The Story Economy Blog

The Life-Changing Magic of Swimming in a Giant Body of Water


I haven’t yet read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. However, I am reading its parody, Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have With People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do.

This book is BRILLIANT! And it isn’t making fun of Kondo’s book either (which I still want to read). Rather, it channels her method of “does this bring you joy?” and applies it to the many things in life we force ourselves to care about because we are worried what others think. Knight gives practical advice about how to let go of what you don’t NEED TO CARE ABOUT so you can focus on what you DO CARE ABOUT—all without being a big jerk (or as Knight says, an asshole). That’s pretty much my dream: be a decent person AND care less about being judged by others!

So, number one, read this book! (That is, unless you object to reading the word “fuck” in every third sentence; if so—and it’s your right to care about profanity—you should probably skip it. And this blog post is probably not for you either.)

Number two is that I started thinking about what “The Life-Changing Magic Of . . .” parody I would like to write.

At Lake Michigan on vacation a few weeks ago (the picture is from Oval Beach in Saugatuck), my answer became clear as I swam out just past the buoys that marked the swimming area (yes, I’m that kind of rebel) and stared into the sparkly blue yonder. If you’ve ever swam in a large body of water, you’ve probably had this experience. You’re out there treading, and it’s just water . . . everywhere. You can’t see anything but ripples and sky, and maybe some jerk on a boat speeding by. But forget him. It’s just you, in the midst of something exponentially larger than you, and it exists independent of what you think, what issues you’re wrestling with, or what mistakes you’ve made. And it doesn’t judge you or try to help you or concern itself in any way with your treading limbs and sense of amazement at its ridiculous gorgeousness.

Whatever, it says, probably in Morgan Freeman’s voice. I am blue and vast and my molecules have been here in some form or other since the origin of this planet. You are welcome to float here, but I don’t give a fuck about your particular collection of molecules or time as you know it. Have joy or don’t have joy. Beat yourself up or don’t beat yourself up. Stay or go. Those things are your job. My only job is to be water.

So you swim to the right and then to the left, do a little backstroke, flip over and do an underwater somersault, and then splash around pretending you have a mermaid tale. It. Doesn’t. Care. You are free, free, free . . . but also not in charge of anything around you.

Yes, this is why people have religion and divine belief . . . the whole “part of something bigger.” But that is all so damn theoretical and there is so much judgment (and so many rules) involved. But this? This is just water, and it’s literally right in front of you, not to mention behind you, under you, on you, probably even in you because you can’t help but swallow a little when you’re floating on your back and a gentle wave laps around your face like a slobbery puppy.

Then, after you’ve had your fill of floating, you swim back to land, back to the beautiful beach where all of your stuff is laid out on a blanket. Inevitably, because the hard ground is the place where life happens, you have some dumb fight with your spouse over something equally dumb, and your kids are begging for a snack, and then the gulls are eyeballing your can of Pringles. You want to scream, “What happened to the lake?!”

So you look out, and it’s still there. And guess what? It still doesn’t care about you and your silly problems. So then you start to ask yourself why YOU care about the fight and the grumpy kids and the thieving gulls so much.

And that all happens in 15 minutes!

The Life-Changing Magic of Swimming in a Giant Body of Water That Doesn’t Give a F*ck About You: How to Stop Worrying About Everything and Stop Thinking that the Universe is Waiting to See What You Will Do and All the Ways You Will Screw Up, by Judi Ketteler.

A bestseller in the making, right?

Either way, it’s a lesson I’m hoping to keep with me, now that I am back in Ohio, with concrete, asphalt, grass, and truly horrific orange construction barrels all around.

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