How to Swim with Snakes
Last Thursday, I found myself at the bottom of a pond.
And there was something down there with me.
I've been afraid of deep water ever since I was a kid. I have a lot of theories about why.
Maybe it's because I fell into a pool as a toddler and my dad had to dive in and save me.
Maybe it was that terrible snorkeling trip.
Or maybe it's just the fundamental creepiness of being helplessly exposed to the reality of snakes, piranhas, lake-zombies, and the ankle-snatching arms of lake witches.
I'm not sure.
But deep water, and all the muck at the bottom, has always made me panicky.
Last week, I found myself at the bottom of this pond face-to-face with something strange, pale and moving in the one landscape I most feared.
I retreated to the surface. Adrenaline made my toes vibrate. I was afraid.
Over the past few weeks, I have been facing down my fears one after another.
Now, just below me, I had an opportunity to face one of my oldest and persistent fears.
Never let a good crisis go to waste.
I dove back down.
To my horror, the pale thing had gotten bigger.
I rushed back up to the surface again. Took a few breaths. Then, I went back down again.
This time, I realized what I was looking at was the pale smoke of silt being stirred up from the pond-bottom. But... what was stirring it up?
Zombie witch snakes, probably.
I rushed back to the surface once more. I wanted to jump right out of that pond like a bottle rocket leaves a soccer field.
No. I promised myself I would not leave until I faced this thing.
At that moment, I remembered what a friend of mine once told me: in moments of intense fear or suffering, we have a choice.
We may not have control of our circumstances, but we have total control of the attitude we take toward our circumstances.
I realized that I had a choice: did I want to think of this a terrifying confrontation with a nest of pond vipers? Or was this an adventure into the unknown? Dangerous, maybe, but also dripping with the juice of life?
I chose the juice.
I went back down — the plume of pond-dust had become huge. I could barely see anything.
I swam right down into it.
Down and down, until I touched the bottom.
I looked around. Then I grabbed a handful of the muck and rose up to the surface. Laughing, I smeared the muck on my face.
There had been nothing down there.
I'd been the one kicking up the dust on the pond bottom as I treaded water on the surface.
The cloud I feared was my own creation.
I felt a little silly. But also, incredibly relieved.
Not because I wasn't really in danger, but because I was free.
All weekend long, I went back to the pond bottom, again and again. Sticking my hands and feet in the weeds, exploring the murk.
My fear was gone.
And then... on the last day, on my final swim, I saw a snake-skin on the water's edge.
I looked at it for a moment, then went in.
When I reached the furthest end of the pond, under the shade and in the muck, I saw it.
Its head was slithering through the water in my direction.
It stopped and we looked at one another for a moment.
I was fully awake, but my mind was totally quiet.
Then, I slid back into the water, and it slid on its way, too.
When I told him about my time in the pond, my friend, Coyah, told me that "Most people think initiation is a one-time thing. It's not. We're initiated over and over again. It's a practice."
Every time we're confronted with fear, we have to make a choice: to cower or confront? Step back or step forward?
Every time we walk a straight line into fear—even if that line takes us through the door of death—we are initiated into a world that has one less degree of fear, and one more degree of freedom.
As in ponds, so in life.
Fear is the #1 obstacle I see people run up against as they try to follow their calling and purpose in life.
It comes in different flavors—fear of rejection, ridicule, failure, pain, grief—but the root is the same.
If you're interested in facing down the fears that keep you stuck, then schedule a free 45min discovery call with me to see if we'd be a good fit to work together.
Or find a snake-filled pond and dive in.