Years ago, in my Atlanta days, I went white water rafting with a guy I was dating. It was one of those “fun,” “let’s do something different” types of date for us.
As we rode the bus to the rapids, with others who decided to join this early morning activity. the guide shared safety tips. I listened closely and repeated to myself what I heard just to ensure I knew what to do in case of an emergency. It was my first time rafting so, knowing me, I probably asked a question or two.
Minutes later we were on a raft with maybe two other couples and our guide. We had our life jackets on, I had my toes tucked under the tube, as instructed, and my hand on an oar. I was ready.
We hit a few rapids hard, had a few bumps, laughs and screams. And then, next thing I knew, after hitting a rapid full speed and the raft spinning, my upper body was flung into the water: my head submerged under water while my feet stayed stuck under the inner tube.
I knew from the brief orientation we had on the bus that someone was going to pull me up. The guide talked about how this would work in the event someone would fall out. So, I wasn’t worried; I waited (after all, I couldn't move with my legs being stuck). But no one did. No one pulled me back in. Instead, they pushed the rest of my body out.
After the seconds I spent in shock and confusion I immediately crossed my arms over my chest (a tip shared in the orientation), kicked my legs straight out, focused my gaze on the sky, and floated with the rapids.
I was angry, frightened, alone.
But, there I was with no other choice than to be there. I had to let go of my anger in that moment to allow my body to relax so I could allow the current to guide me. I had to work with it and not against it, though it was the last place I wanted to be.
I eventually found my way to a large rock that I could lean against, and I waited for what seemed eternity. (And yes, the guy I was dating came for me -- in a lifesaver type raft.)
Later, when we met back up with the group, I was told by the guide that when I fell out of the raft my head was too close to a rock, and that if my head hit the rock while they were trying to pull me up, it could have cost me my life.
Why am I sharing this? Because I realized in the wee hours of this morning how that lesson fits other situations in my life, and how there are times we find ourselves where we simply don’t want to be.
For you (as it has been for me at times) the boat is a job or a relationship or some other situation. We think, though, that the “boat” is where we are to be. It’s our rightful place. It’s safe and dry. It’s part of the plan. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But then, something happens. Some current comes and there is a shift. You’re somewhere else, somewhere unexpected. Maybe you’re half in and half out, and you want someone to pull you all the way in.
You wait for someone, perhaps, to tell/show you they love you. Or you wait for someone to give you the promotion. Or you wait for someone to save you because clearly they must see you struggling. Clearly, they can, but why won’t they?
And they don’t. They don’t pull you in. They don’t say what you need to hear. They don’t save you. Not only do they not pull you in, but they push you out. Still, you might want to return. After all, this is what represents safety for you – not “out there,” where it’s cold and undefined.
So, what do you do?
Some powers – like currents – you just can’t fight. You have to flow. You have to surrender. You have to let go. And it feels like a death.
Same with heartache. You have to grieve (even though it is frightening). You have to surrender (even though you don't understand all that's going on). You have to know that the waves won’t overtake you (even though they are massive).
And, you have to know that maybe being pushed out is what you need in order to find your own way. And sometimes, maybe, you have to push your own self out, trusting, eventually, you will end up where you need to be.
[Take a deep breath.]
But it doesn’t stop there. There is another layer, which I didn’t know about at the time this event happened to me. You have to also deal with the trauma.
It’s not enough to be on safe ground again. It’s not enough to count your blessings and thank God for getting through it. You have to heal the trauma so it doesn’t become stuck in your body. Learn the lesson but not the fear.
And then you begin again.