'll move forward in writing about this topic elsewhere occasionally and see what happens. I'll let you know how it's going and possibly even provide a link.

In the meantime, if any adult adoptee reading this needs a soft place to land, always feel free to land in my inbox and I'll help you as best I can. Usually that simply means listening, and saying, "I understand." I do.

Much love,


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