The first time I heard about the power of water and the kidneys was from my scientist father. “Mary, the Chinese say that the most powerful substance is water. It is the only substance that can transform under hot and cold conditions: solidify, melt, and have the power to save and keep life as well as kill life. The Chinese also say that the kidneys are the most powerful organs in the body because it is the only organ that we have two of to give the gift of one bean to another—even a complete stranger. The kidneys are almighty powerful because they connect with all the other organs and the entire body to balance it out.”
So, it seemed meant to be and really no surprise at all that I was forever pulled by the water and born with kidney issues. For as long as I could remember, my life revolved around my kidney beans and I was lured by the swimming pools, oceans, and lakes that glittered and sparkled under the sunshine. The problem was that I could not swim, or more specifically, kick my weak legs that were ridden with joint and arthritic issues. I would literally sink and my legs would collapse under me whenever I tried to lift them in a position to swim a lap. The most I could do in a swimming pool was step into the refreshing water or dip my toes and feet. It was quite sad how weak my body from my ailed kidney beans.
The first time I learned about the frightening power of the water was when I nearly drowned twice in my then-“friends” backyard swimming pools. The most I could do was dip my feet into the cool water only to be physically yanked into the swimming pool prior to taunts of, “Mary, you are being a baby. You can swim. Just come in. The water feels so good.”
Before I could speak, I was in the water panicking and trying to kick and flailing my arms only to be enveloped by the water until I was sure that I was going to drown to my death. In both times of nearly drowning, I had to be pulled out, breathless and feeling so vulnerable that I was full of fury more at me than at the water. Anger then turned to fear. There was no way that I would ever swim, although I was forever hypnotized and craved desperately to learn to swim. I was more certain of this than ever when my first kidney transplant began to fail. It is now that I look back that I feel goose bumps at the coincidence (but there are no such things as coincidence in life) that my first kidney transplant and any possibility of swimming and bonding with water that both represented power were failing by the time I was 11-years-old.
Many are unaware that it wasn’t until after my second kidney transplant that I slowly overcame my fear of swimming and gained an utmost love and even passion for it. It took the patience and showcase of fun of the water from my older sister and a dear friend of mine who brought me to her summertime swimming pool to discover that water and swimming were nothing to be scared of. It took the strength of my physical body after two pre-owned kidney beans transplanted and mentality that I could do anything I wanted to if I really wanted it enough. What began as years of a fear and literally being sick with chronic kidney issues and what felt like weakness to the power of water made me slowly fearless and strong just like the power of water.
Upon learning the basics of swimming, I was only been able crawl or freestyle, but then I slowly learned the breast stroke and most recently the backstroke. Now, I can hear the sounds of my breath and the swish of the water when I am in the swimming pool to swim or test my lung capacity as to how long I can breathe and stay underwater until I am breathless and can feel my heart pounding in my ears. In these moments, the world around me is completely quiet and I am fully in-tune with and to the power of my own body, spirit, and of life. But, perhaps, the greatest understanding that water and swimming has brought to me is how we all have the ability and utmost stamina to keep breathing and to keep on going “underwater” when we feel like we are drowning and cannot carry on or go forward in life. Life keeps going on. And, so, we must keep on going on in spite of everything and anything that seems to come our way to stop us will only start us.
I do not know if I ever learned the “right” way to swim. I just know for sure that what my father said and what I have experienced so far with water and my kidneys rings true that they are, indeed, the most powerful of the human spirit, body, and life. My mentality has always been to keep my head above water and swim and just not sink as I did when I was a child on multiple occasions. This mentality has followed me throughout life and living and especially now as I get older with an understanding and an attempted execution of living that there are no such things as perfect or excelling, “right” or “wrong,” but there is only a personal “my own way.” I have also somewhat gained a new mentality to keep on breathing with the flows of the waters of life alongside keeping my head above water.
Always keep on going as life keeps on going. Always keep on breathing underwater when times in life get rough even when you feel like you are drowning and cannot breathe. You would be surprised and bask in how powerful you really are in the face of only what appears to make you feel weak—just like water.