Thursday, August 2, 2012

Surviving the Rip Currents in Life

“Enlightenment for a wave is the moment that wave realizes that it is water. At that moment, all fear of death disappears.“
                                                                        --Thich Nhat Hanh
With the grace of God I have accomplished a great deal in life, but when I tell my story I prefer to focus on the parts where I struggled. To me those moments when I felt  that I would forever be lost at sea can be a light house to another person. I truly believe it was through those difficult times that I realized exactly what I was made of. 
There was a time in my youth when I believed that I was unwanted. I thought my birth was a mistake and everywhere I looked I saw evidence to support that. Since my father only made three appearances in my life: at my conception, just after my birth and then again on my seventh birthday, I believed that I was unnecessary, irrelevant, immaterial.  Somehow I believed that the whole world would be better off without me and that I was taking up space that was needed by someone who was worth so much more than me.  Whenever someone would give me a compliment I would question the motive: Why did he say I was pretty? What did he want from me? She likes my shoes. Was that a veiled insult?
What’s ironic is that I found myself attracted to people who did not value me. People who put their needs before my own and who made me apologize whenever I dared utter that I needed more.  Often I contemplated death, actually welcomed it because I thought it would be a way out. But it was only when I realized that death wasn’t a promise. It is life that is the promise, that I surrendered.
Like the wave, I realized that I had originated from the very thing that I was about to crash into. I was made of something so much larger than me and although I didn’t understand it, it just felt right in my Spirit. But this realization didn’t come easy. There were currents along the way that hurled me so far away from where I wanted to be that I had no way of knowing how to cope with the heartaches and disappointments. My life felt like one big tsunami and the more things happened the more it confirmed that I was a mistake. There were unhealthy relationships, illnesses, deaths, rejections, disappointments and despair. I didn’t want to live, but I was too afraid to die.
Many of you who are familiar with my writing or who have heard me speak before know that as a child I nearly drowned. That experience, along with another one here on the World’s Most Famous Beach, taught me a lesson that has kept me a float all the days of my life: how to survive when caught in a current.
Funny how we are out in the waters of life enjoying the gentle rhythm when we feel something grab hold of us and we realize we are being pulled away from where we want to be. Instinctively we want to fight. We want to thrash against the current in order to return to the shore. When we get the diagnosis, when we lose the baby, when we learn that it was all a lie, when the promise wasn’t what we expected it to be and we’re left trying to make sense of it all we want to fight. We wear ourselves out fighting back in our own strength. We panic when we realize we're facing something that is pulling us away from where we think we ought to be.
Anyone who lives near the ocean knows that the last thing we should do when caught in a rip current is panic. We must relax and conserve our energy so that when it passes we can swim back to the shore. You see rip currents will never pull us under, only away from where we think we're supposed to be.  When we fight and try to swim against a rip current,  we are pulled out to the deep and we are too exhausted to make our way back. You see rip currents are not insurmountable and eventually we will get to the end if it and  can make our way back. Unfortunately sometimes we are so focused on where we want to be that we fight where the current is trying to take us. It may just be slightly up shore, but it’s a new destination yet we resist.
Perhaps what is so frustrating is that when we come crawling out of the water, we try to hurry and clean up in order to conceal what we've just experienced instead of warning others and sharing our triumphant stories. 

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