Split Second

24 Jun

Some years ago during the summer, I was in Alaska, and had gone on a fishing charter in Cook Inlet. Although it was summer, it was cold, and I was dressed in jeans, sweatshirt, coat, and boots. As we were securing the boat to the pier at the end of the trip, it drifted outward, and I reached over the water to grab the line to pull it back. Unfortunately, I lost my balance, and fell into the harbor. The water there in the summer is very cold, and being dressed as I was, I sank like a stone. I immediately began trying to swim, but with everything I was wearing, it was very difficult. As I continued to fall downward I looked up at the surface of the water, and realized that because of how I was dressed, and the temperature of the water, I might lose my life. I remember feeling great regret that I had reached out so far, and risked so much. It was a foolish decision given the weather, and the situation. Thankfully, I was able to get back to the surface, and someone pulled me out. I was severely chilled, and had to get my wet clothes off as soon as possible to prevent hypothermia. It took lots of dry, warm clothes, several cups of hot chocolate, and the rest of the day before the shivering stopped. I was lucky things worked out, but I have never forgotten the lesson. One small decision, and in a split second, everything changed.

Our lives are tentative, and this life is unpredictable. There are no guarantees. We tend to forget this from time to time. We take for granted that we will survive today, and see tomorrow, but nothing is sure. Of course, we can’t worry about all the things that could go wrong or we’d never be able to live normally, so we go through our days counting on them being safe, and successful. But sometimes, things turn, and in an instant, everything changes. We can’t predict anything. What comes, comes. We go through our lives, we have our routines, and activities, and then the unexpected happens. Things get turned upside down, and for a while we lose our footing.

Sometimes unforeseen things happen because of decisions we make, like mine when I fell into the ice cold harbor. Sometimes they happen because of decisions out of our control. Much of what we experience in this life is out of our control, and when things come that topple us, wake us up, and make us realize again that nothing is guaranteed, it can shake us deeply. Our task then is to be as ready as we can, and do our best when things go awry.

Today if you’ve been rattled by something that has unsettled your life, something that has suddenly shaken you, you may be upset but you will get through it. If it’s extraordinarily difficult, reach out for help. Get the support you need to navigate the situation so you can feel as comfortable as possible. Get into your dry clothes, and stay warm. This will last for just a moment, and then things will settle again. You are resilient enough to weather this. Being upside down is uncomfortable, there is no doubt about that. But while you’re struggling to right yourself, you will find the strength you need. You are strong enough for this. You are strong enough for anything.

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