In April of 2017 I found myself flying over the Gulf of Mexico toward what would be our new home in Florida. I had not flown without friends or family since I was 18 years old. I watched the water slip by below and wondered how on earth I was going to manage the move. I had only ever lived in Oklahoma to that point. My anxiety told me my whole world was falling apart. Depression told me this was not a trial worth trying.
That alone doesn’t make sense to some. That intense desire to stay rooted in one spot as the world flies around me.
It occurred to me on that flight that I was out of my depth. I had previously considered that a phrase meaning, outside the parameters in which one can operate safely and proficiently. On the flight to Florida, the phrase took on a new meaning for me.
The surface of the water stretched forever but it was not calm. It looked troubled and troublesome. The water heaved and foamed. It sprayed and would not be contained.
But what, I wondered, was happening in the depths. I let my mind wander down, down through the water where I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t touch the surface or the floor. Where I was plainly out of my depth.
There, the water of my imagining was unbothered. Untouched by the stirrings at the surface, this water gave respite. It gave clarity. The deep water gave life in abundance.
I wrote on an airline napkin: Out of my depth is where my God wants me.
I still believe that today. When my boys go off to camp and I re-feather the nest, I remember those calm deep waters. As my husband remains unemployed, I grow wary of the dangers in those waters but know I will see them coming. When my writing becomes a messy rewrite and I am not sure if I’m drowning the story or it’s drowning me, I think of how I choose to be out of my depth. I keep choosing it. Despite the inherent dangers and the struggle, I choose the risks for the attendant rewards of respite and clarity and life in abundance. I choose it because I believe I’m not alone there.
After that house-hunting trip to Florida, I returned to Oklahoma still struggling with the move. I turned the familiar “I am the storm” around and became the still. It took me months more to negotiate myself into the deep. Once there, at that new depth, a hurricane and whirlwind move back to Oklahoma didn’t throw me into chaos.
If you are wondering how to move out of your depth, look for the place you’re led. It won’t be the shallows.
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