You’re knee deep in the water. The air is hot and your chest and neck are slick with sweat and sunscreen. You need relief. The sea is cold and crisp as you dive through a wave. Your pores buzz and you feel alive. But the waves keep coming and the sand is slipping from your feet. The current is stronger than you thought. It wants to pull you down the beach and out with a riptide – a stripe of boiling whitewater that tears out through the breakers. You’re out of focus when a big wave hits. You're knocked off balance and your feet leave the sand. The ocean takes you. Now you’re moving fast and you swim hard not to be lost. The beach falls back in the distance. You feel weak – small – your strength nothing against the water. You see your own body drifting lifeless ten feet down somewhere in the dark water past the waves as the sunlight fades from your cold wet face. You’re gasping for air as you swim. Coughing salt and foam as your throat tightens. Your body doesn’t want to die. This is fear.
Then someone swims past you – doesn’t see you gasping – and dips below a wave. Their arm arcs high and straight, cutting the air like the fin of a dolphin. A few strokes further out and they’re standing. A wave hits you in the eyes and they’re gone. You can’t see where they went but you don’t care. Another wave tries to drown you but you keep your mouth shut and slow your breathing. Swim into the brine. Keep moving. Keep swimming. Trust. Then kick down and feel sand. Claw onto the sandbar and feel it gritty on your fingers as you push yourself to your feet. Feel the little waves licking calm below your knees. Breathe deep and feel the strength in your lungs. This is progress.