Swimming Upstream

Words and books have always been a strong gravity in my life, lifting me along and creating secret worlds, strength, and wisdom that can only be found between covers. Recently, I was immersed in a book on a train and stumbled across two sentences that in an instant caught my breath. As the car throttled on, I sat still, stopped on my tracks:

            “I try and understand how life works- and why some people cope better than others with adversity- I come back to something to do with saying yes to life, which is love of life, however inadequate, and love for the self, however found. Not in the me-first way that is the opposite of life and love, but with a salmon-like determination to swim upstream, however choppy upstream is, because this is your stream…” – Jeanette Winterson

For some, these may be beautifully written, but ordinary words. For me, I was electrified. In that moment, Jeanette was speaking to me, and only me.  I gripped the book with my own salmon-like determination and re-read the page three more times.

I’ve always wondered why and how some people cope with adversity more than others. I know there are factors of resiliency, resources, and support- but always felt like there was an intangible piece unaccounted for. Here, Jeanette fills in the gap by explaining the important of love of life (however inadequate) and love for the self (however found).

The two key pieces are that life may not be perfectly adequate, and that love for the self has a whole journey of its own. Despite the dark, the imperfections, the unfairness, the ups and downs, it is your stream and yours alone.

I ponder- do I fully encapsulate those caveats? Do I love myself and life in a way that equips me to deal with adversity?

Looking back, I realize that I must have- but never gave it a proper name. I called it fighting. I called it struggling. I called it life. But, I did not call it love.

But it is just that. What has swept me up the stream (sometimes choppy, sometimes moving at an even pace) has been not just the love given to me, but the infinite love I’ve offered up to the world and to myself. There have been times when this has been lacking- where I did not feel worthy of my own love. But as I look back, I believe that I believed in myself more than I ever thought I could. I kept going.

And now I sit on the train, moved, as it moves me.

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