Take the Plunge

Unless it is very hot outside and the water very warm, I always find it tough entering a pond, lake, or ocean to swim. While most people I know just dive right in, I can take 15 minutes of slowly inching my way deeper before I get up the nerve to submerge. I go through all sorts of mental gymnastics, asking why am I doing this, do I really want to, and trying to convince myself that maybe up to my hips is far enough. Then I mildly berate myself for my cowardice, remind myself how good I’ll feel afterwards, and give myself a talking to about experiencing life in all its aspects. Eventually I take the plunge.

And so it was last weekend at Otter Bog. I had spent a couple of hours scraping out the accumulated poop and pee of who knows how many mice who’d made their home in the oven and cupboards in our cabin over numerous winters. To say it was a disgusting job is an understatement. I felt so gross. The pond, sparkling in the sun and reflecting the few puffy clouds overhead, beckoned. I’d get to swim by the big beaver lodge and alongside the heath. I’d clean off the mouse poop that had surely bedecked me despite the latex gloves I wore. My dog, Elsie, was already swimming in circles, just waiting for me to join her. But it still took forever for me to slowly, painstakingly, enter the cold September water.

Which is a metaphor for something, isn’t it? Change is hard, which is how I see going from a comfortable body temperature on a seventy-five degree, breezy day to entering a sixty-degree pond. And yet, stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zone, exploring and experiencing more of what life has to offer, is compelling. Life is dull without new experiences and opportunities.

And those opportunities are myriad. They reside in every choice we make: to eat something healthy and humane instead of the same old stuff offered in our mainstream culture; to volunteer where we are needed and feel the joy of giving instead of spending those two hours on Facebook; to learn something new that might change our life and choices for the better, instead of watching a reality show or American Idol or another sitcom; to donate money to a cause in which we believe, instead of buying a new pair of shoes or earrings; to mindfully put legs on a dream or vision instead of slipping into the rut of our daily norms.

Take the plunge. You’ll feel better afterwards.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach"

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