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Sink or Swim: a metaphor for Life

Posted Aug 22 2011 9:03am

Sink or Swim

My brother had a near death experience last March 2010, and the irony of it all, he almost brought my daughter to the same experience. It was only this past weekend that I have realized how this event has impacted my daughter’s life.

Here is how it happened- March 2010
We were celebrating my daughter’s 4th birthday at my friends condominium. The condo have a kiddie sized and adult pool. My 6 foot tall brother decided to carry my daughter and walked towards the deep end of the pool, not knowing that it is over 8 feet deep. For whatever reason, he slipped and was not able to recover his footing, so he had to throw my daughter to my friends husband (Andrew) who was a few meters away from him. Zarah (my daughter), of course had to gasp for air, and had to go down at least 2-3 times before Andrew was able to save her. My brother, kept sinking though. Andrew cannot save him, as he had an amputated leg. With God’s grace, an Australian guy, who was swimming to the far end of the pool, saved my brother. It was traumatic for my Zarah as she saw my brother sinking to the bottom, while everyone else around her was shouting. Am not even sure whether someone hugged her a few minutes after this event. (I was away – getting something for us to eat). When I came back to the scene, they have recovered already and there was no finger pointing or blaming at that time. I thought I should be angry that he was so reckless in bringing my daughter to the deep end of the pool, when he cannot swim himself. But I thought, I should be thankful that he did not drown.

Fast forward- August 2011
I decided to enroll Zarah to a public swimming class together with my niece (my brother’s daughter). I was confident that Zarah will be able to learn to swim quite easily, as she has very good body coordination and has enjoyed the water since she was a baby. I was wrong! She only enjoys wading in the kiddie pool. When the water is almost to her chin/chest area she would panick. She cries her heart out when the swimming instructor leaves her to paddle even when she is holding on to her floaties. She does not want to blow bubbles, or put her face under water. She is so afraid of sinking or drowning, that she do not want to leave the shallow end of the pool or if she does, she would stay close to the edge of the pool. The trouble is, she can’t learn to swim with her feet on the bottom, or her hands holding on to the side of the pool or the floaties or her instructor’s arms. For 4 consecutive Saturdays, Zarah continued to improbe her kicking/paddling, but unlike the other children (includign her cousin), she would not jump into the pool or blow bubbles for fear of putting her head under water.

Last Saturday (just like all the other Saturdays), I went into the pool with Zarah and played with her. The difference though is that I was physically and mentally tired for the past few days. My brother went too, but he just sat at the edge of the pool. Zarah was extra agitated and seemed to focus on my face only (not wanting to look at the pool or anyone else). She grabbed my neck and coild her legs around my body. She was desparately holding on to me almost shivering. She was’nt just crying, but she was sobbing! Almost holding her breath in the process. She did not even finish her lessons. That is when it hit me. She remembered the near death experience that she shared with my brother last year. I was consumed by anger and retribution. I know it was quite unfair to feel this way. But I cant help it. To recover from the anger and the pain, I thought maybe I should ask my brother to do something for us– so that I can overcome the anger. I asked him to try to swim to show my daughter that he is okay and that he would not sink. He did’nt even try to swim. So, I left the pool with my daughter without a word, we showered, dressed and headed home not speaking to anyone. I feel so bad for my daughter. She used to enjoy the water, she used to be able to paddle along with floaties. It should have not been like this.

I tried not to talk to anyone else, as I know I have a very bad temper. and I know I was hungry and tired. At this point in time, I thought swimming is a metaphor for life. When we are faced with awkward situations like this, the only option is to sink or swim. I tried to swim through my bad temper, but ended up sinking. It was a double whammy. I almost cried with her. Self-pity consumed me- I thought, where are the men in our lives? For the Nth time, not one of them reached out to me to help– the worst thing is–when I asked for help–no help came. I realized that when we expect other people to change or to reach out to us, when we are felling down and under, and then ended up being dissappointed , it fuels the anger more– and it probably not the fault of the other party. We had just some unmet expectations, thus we continue to sink. The expectations are like the floaties or the edge of the pool or the bottom of the pool, anything that helps to feel quite sure. If we let go of these expectations, if we let go of the floaties or try not to reach for the edge or the bottom of the pool.. there are 2 possible options we learn to swim or we sink. If we don’t let go, how could we learn to swim? How can we learn how to recover from sinking? If my brother helped or met my expectation, it does not change the fact that I was angry at him. The anger would have been pacified– or I could have swam through it, but I was still holding on to a floatie. It does not mean I can swim on my own, with our without my expectations being met.

God’s Promise- if I let go of my floaties
How was I able to recover from my deep end of the pool?

I just hope that overcoming fear of the deep end of the pool is easier said than done.

Dear Father, as my daughter, mother and I face uncertainties, we place our life in your hands. Help us to overcome our fear and our bad tempers.. That if we sink, we also learn how to bounce back to the surface and that if swim, we swim with delight and glorify YOur name. We claim your promise that you will be with us– specially at times when expectations are not being met– that we remain gracious in times of trouble. In Jesus name, we pray, AMEN.


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