I have always loved the ocean because it speaks to life. The ocean is a visual representation of life as I see it. I’ve often described the need to flow with the cosmic waves. If you become too stuck, too solidly stubborn against the waves, you will suffer more friction and destruction than if you were to just “go with the flow.” Much like how with struggle it becomes much easier to drown.
We creatures float through the galaxy like objects in the sea. All of the swirling, floating, and interweaving is critical for it to make a masterpiece. It’s a chaotic dancing stew, yet it all seems to work out for the best. The tide comes in and washes over the rocks to clear off some creatures while feeding others. If you happen to be one of these clam-like creatures you actually depend on it. You don’t really swim. You float, you’re buried, you’re uncovered, you live. It’s the Art of Being. Clams need not do anything other than be themselves while their environment carries them to live the life that they happen to live.
I think you will be taken care of whether you decide to swim or float in this universe. There is a place for both. However, we should not hold ourselves back when it comes time to paddle our feet to get us to the next place.
For most of my life I have often held myself back from swimming. I opted instead to float. I’ve let the waves of the universe carry me to some pretty great places. With that in mind I have always hesitated to start swimming in another direction.
I have feared changing course in life just about as much as I would fear changing course in the literal ocean. I am afraid to start purposefully swimming towards better land only to end up in one of those tidal wave storms which puts you farther away. Then you’re clinging to a plank, pissed off, and dying of hypothermia.
There’s also a big difference between swimming and flailing your arms violently until the ocean of our universe pulls you under into death. I see a lot of people confuse the two of these all of the time, literally and figuratively. Especially figuratively! There is an incredible amount of people out there struggling violently against the waves, gasping for air, and they have no idea. They’d tell you that they’re swimming. I’d tell them that they’re sinking.
If you float when you could swim you are being passive, possibly too passive. I am guilty of being passive at times when I should have been ravenously paddling. I’ve let people in my life just because they happen to have come into it. I’ve let a lot of things happen to me just because they were happening. It’s the pile of drugs you take just because they happen to be on the coffee table. It’s the sex you have just because the person happens to be all over you. It’s the job you take just because they hired you. It’s the first husband or wife you marry because they were the first one to put up with your cranky ass.
For far too long I was under the impression that this was the way it worked. In a lot of ways that can work, but it will not always be the way and you should not always accept it as such.
There is nothing wrong with making decisions. There is nothing wrong with saying “no” when you don’t want something. The same goes for if you want to say “yes” to something. There’s actually nothing wrong with asking for what you want! This is simple and obvious, yet completely unbelievable to a lot of people.
I was one of those people. That personality is still buried within me. If the opportunity came along then we might as well do it. If the opportunity did not come along then let’s forget about it. There wasn’t much push to obtain the opportunity. There wasn’t a lot of swimming against the current.
I deceptively resembled a person who took chances because I did take chances – passively. I blindly threw myself off of a lot of cliffs and hoped for the best. That’s where my faith in the flow of the universe stems from. That’s where I got terribly confused about being a drifter, never decidedly swimming to the desired opportunity.
This is why I had absolutely no understanding of college students. To put yourself in an eight year program with a belief that you are actually going to get to the end is as likely as swimming a straight line in a hurricane. Do you know how much can change in eight years? Do you know how much you probably will never want to do in eight years what you are doing today? I could not fathom the desire to do anything of the sort. For me, a one year plan was quite enough because I knew that at the end of that plan I’d be ready for a completely different map.
The only thing that has changed my mind about long term planning is finally capturing some realization about the hurricane in between. If we are open to changes of course during our plans then it makes sense. It turns out that most people understood this. I was far too black and white to see it until now.
The dawning realization has been that it’s OK to make hard choices. It’s OK to decline an invitation or disagree with an associate. We learn this even more when we are placed in management of others or owning a business. That can be learned from the corporate world or from managing an underground art magazine. Are you ready to have difficult conversations with people you may not like? Are you going to cope with the disagreement when your word is the final word? Are you OK with pointing out things that someone else may have absolutely no clue about? Would you be willing to fire someone for their shitty behaviors?
We do not always need to float. We are not all clams. We are allowed to decide on a course of action which may not be easy, but doable, if we have working arms, legs, or a giant propeller for a nose. The balancing act is to learn when to stop driving your boat into the Tsunami. The secret is to know the difference between swimming and flailing.
Originally written for The Artist D’s Bloody Typewriter, 12/31/2017