Hello Dear Ones!
My niece is 10 years old today. While I wrote a birthday wish on her Facebook wall, I was contemplating what life would be like for her this year. As I tend to do at times like that, I envisioned the most amazing experiences for the 365 days ahead – fun and laughter, joy and play, learning and growth – offering loving thoughts with expectations for positive experiences and fabulous outcomes.
I found myself flashing back to my own life at that age. I reviewed some of the joys and the challenges of being 10 years old back in my day- and that was several decades ago! The most joyous memories seemed a mixed blend of highs and lows – growth and fears. A quality that I recall having then and retain to this day is my absorption of anything new. I was and still am like a sponge – taking in everything new around me!
One experience that brought me immense joy and drama was going to summer camp. Like many children, I’d never been away from family for more than a few days at a time. To be gone for two weeks was an enormous concept, filling me with both excitement and trepidation. The separation was a rite of passage. It became even more than that in many ways.
Of all the events, the new friends, and the activities, there was one particular encounter that caused a ripple effect into my future. My cabin mates and I were entered into a swimming competition. Each of us were to use any stroke we wanted to get us out to the raft and back to shore. My team lost. I was the last one back. In fact I got to a spot on the way back from the raft where my body failed me and I couldn’t swim another stroke – not even one. I cried out for help. It took what seemed like hours for someone to hear me. It was the Lifeguard. Ah, hope welled within me. He’d come out to get me.
Nope. Not so. He hollered back to me that I could make it on my own! What, was he crazy? I had no strength left in my arms to make it that far back. I was certain I was going to drown and here he was telling me to “hang in there, girl, you can do it.” People were gathering on the beach, watching me. No one was coming out to save me. I had a rooting crowd cheering me on, but I was so very angry at them all. Didn’t they see what was happening? Were they in a totally different world, not seeing me at all? Had everyone gone mad?
While all of this was happening I had been subconsciously treading water to keep myself afloat. Suddenly, through my own sobbing combined with the angry words roaming around in my head, I heard someone tell me to put my feet down. What? Another crazed person trying to ensure my demise? If I put my feet down I’d sink! People on shore eventually all began to chant “you can touch the bottom!” I don’t recall how long it took for me to eventually do what they were suggesting. And I was amazed that when I did so I did not sink to the bottom and my death, but touched sand. Unbeknownst to me, while treading water I had drawn myself closer and closer to shore to the point of safety.
This should have taken on a happy ending. Yet there was more. The fear and anger stayed within me and affected me physically. Within 48 hours I began running an exceptionally high fever. I apparently passed out and was unconscious for many hours. It took my body 4 days to recover from the effects of the shock to my system. So much for enjoying my second week of camp!
Odd, but that situation has recurred in thought many times over the span of my life. And there have been lessons, like stages of growth, connected to each recall.
* The first stage was blame: if ‘they’ – as in ‘the adults’ – had come out to rescue me, I’d not have gotten sick and missed out on what was supposed to be a fabulous camping experience.
* The second stage was confusion: why me?
* The third stage was acceptance: that my own fear combined with the intense anger resulted in the outcome.
* The fourth stage was forgiveness for all those involved in the event. I forgave the Lifeguard for his actions and for those who stood by watching without taking action.
* The fifth stage was to forgive myself for allowing this experience in the first place.
* Stage six was to love the Lifeguard for knowing better than I that I had it in me to provide my own rescue.
* The seventh and most recent stage was the awesome recognition that I had created all of this as a valuable life lesson. I was creating life lessons all the way back those many years! How wise of me even then!
And yet today I realized one more aspect of that experience. Since I am still telling myself the story of this event in my life, I have not moved beyond it’s impact – and hence I still carry some of the pain, fear and anger within me. As much as I thought I had let it go, I am still holding tightly on to both ends of the knotted string wondering why the knot is still there. Hmmmm …
How many other aspects of my life’s story do I still carry around with me – weighing me down? So I know now that there is a stage eight and I think it’s time to address this one. With loving intention, I free this particular life lesson enough to let it go.
In Light and Laughter,