The line up for the rope-swing at the Eileen Dailly Community Pool forms as soon as a Life Guard moves to uncoil the bulky rope from the post. Anybody over 48” tall can have a turn on the rope (no maximum height or age – of course I asked!).
It’s hilarious and mesmerizing to watch each kid stand at the edge of the deep end of the pool, grab hold of the rope, bend their knees, get a good grip on one of the thick knots above their head, push off from the edge, and then bring their knees up around one of the lower knots as they swing out over the water – a mix of glee and terror on their face when they let go.
Some kids squeal or laugh as they fly out over the water. Some kids try to get as far as they can, some are clearly getting into the silliest pose imaginable, and some try to make as big a splash landing as possible. They all bob back to the surface grinning, and climb right out of the pool to stand in line for another ride.
I tread water and watch (and generally do my best not to seem creepy or threatening) behind the parents of younger swimmers. These parents tend to stay close by the splash zone…just in case. The last time I watched the rope-swing riders, one of the smaller boys who launched over the water didn’t let go of the rope.
With his eyes closed, he clung to that rope until it was almost at a stand still. The only voice you could hear was his dad calling, “It’s okay buddy, just let go and I’ll catch you.” But the boy wouldn’t let go – or couldn’t. And so he hung there for what was probably just a few seconds, but it felt like hours. We all watched as his dad got hold of the end of the rope and pulled him back to the safety of the pool’s edge.
Just as he started walking toward the end of the line, I heard my (usually more sensitive than this) husband mutter what was likely going through a lot of folks’ minds: “Wus.”
I may have overreacted. My voice was definitely louder than I expected when I blurted, “Hey! He’s just like all of us – we’re all just hanging on like that every day!”
Somehow, in those few seconds while we watched that boy cling to that rope-swing, I had tied that rope to all of the proverbial ropes from which we find ourselves swinging. How many times have you been ‘at the end of your rope’? How many ways do we have to say that we’re barely hanging on? And it’s not just frustrating to be at the end of your rope, it’s scary.
Then, even as my husband and I were apologizing to each other and looking embarrassed, it occurred to me that some of those ropes we hang on to for so long might be rope-swings.
What if some of those goals, relationships, attitudes, habits, expectations and roles are rope-swings? What if we’re supposed to let go rather than hang on?
Letting go of any of the ropes we hang on to – especially the ones that have become frayed because we’ve hung on to the knotty ends for far too long – might be scary, but letting go might be just part of the ride.
And if some ropes are rope-swings, we could let go and fly. We could strike a pose, or make a splash.