Treading Water

drowning2And the sea grows
I close my eyes
Move slowly through drowning waves
Going away on a strange day

“A Strange Day” by The Cure

I had a dream yesterday. A strange dream. I was deep in clear blue water, swimming for the surface with everything I was worth. My lungs hurt. My eyes burned. And as I kicked and kicked, I seemed to be getting no closer to the elusive surface. I remember the thin trail of bubbles I tried to hold in. I remember a poetic reflection of the sun, broken, bent, as it sparkled through the blue around me. My arms felt like lead, my legs tingled. And then the reflection seemed to pull away from me. I wanted that ray of sunshine. I wanted to follow those bubbles. But I realized I was sinking. I had given up the fight. I was succumbing to the depths around me.

And then I gasped fresh air, sputtered and spit chlorine.

I was sitting in a bamboo lounge chair at the edge of a bottomless pool. In the water, I could see myself sinking. The fight gone. Deeper and deeper. I wanted to jump in and save myself, but before I could a hand grabbed my wrist.


A man sat sipping an umbrella drink in a chair next to me. He had calm eyes and a soothing voice.

“But I need to save myself.” I couldn’t hear my words. I do not think I spoke out loud, but he answered me. Answered my thoughts, my unspoken questions.

“That is not you. You’re not drowning.” He took a long sip and stared at me, as if waiting for me to get it. “You’re right here.”

I looked at the pool. The figure was all but out of sight in the depths. Only the wrist reaching upward was still distinguishable in the light ripples of the chlorinated water. I could clearly see my dragonfly tattoo.

“No.” He turned my arm over so I could see my wrist. The tattoo in the water looked like the one I currently have in real life. But in my dream, the one on my wrist was different. The colors were swirled, highlights had been added, and tiny white flairs were scattered around the twin insects like cartoon fireflies.

“That was you.” He released my arm. “Now this is you.”

I was abruptly awoken with the feeling that I was babysitting, because the television had crying children on it. You gotta love what the mind does when you’re asleep. Changing scenes by outside influence. Waking you when you just want to sleep. When you want to finish the dream.

But I didn’t need to finish it.

I get it.

Apparently, I understood it subconsciously before I did consciously. Though even then, someone else had to say it out loud. I’m still me. But I’m a different me. I’m not drowning.

But I am treading water.

Beyond the metaphor that some of you may recognize, and the one that only I can see in that dream, there’s the reality of today. The drowning feeling. I just finished edits on one thing and got it turned in. I have to finish edits on the novel, write an article, write & polish a short, and finish another novel by the end of summer. It feels like a lot. It feels like too much when the words are working. I can understand that metaphorical drowning feeling as well. And I’m reminded of how my mother taught me to swim…

Mom carried me out to the ropes at the lake by my Nana’s old house. It was over my head, but she could stand just fine. She smiled at me. She kissed my forehead. And she dropped me. “Sink or swim.” I gulped water. I cried. But I didn’t sink. She didn’t drown me. She taught me to tread water.

My to-do list is not a bottomless pool. I will not sink. I will swim. I’ve been good at treading water since I was five years old—even though that’s not me any more. And by the end of summer, I’ll be a swimmer of Olympic caliber… regarding all the waterlogged metaphors in that dream.

0 Responses to Treading Water

  • wolfnoma says:

    Awesome blog Kelli, although I hesitate to say blog because this is more than that.

    Enough of a break, get back to WRITING!!! Or I am gonna force you to watch really bad homoerotic pirate porn, but not on the LCD I will have the Hippie and Dickie act it out in front of you!

  • Bob Ford says:

    Kelli: So jealous of your dreams. But yeah, quite the psychological interpretation.

    Wolfnoma: Bwahahahahahaha!

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