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Pick Your Poison

April 12, 2017

You cant swim with me

I was new on the Timberline high school swim team. And had only been to a few practices. As you can imagine, you do lots of swimming at swim practice. The pool was 25 meters long, divided into multiple swim lanes. The slowest swimmers swam in the lanes to the far right. The fastest swimmers to the far left. And each swimmer was expected to pick his own lane.

Rather than stick to the far right lane, where my skills dictated I should be, I moved several lanes to the left and found myself in the same lane as Jeff. Jeff wasn’t being mean. He was being honest. As a junior and more importantly a long time swim team members, he swam much faster than I did. I literally would not be able to keep up with him. And he didn’t want me in his lane.

You might be tempted to think it was a sense of superiority that prompted his comment. It wasn’t. It was practical. We were going to swim at least a dozen laps or more during the warm up. If I insisted on swimming in Jeff’s lane, he was going to quickly outdistance me, probably before we hit the first turn. The lanes were big enough for swimmers to go both ways. Like cars, we stayed to the right. There were still occasional collisions, but mostly in the lanes to the far right.

Jeff knew that within a couple hundred yards he was going to not only have distanced himself, he was going to have literally “lapped” me. He’d be swimming up behind me and have to either slow down or attempt a difficult passing maneuver. Neither of which appealed to him.

As I made my way back to the lanes on the far right-hand side of the pool, I thought about the idea that we choose to be where we are comfortable. Swimming with the other first year swimmers, we would all go about the same speed. No one would need to worry about passing or being held back. In fact, that was how you knew that you were ready to move a lane to the left. If you consistently were out-swimming the people in your lane, you moved up a lane. If you were injured or simply needed to back off your pace, you moved down a lane.

In the Mormon theology, it’s believed that in the afterlife, people will pick their own version of paradise. It’s a unique concept that on the surface seems crazy. I mean, if you get to pick your eternal reward, why wouldn’t you pick the very top?

If you get to write your own check. . .write a big check

But, actually, we incorporate that concept into our daily lives.

    I don’t want to sit too close to the front of the theater, it gives me a headache
    I want concert tickets as close to the stage as possible, I love the noise
    I’m not comfortable driving more than a couple of miles per hour over the speed limit, I’m going to stick to the middle lanes

Every day, we self-select the people we choose to be around, the neighborhoods we choose to live in, the people we choose to go to lunch with. We are constantly “picking our own poison.”

When we don’t end up in a spot we are comfortable with, we either move or we adapt. If you cannot stand working for your boss, you go look for another job. If you hate the snow, you move to a warmer climate. Of course, families complicate that picture quite a bit. As a child, actually a young adult, I couldn’t wait to escape my parents’ house. I didn’t like their rules. I didn’t like them telling me what to do. I didn’t like the restrictions. And while I understood that there were some benefits, they weren’t worth the cost. I moved.

But, I also adapted. As I had to pay for my own expenses I started to appreciate the things I’d taken for granted at home. As I started having my own kids, I started to understand the reasons for the rules and oversight. Eventually, I realized I was not that different than my own parents. In fact, we ended up in the same swim lane. I discovered that I like them and we shared similar values and priorities. Having the freedom to choose whom I would associate with, I chose them.

We don’t get to choose every aspect of our life and surroundings. And often there are things we’d dearly love to change or move from and we simply can’t. But, the more I thought about the concept, the more convinced I became that we really do get to pick the life we choose.

As for the theological question of what happens after we die? I’ll have to get back to you later on that one. Hopefully much later.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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