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When we left the House of Bondage, we had to dive in first

I thought about keeping this to myself (and actually, there are a lot of things I don’t tell you) except I think it’s important to talk openly about these things.

I was the mermaid who was afraid to swim.

26 years ago something bad happened to me in a pool at a friend’s house, and I guess I’d never made peace with it because ever since then, the smell of chlorine literally makes my heart race and my stomach churn.

It has taken years to be able to sit NEAR a pool let alone go in one.

The sea is different but even then that took time but pools? Hell no.

And if it’s an indoor pool and the smell of chlorine is hanging in the air? Forget it.

“Why don’t you go to a psychologist to deal with it?” someone asked.

“Dude I have enough issues and this is kind of the least of my stuff,” I answered.

“Fair enough.”

I would watch my kids splash around in the pool like seals, trusting the waters and their bodies while I would sit near the edge with my heart in my thrower.

I couldn’t go in.

But last night at the American Colony Hotel, and the moon was a lemon wedge and “my issues” and I sat outside as moonlight rippled off the edge of this gorgeous pool and the entire world smelled like orange blossoms and with zero reservations and all my clothes I left my silver flip flops by the edge of the water and dove in.

And it was the best.

My clothes clung to me and my heart exploded in my chest and I could hear even thump and every thrum of breath ringing in my ears and my body remembered how to move through the water, cutting it with each stroke, slick and silver from one end to the other.

I lay on my back and floated and a heavy piece of me broke off and floated far far away.

In all the things I do this was one of the hardest second only to the leap of faith to have babies (and back then I didn’t know what a leap of faith it was and I just did it because that’s what I wanted more than anything else.)

And in many ways it’s the same with moving to the Old City to write Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered— to choose a new way of being in the world over fear – and I guess all of us do this all the time to some degree, whether it’s texting the guy we like or leaving long-held careers because we want something different, or packing up our lives and moving to new cities or all the things that we weigh and do.

For me, this was a big one and the decision came on my terms to change my state from being someone who was afraid to swim to someone who just gets up and dives in, and this I made this decision in exactly the right place and time and the waters were perfect and sweet.

It’s almost Passover, and I think about the story of our liberation, how when we left the house of bondage in Egypt and came to the Red Sea, we had to dive in first — in perfect love and perfect trust — before it could split for us and we could walk across not just safely but to the Promised Land.

And I’m telling all of you this and sharing something I planned on keeping to myself because the message is bigger than my personal moment making a complete ass of myself in the pool:

For years I wasn’t ready to dive in… until I was. Moments have to ripen and everything ripens in its own time. Trust yourself to be safe in the world and trust your heart and your instincts that guide you, and life is not set in stone. It flows like water and when we are ready, we can all dive in.

About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer, author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel, She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems. She now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors and talks to strangers, and writes stories about people. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She also loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.
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