I can’t feel the bottom, I have no idea how deep the water is. My chest constricts making it difficult to breathe. I flip over on my back and reach my lips towards the sky above me to get more air. I feel like I am suffocating. I talk to myself, “you are okay!” “You have enough air, float for a minute, catch your breath”. The water is dirty and has a distinct smell of fish, I begin to realize that I have no idea what is in the water with me. “Stop thinking, I tell myself…just breathe, relax, focus.”
I flip back onto my stomach knowing that the only way to reach my destination is to paddle and kick. Someone next to me hits me with their arm. It pushes me slightly deeper into the water, I panic. I look over annoyed, they are focused on their swim, not on me. They didn’t even see I was there. I hear a quick “I’m sorry” as they move on. Their swinging arms become a threat to me getting the air that I so badly desire, so I move away to where I feel safer.
It doesn’t take many strokes to realize that the energy I’m using also makes my lungs want more air. I flip on my back again to catch my breath. As I gulp the air in an unexpected wave hits my face and the water sucks into my throat. I choke and cough. “I can only think about air.”
“Again, you are okay, you’ve got this,” I remind myself. I can see I am half way to my destination. My body finally realizes it is in control and can finish, my breathing relaxes and I start to paddle again. Before I know it I can feel the bottom, I bend my knees and push and start walking to the river’s edge.
I made it! I am safe!
I can see clearly how my swim parallels my life.
I wake up suddenly as I do many mornings to a heaviness. One that I can’t seem to ignore or run away from. Being married once was tough being married twice, well that’s tough too. I am no longer married to an addict, and yet life is hard. Maybe harder than it once was because I am recognizing just that….I am no longer married to an addict and some days life still consumes me. It is forcing me to take a long hard look at myself and my wounds and my imperfections. It hurts!
I think back to my first marriage and realize that I wanted someone to blame. Not that he wasn’t to blame, he cheated on me, there is never an excuse for that. But coming to the realization that I am to blame too. That is hard. Some days I wish I could be the victim, but now I have too much counseling under my belt and when I fall into victim mode I know it. Then shame takes over and it is worse. Better to just fess up to what is mine and own it. Pain ….Pain….Pain…
I have tried to take ownership for what is mine, and I have tried to tell my story without throwing him under the bus. I have told you about my pain, I have shared my trauma, there are even times when I tried to show you what I did wrong, but maybe all the time with a victim mentality. That this was done to me.
Now for the first time in my life, I am trying to lose the victim mentality of “He did this to me” and I’m starting to recognize that his actions didn’t have anything to do with me. Just like the swimmer who didn’t see me until she hit me with her arm. I have to start to look at the possibility that he didn’t see me either. That he was just trying to make it to his destination and our paths happened to cross.
I am at the point in my healing where I have to open my mind to the possibility that other peoples responses, comments, actions, words, don’t tell a story about me they tell a story about them. It tells a story about their swim (journey) to their destination.
This new knowledge has provided a new insight that I have never seen before. So instead of seeing the world as causing me pain, shaming me, I am realizing that we are all incredibly wounded people walking around in an imperfect world, and we are just trying to make it out of the water alive.
How many of us are gasping for air, at times moving into a state of survival where we might dunk someone else either on accident or on purpose just to get a little more air.
And I start to see the world different.
Maybe my ex-husband pushed me down because he was trying to survive himself, not because he was trying to drown me. Maybe when I butt heads with my new husband and use a piece of information that I know will hurt him, maybe I too am just trying to survive and at times intentionally push him down thinking that it will save me…just to be left with shame. Maybe when a friend is short, or my mother says something hurtful… just maybe it means something different than I have ever known.
How many times have my responses, comments, actions, and words pushed someone down, not because I wanted to drown them but because I was just trying to survive myself?
And If I want people to see that I didn’t mean to hurt them, and I want others to forgive me for my wounds that sometimes push them down, I guess I too have to be willing to forgive. I have to be willing to see the world in a different light and maybe it is time to see others who are gasping for air.