This morning I decided to swim out to the pier;
I swam every day in the summertime. It was great; refreshing.
This was cold.
We biked to the location. Ran along the board walk for a warm up; tops off in the fresh morning air.
Shoes off, towels out, into the water.
No different than the summer swim, I thought. The water takes some getting used to, sure, but once you're in, the tough part is over.
Only it didn't get warmer.
By a quarter of the way through I was still having difficulty finding my breath, setting a pace.
By halfway through I wondered if I'd make it. My slow and steady approach which I'd developed in the summer wasn't effective. My arms were going numb. It was hard to breathe. I knew I would make it, despite the cold, despite the encroaching fear.
I said a prayer in my heart. Dear God have mercy, give me the courage to face this task with a focused mind and a strong heart.
By the time I reached the 3/4 mark my arms had gotten warm, I had my strength back.
I made it to the pier. Patiently, I grabbed hold of the side. My arms were too weak to pull my body out of the water. I had to maneuver to the side to prop my legs against a post for an extra kick. Up and over I flopped on to the deck.
Barefoot and chest I ran along the pier and back to shore. I 'ran' - a walking pace really, yet as fast as I was able to move my limbs. My feet were frozen, my eyesight was a blur.
My swimming partner had made it to the pier ahead of me with a a good forward stroke. I watched him up ahead laughing as he was approached by a dozen seals. "The cheered me on", he said, the spirit of the seal became me.
He swam back to shore as I ran along the pier. We made it back to the shore at the same time.
He knelt down on the rocks, face to the ground. "Put your head below your heart", he said to me "you're jackhammering," noticing then that I was convulsing, hard. I knelt down.
The stillness was killer, I had to move.
I got back up and found my socks.
I put them on.
I found me shoes.
Numb, I put them on; no sense in even attempting to tie the laces.
My shirt, jacket, bag - over and out. Buddy tossed me his leather gloves and a heavy hood for the run back. Oh that hood! That warm warm hood!
We ran back along the boardwalk hooting and hollaring; life in another dimension. Eyesight still a blur. No thoughts, only a deep feeling of life and an immediate need for action. We jogged up the hill, now roaring, animals. There are no manners when you are surviving. We shout, we cry out as if we've won a great victory. Up the hill and back to base.
Only then do I feel my senses returning to normal. A warm sensation; a tremendous feeling of accomplishment; vitality, and a deep feeling of gratitude for my friend who shone the light on this passage.
I'm grateful for the signs of hope I found in the water: the seal, that lone seal that swam beside me, the paddle boarder who skimmed silently by. My Spirit was CRYING for help. It was all around me - knowing that helped me conquer the fear, helped me achieve the task.
Help is all around us. We are in this life together and are capable of impossible feats when we are resolute.
Oh that I may live anew every day;
Oh that I have friends to light the way;
Oh that God is but one prayer away!
The day ahead shone brighter than the sun. Every doubt or fear I'd accumulated to that point was washed away in that water. My heart conquered my mind, it set it straight. We are so capable, if only we apply ourselves. If only we encourage each other. If only we have faith.