Zach the Dolphin

Actress Amy Poehler says, "I get a little itchy if I don’t have some kind of control.” Want to know one of the most important discoveries I’ve made on My Year by the Water?

I get a little itchy if I don’t have some kind of ... freedom.

This was brought home a couple months ago when I cracked my ribs while in Portland speaking at a conference. I tumbled down some steps leading into a hotel parking lot. I sat there. stunned at the suddenness of it all.  One moment I’m fine, the next moment I’m in a heap on the ground.

Those first few weeks, I didn’t know when my ribs would heal, or God forbid, if they would heal. The pain and loss of mobility made me yearn for the luxury of being able to get up and go anywhere, anytime, do anything.

Please understand: I realize there are MILLIONS (no exaggeration) of people who have pain and have lost their freedom of moment through no fault of their own. Wounded veterans, people with dire health challenges, people with loved ones who are seriously ill … so I am 100% clear that my sore ribs were a “first world problem” and minor in comparison to what many  are dealing with.

All is can say is those few weeks of reduced mobility was a tangible reminder to be grateful every single day for the blessing of being able to get up and go, bend, reach, turn, lift, swim, walk and move .... without pain.

Freedom of movement is also a metaphor.

The past few decades have been packed with commitments.

Commitments for Tom and Andrew's school and sports activities, commitments to speak, consult, meet deadlines, be here at this time, do this at that time, get from here to there by a certain time.

And I’m enormously grateful for all those commitments as I am blessed to be a mom and to have the privilege of doing work I love that matters with people I enjoy and respect.

On this Year by the Water. I've been experimenting by doing the OPPOSITE OF MY ALWAYS.

For example, I had just finished speaking in Tampa and was supposed to take the train to Savannah where I was speaking next.

And suddenly, seven hours on a train seemed overwhelmingly CONFINING. There's no autonomy on a train. If you see something intriguing, you don't have the option to stop and explore it. The train just whizzes on by.

I realized what I was yearning for was ... freedom of movement.

So, I cancelled the train and started driving. And the smile was back on my face and in my heart in minutes.

I deliberately did not lock myself into a pre-arranged plan. Instead of making hotel reservations, I gave myself total freedom to make it up as I went along, to be responsive to my surroundings and adapt accordingly.

So, I was driving along and checked the map to see what lay ahead.

89 miles ahead was Marineland in St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1938 (!), the world’s first oceanarium, and the first to offer a dolphin encounter-immersion program.

zach the dolphin

SOLD! Which is how I found myself swimming with ZACH THE DOLPHIN under a clear blue sky.

What a thrill it was to get in that water, meet Zach face to face, stroke his rubbery skin and look him in the eye.

There was only three of us in our group so our guide turned it into a mini-training session. She asked me, "Would you like to give Zach a command?" Would I?!

She said, "Point your finger to the sky."

I pointed my finger to the sky ad Zach stood on his tail and took off across the pool. She said, "Now circle your finger three times. I cricled my finger three times and Zach dove down deep, then LEAPT out of the water and did a triple back flip.


And to think I didn’t even know about Zach 24 hours earlier.

What a powerful reminder of what a blessing it is to have autonomy, freedom of movement – both physically and metaphorically - and to experience the sheer delight of joyous discovery.

How about you?

Have your weeks, months, years been filled with commitments

Are you ready to do the opposite of your always and give yourself an opportunity to make it up as you go?

Are you blessed to have freedom of movement?  What are you going to do to celebrate the privilege of being able to get up and go where you want, do what you want - even if it's for a day or an afternoon?