What you resist persists
‘What you resist persists’ is one of my favorite sayings that I learned in recovery. I remember hearing it for the first time and it resonated with me instantly.
Like most people, I find myself resisting things I don’t want to deal with, but that rarely makes them go away. In fact, many times they just seem to grow.
With that in mind, I went with some friends for an open water swim yesterday. It was three days after my panic attack/DNF (did not finish) that happened during the swim portion of my first attempt at a triathlon.
My friend, a triathlon expert who was at the event, highly recommended that I get back in the open water as soon as possible. When she told me she was going with a couple of other friends for a swim in the American River on Wednesday, and that I should come, I had a funny feeling she wasn’t going to take no for an answer.
I agreed, and despite almost backing out at the last minute, I grabbed my wetsuit and met up with the group after work.
When we got down to the water, I instantly regretted my decision.
I was nervous all over again.
While getting on my wetsuit I tried to act calm, but when I realized how far we were swimming I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. “Just down to the bridge” seemed really far!
But in reality, I knew it couldn’t be that far. The guy who had done the swim before estimated it would take about 25 minutes out, and under 10 minutes coming back because we’d be going with the current on the return.
Plus his dogs were going on the swim with us. His dogs. If Labradors can make it, I should be able to as well, right?
But my resistance was high and when I got in the water, my chest tighten, my breath ramped up, and I started to have a panic attack again.
I tried to swim, but just like in the triathlon, I felt like I was going to suffocate when I put my face in the water.
I stood up and my friend checked to make sure I was okay. I was honest with her. I was just really nervous I couldn’t do it.
She told me I absolutely could. Just focus on one stroke at a time. Our swim was going to hug the shore, so I could get out of the water any time.
I went back in and started to swim.
And much like I do sometimes when I struggle to get into meditation, I started with a mantra. Over and over I repeated, I’m here with you, I’m here with you.
For me, that meant God/The Universe/My Higher Power (I use them all interchangeably) was with me. I wasn’t alone.
As time went on, I started to relax into the flow of the swim. After a while, I really started to enjoy it.
I thought about how lucky I am to have this opportunity. Swimming in clean water, with friends, in the safety of a wetsuit, on a beautiful day. It was amazing.
Sure, at times I’d drop back into fear.
I’d see a tree trunk at the bottom of the river and it would startle me. Or I’d start to wonder how much longer we had till we turned around and I’d get anxious that I couldn’t make it. But just as I picked up the worry, I’d let it go. In that moment, I was fine.
When we made it to the bridge, our turnaround point, we hung out on the shore for a few minutes. Then we started our swim back.
This time we were going with the current instead of against it.
The difference was amazing.
On the way out, I didn’t even realize there was current. I was just pushing my way along. Sure it took a while. And it was hard to swim straight, but I was in a river, what did I expect?
But the way back felt effortless and was so much fun. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was like flying, but in the water.
Every day we face resistance.
The difficult conversations we don’t want to have, the hard task we’d rather put off. But turning our backs to them don’t minimize them. They actually tend to grow, in our mind and in our lives.
I think life has a wonderful way of helping us out when we work through our worries. We can learn, grow, and hopefully get into flow.