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Posts Tagged ‘treading water’

Never bear more than one trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds – all they have had, all they have now, and all they expect to have. (Edward Everett Hale)

I’m at the pool on a not-too-hot summer day. Jay and I are the only persons in the adults-only side of the deep end of the pool. A woman enters the water. Her expression shouts bad mood, but I swim a bit closer and say, “hello.”

She does not answer until a few minutes later when I try again. I don’t hear every word, but I do recognize her expression—and it isn’t nice-to-meet-you on any level.

“I’m sorry,” I respond in a pleasant tone. “I didn’t hear what you said.”

She shakes her head and turns around. I give her space. And say a silent prayer. For her. The water has pulled out all the pain in my back that has plagued me for the past month. And I am not going to let her misery destroy my healing.

I swim away and within a few minutes she exits the water.

Then a young girl takes a swim test in the lane next to the tread area. “Am I allowed to take breaths?” she asks.

I smile and so does the lifeguard giving her the test.

“Yes, you need to breathe,” the lifeguard answers, her amusement obvious. But she maintains respect for the young swimmer.

The girl has a silent cheering squad. I want her to make it. No, I will not interfere. This is not my test, and on some level I suspect I could be embarrassing her if I spoke. But, I want this young lady to win. To succeed.

When Jay and I leave the pool later I see the unhappy woman in a lounge chair. She seems to be looking around her, as if targeted by people who somehow want to get in her way. Silently cheering her on isn’t as easy as encouraging the innocent young swimmer.

But, I don’t know what this woman faces. If my hello intimidated her, I have no idea what she needs. Nor will I probably ever understand. Saving the world is not my job. Responding with peace instead of hate, is.

pic: Thich Nhat Hanh, walking on earth in peace

walking on earth is the real miracle

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When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. (Marcus Aurelius)

I am treading water at the Y on an ordinary Sunday afternoon. I feel amazingly free in the deep end of the pool as I kick and move my arms through the tepid water. There are not many people here today, so I swim back and forth with no direction planned, no agenda, only the idea that this hour or so belongs to me, my husband Jay, and the generosity of the water.

A woman arrives. She leans against the wall. We smile at one another. Within minutes we are talking. She shows me an exercise that is good for back pain. She tucks water weights under her arms and then relaxes, torso straight, legs dangled in the water. She has had serious back surgery—and has been recovering for months.

However, I don’t realize how intense her situation has been until after we have been chatting for a while. She had pain all over her body. The cause had not been easily diagnosed. She had a congenital condition; she was missing a portion of bone, discs, in her back. That section has been rebuilt, a beyond-major task. Yet, pain has not left her life. It remains. She has not succumbed to relying on heavy medications. She keeps going without feeling sorry for herself.

When I think I have been sufficiently impressed she gives me more to absorb. Her grandson, Jonathan, was born with half of a heart. He was not expected to survive. He has had three cardiac surgeries and is now five-years-old. For him to have survived this long has been a miracle. With incredible calm she says that he will eventually need a heart transplant, but that his chances of survival will be greater when he is older.

“If he can make it, so can I,” she says.

I watch and listen so closely I wonder if I have blinked. My youngest granddaughter is scheduled for open heart surgery at the end of April. This woman’s words and attitude travel through the water and give me more than hope. They bring peace. Worry is counterproductive. Gratitude yields more gratitude tinged with joy.

“So, what is your name?” I ask.

“Sue.”

I can remember that one.

She claims to be an ordinary person. In fact, in an e-mail I receive from her later, everyday-woman seems to be her theme. She has three children and five grandchildren. She emphasizes gratitude and offers prayers for folk who suffer greater losses.

We are all both ordinary and unique, flawed, gifted, and human. To think anyone is superior is delusional. I believe that how we approach each day makes the difference. And no one can judge whether an individual is great or not. Even if one moment brings a person success, the next stress offers the chance to grow or to break—as long as the life-game continues.

Night makes day brighter. Winter makes spring sweeter.

Here’s to the privilege of being alive! Cheers. I lift a glass of water, but the beverage isn’t what matters. It’s the attitude of peace that does.

Thanks, Sue! See you at the Y.

not giving up story not over

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