When You Have the Choice, Jump!


Pressing through hard things to find freedom

How an uncomfortable situation in a bathing suit turned in to complete joy

I stood on the dock, wooden boards swaying in rhythm with the water beneath, and I wondered what I was doing here. We were in Maine, closing out a wonderful June week as a family.

There was hiking and boating and biking. Beach days and ice cream and reading. Exactly what we needed. And before you think it was too idyllic, I assure you there was bickering and cranky moments. But all of those things led to this, our last day on vacation and me standing on the dock.

Maine isn’t made for swimming, especially in June. It’s made for beauty and rocks and lobster, but the water is really something pretty to look at or sail over. Yet here we were, looking into the cold, dark water. We were going to jump in, just one time.

I listened to the squeals and giggles of my three kids anticipating the freezing water. I stood there smiling and taking pictures as my kids’ dares climbed to double-dares and double-dog-dares to see who would be brave enough to go first.

I didn’t feel brave.

I never seem to feel brave.

Instead I felt exposed. Standing there in my bathing suit was challenging enough. I knew there were a few onlookers, wondering if we were all crazy enough to do this. Jumping in the cold water was the kind of crazy they expected from the kids, but I was no kid.

A mom of three in my mid-thirties, I was still wrestling with the baby weight seven years after my youngest baby was born. I wondered if I really belonged there on that dock. Of course I wondered if I belonged in most settings. So I stood there taking the pictures, laughter covering up my fear and insecurity.

And then the unthinkable happened: my husband took the camera.

The camera had been my security blanket. As long as I was taking pictures I couldn’t get in the water. I just looked like a silly mom in her bathing suit on the dock. But now, well, now I was just the chicken on the dock. Never mind that my husband holding the camera meant pictures of me. On the dock. In my bathing suit.

I looked over and saw the pile of towels we brought with us. In that moment I had a choice. I could grab a towel, wrap myself up, and let fear (and common sense) win. Or I could take the leap.

I looked down to the dark, cold water, smiled scared and jumped.

The water was so cold it took your breath away. I swam to the ladder half laughing, half screaming, and climbed back onto the dock where I wrapped myself in a towel. The kids cheered. My husband laughed and stopped the video (because a picture just wouldn’t be enough). And I did something unexpected; I smiled.

Not because of the water. But because of the joy. Sometimes a leap is about more than the leap. It’s about looking at all that doubt, all that insecurity, all that crazy, and not letting it win. It’s about choosing courage and silly and uncertain just to find joy.

These quests for joy, these little brave choices model brave for our littles. But more than that, they remind us that we are still people worthy of fun and joy and laughter. We can still do hard, scary things and come out on the other side fully engaged with this big wild world.

It may not be June anymore and there may be no dock around, but there are always choices to leap brave into life.