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Holding on

While not an avid swimmer, I enjoy the water.  I swim well enough to be unafraid of drowning, but should you be the one who is need of assistance to prevent that very thing, it is likely we will go down together despite the valiant effort I will surely make to save you.  Through the years “going swimming” primarily has been a combination of food, friends, tanning lotion (before the days of sunblock…), and horseplay that has taken place near a pool or natural body of water.  Living in the country, we were more often at a pond or the river with a small boat and various flotation devices that could be pulled behind said boat.

My first experience at riding a tube behind the boat was both exhilarating and frightening.  Now, this was not what you may have in mind as one of the nice, decorative tubes purchased nowadays for such adventures – you know, the ones with handles to grip and a safety “bottom” in the tube.  No.  This was an actual inner tube formerly used in an actual tire that at sometime had been on an actual vehicle.  There were no handles and there was most certainly a hole all the way through, just like a donut.  We tied a rope around the tube, slipped our hands around the rope and took off, employing the use of every muscle in our bodies toward the effort to keep balanced on the tube.  Like I said, it was great fun!!

And yes, it was fun, until a few minutes into my first gleeful ride I realized that I could not pull my hands out no matter how hard I tried. Once the rope grew taut, it had pinned my hands between it and the tube, my knuckles sunk deep into the rubber.  Keeping my balance atop the tube went from a fun challenge to becoming necessary for my survival.  I will never forget the fear that gripped me when I realized I was bound to this tube for the duration of the ride, no one in the boat able to hear my panicked screams that it was time to stop.  The only good thing about the remaining minutes of this treacherous skimming of the waters was that by the time it ended, I had devised just the right handle that we would use for all future rides.  One that would allow us to let go at any time.  As soon as installed, the tube once again became something to be enjoyed rather than feared.

I graduated from the inner tube to the knee board and we purchased the right kind of rope, one with a handle on the end. The rope was exactly what we needed.  I loved the jumps, the speed, and especially the turns when I would go wide and fast.  I had more than a few spills with these thrills, but never any that left me injured.  I never really worried about getting hurt and took a few chances in trying new things, knowing all the while that I could let go of the rope whenever I wanted.

I was always perplexed by those this simple truth seemed to escape.  I watched numerous people as they began to learn to knee board or ski, and was continually dumbfounded by those who would tumble into the water and refuse to let go of the rope.  Ok, maybe dumbfounded isn’t the correct word as I’m quite sure I let loose a good laugh a time or two and ridiculed those who were my friends more than a few times.  All in good fun, of course.  But it seems so simple: Let go of the rope before the boat drowns you in its wake.

Perhaps my first tubing experience is what seared this truth in my brain, and others may not have had such an effective lesson in what to do when you take a tumble in the water.  I suppose the rope provides a certain security.  But one would think that letting go would be automatic.  Let go of the thing that is pulling you down and making it difficult to breathe.  Loose your hands from the thing that is causing you to strain every muscle just to hold on.  Let go.

Alas, I find that this is me.  How many times in life have I struggled to hold on to the very thing that was dragging me down?  How many times have I found myself struggling to breathe, frustrated that things aren’t working like they are supposed to, or like the did in the past?  Just like those newbies to the water sports, I’ve been a slow learner in this learning to let go.


Holding on” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on

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