5. Freedom of Choice

I plunged into the ocean on a chilly June 14 – a Thursday – the cold was refreshing and invigorating. It was the kind of cold which makes your ears hurt (that happen to anyone else? Just me?).

As I swam under the wave, I felt the ocean envelop me. Embrace me. Its cold eventually became a blanket of warmth as my body adapted.

As I emerged, the chill of the air then bit into me. The temperature changes sending my senses spiraling.

I reveled in it, knowing my body was doing what it does – adapting to the environment around it.

I sucked in some air as a man a dozen meters away spoke to me.

“Warm, isn’t it?” He said.

“It’s just a bit chilly when you are out of the water,” I said back to him.

“Just stay in for five,” he said, “then you won’t wanna hop out.”

My choice to dive into that chilly ocean was one I made freely with the express intention of feeling uncomfortable.

Being cold, being alone, being uncomfortable, freed me from thoughts, from my fears and my worries.

I was in the moment.

Much of what we know about anxiety revolves around those responsibilities and expectations which we cannot have much control over.

We overthink our day at work, our presentation, our journey, our step outside the house.

The things we are determined to do for ourselves, the times we exercise our freedom of choice, give us pure unadulterated pleasure.

Choosing to embrace discomfort turns something hard into a game.

A challenge into a pleasure.

Earlier, I had a conversation with my psychologist about responsibility and expectations, and we agreed life should be about freedom of choice.

That extends to what responsibilities and expectations you choose to be held and measured against.

I had started the day with a sore throat, determined to not hold me down, I got up had an amazing breakfast, then walked my dog, Lupa, in the forest nearby.

Nature, by chance, greeted Lupa and I with a run in with 2m python, mid digestion. It’s fat belly defied belief as it’s fresh meal would have been three or four times the size of its head.

Despite its laziness, it still had the ability to strike at one curious husky who was insistent on being the pest. After much chastising, Lupa left the snake alone and sat to admired the creature.

Further determined to fill my day with discomfort, I grabbed a 2m Long log of ironbark on the walk, and hiked it back to my car across my shoulders.

Fitness and firewood at the same time.

Later, while duck diving under the waves of Kings Beach, I wondered why I was in that place at that time.

What made me choose to swim on a cold day, while I have a cold?

Why not?

The cold bite made me feel alive. It made my body remember my heart was still beating, still pushing blood to my extremities.

Satisfied with my embrace with discomfort, I retreated to my thermos of hot tea – a tiny bit of simple comfort and pleasure – reward for my success.

As the sun set and the breeze kicked up, I sat on the beach and thought about my day.

What makes a good day? How many good days make a good life?

I believe the best days are those which you have freedom of choice.

Even better, the days which truly stand out among the best are those which include the activities which bring happiness.

A day where you have the freedom to choose to do the things you love.

Choices, such as walking your dog in a rainforest, lugging a log of wood, diving into a cold ocean by yourself, and looking forward to dinner with your best friends.

Those are the choices which make a good day, and many good days make a good life.

Thursday, June 14, was my 29th birthday.