We are complex creatures and not one of us is the same as another. Even identical twins have differences although not necessarily obvious to the eye.
Knowing this fact, accepting this reality, can be the compelling reason for us to consider, and put into practice, the fresh perspective that will serve us all well to see past personality types, learning styles, body types and our unique blend of beliefs is to operate on one universal principle.
Of course, the ideal is love … unconditional love, but as evidenced by our past and present, just the idea of valuing … respecting each unique person is a tall order in our global culture of Disrespect. The taller order is actually learning how to respect … to value all life in our words and actions … every day … in all our relationships, connections and interactions.
A simple example of how we struggle with this idea and simply resort to our conditioned response of prejudice is what I have experienced with a personal goal: the process of changing my swimming style.
Water has pulled me into its depths all my life. As a child, I spent hours on the river’s edge and within no time at all, following my Dad’s example, my child’s body was slicing through the green water to cross to the other side of the river. Though I have been told I did not take well to the public swimming pool and provided lessons, my swimming skills demonstrate I nonetheless did learn different swim strokes as well as the basics of diving, but it was only recently I discovered my swimming style was called the Tarzan stroke.
For known and unknown reasons, my swimming style meant I kept my head lifted out and above the water. One of the known reasons, though not entirely understood why, was to stop water from going up my nose. Yet diving is one of my favorite aspects of swimming.
In fact, one year, after a tumultuous period of my life, I even taught myself how to swan dive. Till then, I had never learned successfully how to use a spring diving board, so learning how to swan dive meant observing all users of spring boards and of course, especially the children, with their lack of fear and their bold fun who taught me to just let go and get comfortable with falling in the water in all kinds of ways; which also meant letting to of what people thought of a grown woman flopping into a pool as I grew accustomed to being out of control, so I could gain more trust in the process to achieve my goal.
In one winter season, my unconventional learning style did result in my ability to spring my body high into the air with arms spread wide and legs pulled together in proper form before my arms returned to their entry position as my body curved and sliced the pool’s surface. Sometimes on my entries my body was more rolled than straight and into an underwater somersault my body would roll. Sometimes my body was so straight and pointed, down to the bottom my arrowed body would rush. And sometimes, my body would have just enough of a curve to take me down so far but then gracefully sweep me back up to the surface. Even without a camera, I knew I was successful in completing my goal because of the response from observers, including the lifeguards.
A few years ago when I moved back to the home of my late teens and twenties where one of the greatest bodies of water, Lake Huron, once challenged and strengthened my swimming abilities, I soon realized how much I had let my swimming strength diminish. Upon my return, I also discovered one of the newer challenges I wanted to experience, surfing, is becoming a growing popular sport at the town’s main beach because of the dynamics of the breakwall, piers and currents.
A significant water level drop since I owned property south of the town’s border and even south of the area known as Boiler Beach has resulted in significant lake changes, including rip currents that develop in between sandbars and beside piers; rip currents that can thrust even an accomplished swimmer across the surface of the water in seconds, leaving them disoriented and if not wise in the ways of these sometimes volatile waters, stranded in deep water, exhausted from fighting the water’s stronger force. Safe swimming, as well as surfing and any other water activity, is now best-managed by learning how rip currents work, how to get out of their often frightening grasp, more safety strategies and tools, plus stronger swimming skills for this great lake.
For me, stronger swimming skills translates into face-in-the water comfort by learning to swim the crawl as opposed to wasting energy trying to keep myself alive by keeping my head above water at all times by swimming the energy-zapping Tarzan stroke. Changing a fifty-year style of swimming has not been easy or as quick as some would hope … especially people with different personality types, learning styles, body types and beliefs.
As a result of a lot of personal work, I know me very well these days and that includes the recognition none of the above … personality types, learning style, body types and even beliefs are the same as the majority. First, many people like constant attention while learning. In contrast, I excel when I gather new information and then go off on my own to practice and experiment because someone constantly talking at me is a distraction to me, but welcomed by other personality types. When I need more information, I come back for more, taking all the pieces and working on them individually before I start integrating them. For example, two of the biggest challenges I faced was getting used to putting my face horizontal in the water and learning how to breathe as I lifted my face partially out of the water, first to the right and eventually also to the left. Changing my kick from a thrust to a constant flutter meant developing the muscles in my hips and legs in new ways. Then there were the goggles, the bathing cap, getting the arm strokes coordinated with the breathing and the face in the water plus the new style of kick, etc.
Knowing what I know about my personality type, learning style and even body type, I should have known better than to take lessons in a big class with so many swimmers who, as it turns out, already swim the way I was there to learn how to do.
So, after two classes, I took the information provided, did some research of my own and started swimming on my own, breaking down old habits and instilling new ones, which, of course is taking time, though in truth it has only been a few months. Still, I find several people are quick to share their opinions about what I am doing wrong even though they know nothing about me other than what they see in their mind snapshots of my swimming endeavors.
Yet I know, if observers do not have the same personality type as I they will not understand how I work well on my own, breaking down big pictures into the details in order to construct a new big picture. They will not know that my body type is first a sprinter, excelling in activities that require quick and short bursts of great speed and that in order for me to become an endurance performer, I first have to train my body and mind with how it works best … using my natural speed with an element at a time until I can bring all the elements together quickly … in a flash, so I can experience what the new way of swimming I am striving for feels like … so I can build that feeling into my endurance training and goals.
“You swim too fast, your head is not deep enough in the water, you need a camera with video to watch your form,” are just some of the comments and suggestions I have heard, albeit, no doubt with good intentions, but yet at the same time this experience greatly demonstrates how we like, prefer even, everyone to be like us … to do as we do, to act as we act, to think as we think, to learn as we learn … and yet, no matter how much we may try, we are not like anyone else … and never will be without losing our own identity. We, each of us, are unique combinations of a number of factors, none of which is duplicated in anyone else.
Learning to appreciate we are not like everyone else and to understand that our differences from others does not make us or anyone else wrong, but just different is a very important step in making our world a safer and more peaceful place to live.
Valuing … respecting our differences, as well as our similarity in being unique creatures, is a huge step in making our world the safer and the most peaceful place we all want to live.
Hmmm, on that note, it is off to the pool I go in a few hours to recapture the new feeling I experienced during my last swim session when everything finally came together … speed, stroke, right and left breathing. Now I can begin to refine my form and build up my endurance so I will be ready this summer to be the swimmer and surfer I envision myself to be.
March 17, 2014
Kaitlin A. Trepanier
All Rights Reserved by DARK HORSES PRODUCTIONS/KAITLIN A. TREPANIER … CREATIVE WRITER, ADVOCATE, and PROJECT SPECIALIST responsible for the creation of the global initiative Connecting the Dots … with The RESPECT PRINCIPLE … because every child … every person … should know, by their own experience, they are valued … RESPECTED.