I believe that Dory, from Finding Nemo, is one of the most endearing characters of all time. She is eternally optimistic. Repeatedly, she finds herself in very difficult situations. She suffers from short-term memory loss and her traveling companion, who she is with 24/7, is a pessimistic fish named Marlin who suffers from severe anxiety.
What she endures would cause many fish to throw in the towel, but she does not. She keeps moving forward.
One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when Dory is faced with another seemingly impossible situation, and her response is to sing. She sings as she swims into the darkness. She sings and believes. She believes that everything will be Ok.
“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim. Swim.”
She does not know what is ahead of her, and cannot remember what is behind her. Unlike Marlin who is paralyzed with fear because of the memories from his past, she is fully present in the moment. She does not move with fear. She moves with confidence. With faith. With joy.
I feel like I can learn a lot from Dory.
The past couple months of my life have been busy, to say the least. I have felt like I was moving from one thing to the next at warp speed with no time to breathe in between. I was getting a little bunched up and Marlin-like. It was hard for me to be in the moment because I was consumed by what was ahead of me, and a long list of what-ifs. What if I can’t get this all done? What if it doesn’t work out as I had planned?
When someone would say, “how are you?” I would inevitably list off all of the things that were going on. I would list off the things that I needed to accomplish in that day. I’m not sure how that answers the question, “how are you?” Other than tired and maybe a bit over my head in commitments.
I often say that I feel like, with four young children and all that comes with raising a family, I cannot think past “the next big thing.”
When I say “the next big thing” I mean the next vacation, or Birthday, or holiday. I cannot be working on too many things at once. There is just not a whole lot of extra time and energy left at the end of the day. Just the regular events that happen on a daily basis are enough in and of themselves. I have learned it is best for me to stay present in the moment focusing on the tasks at hand, while also working on “the next big thing.”
But what happens when each weekend is filled with “the next big thing?”
It seems that what happens is I rattle off lists to every person who makes the mistake of saying “how are you?”
And I break out in hives. Yep. Hives.
I actually am still breaking out in the occasional hive. I’m not sure if I was just so stressed that my immune system went haywire, or if I am actually allergic to something. I will find out next week when I have my allergy testing done.
What I found in the past months of being all hivey, stress-bally, and overly-listy, is that this seems to be a predicament that many people find themselves in. As soon as I was finished rattling off my to-dos, many of my friends would list off their to-dos. It seemed that myself, and many people I knew, were drowning in piles of to-do lists.
So, what do we do in these moments of being pulled in too many directions?
I can choose to either be like Dory’s traveling companion Marlin who is constantly in a state of freaked-out panic, or I can be like Dory who sings her way through life.
When I do as Dory says and “just keep swimming,” I will often find a wonderful gift from God awaiting. When I stay in the moment without fretting about what is ahead, or focusing on what is behind, then I am at peace. During the painful times in life, and the busy times in life, and the times when it feels like I am drowning in my to-dos, there is always something wonderful happening too. Something to be grateful for. Every day is filled with wonderful gifts from God. It is just a matter of what I choose to focus on.
For me, during this busy time, the gifts came in the form of people that I love.
It was the joy of celebrating a friend’s upcoming marriage.
It was the joy in seeing my daughter’s face during her Birthday party.
It was the joy of watching our daughter play a sport she had been wanting to try for a long time.
It was the joy of having family at our house on Easter Sunday.
It was the joy of being with family on a short vacation over Spring Break.
It was joy of making the trip to our college town to spend the day with great friends.
It was the joy in standing next to a dear friend as she said her vows.
It was the joy in seeing the look on my daughter’s faces when they saw their new rooms.
The many nights of staying up late to complete tasks ultimately ended with great joy. It was worth it.
Now, I don’t recommend moving at this pace often. It would not be healthy to be that busy all of the time. But sometimes, because of life’s circumstances, it is inevitable. Sometimes you get life on steroids.
Slowly, over the past couple of weeks, things have started to calm down at our house. We are slowly getting back to normal. And at the end of the craziness, God gave Pat and I an unexpected gift. We were able to take a short trip to Florida together. It was a time of rest and relaxation. A rainbow after a storm of frenzy. It was exactly what we both needed. We were able to push the reset button.
Oftentimes, if we “just keep swimming” we will swim into something completely beautiful, and unexpected. We may get a little Marlin-like along the way, but that’s Ok. That is where grace comes in. We are all works in progress. I hope as I grow older, and wiser, that I will become a little more like Dory and a little less like Marlin. A little more able to trust. And believe. And move forward with joyful confidence. In my experience, some of the roughest waters I have swam through have lead me to the most wonderful places. I always need to “just keep swimming.”