Thursday, November 14, 2013

The day I almost died.

In July of 2012 my family went on a trip to the Hawaiian Islands. I learned a bit about myself on that trip. The power of stillness was something that I kept noticing. I caught myself realizing my moments. Reflecting on the now in a way that was reminiscent to the way I would as a child. I would be playing in my backyard with some plastic army men and I would pause and look around me. Take in the sights, sounds and smells. I would try and capture that particular moment in my memory as much as possible. “I AM Now”  I would think to myself. I hadn’t created that realization for a long time. The clarity of those moments held tight enough to my memories that I was able to recall them quite clearly. So I would sit in a wooden chair in a balcony and really look at the landscape before me and then draw my attention in to the pealed tangerine on my armrest. There was a beauty in the uniqueness to the texture that I could relate to the moment.
I actively searched for those escapes into these “Now” moments. Then one afternoon in Maui I decided to leave my wife and daughter at the pool and go, unbeknownst to them, for a walk on the beach. I stepped into the perfect water and there it was again. I decided to explore a bit further so I rented some snorkeling gear and headed into the ocean. I awkwardly put on the mask and flippers and swam out. The sudden silencing of the yelling, splashing tourists surrounding me felt like a massive door had shut behind me as I sunk my head into the water. The amazing scene before me of colorful fish and coral made the world above me seem like it was in black and white. It was in a word, magic. I slowly swam and took in the sights doing my best to survey as much as possible. There was a school of fish that swam past me that was impossibly white. I decided to follow it as far as I could. I was truly lost in the experience.

After a while I began to realize that I was beginning to get tired. I wasn’t an avid swimmer and was clearly not in as good a shape as I may have thought. I popped my head up to start heading back and realized that I had swum very far from shore, very, very far. I was in-fact farther from shore than anyone at the beach.  I began to realize I had no other option than to put my head down and swim back as quickly as I could with the little energy I had left. So I took a deep breath and swam hard toward the shore. I lifted my head after a while hoping that I was close enough to possibly reach down and touch the ground with my foot and then was shocked to see I had not moved any closer to the shore. Looking back on that moment I’m surprised to say, I didn’t panic. I got mad. I got mad at myself for allowing this to happen. Allowing myself to get into a situation I couldn’t control. So as tired as I was I had no other option than to keep swimming. For some reason, at this point, I removed my mask and snorkel and swam as hard as I could for as long as I could. At one point I saw a woman on a surfboard and called out to her with a feeble wave. She responded by waving back with a smile and paddling away. This made me even angrier than I was before. The best I could muster was a pathetic dog paddle at this point breathing shallow breaths and counting every stroke. I could feel my muscles cramping up but now got close enough to call out to a person playing in the water on shore. He ran out and leapt into the water like Aquaman. I remember this heroic man grabbing my arm and yelling, “Swim!” “Swim!” and me thinking to myself he seemed a tad over dramatic but I really appreciated the help and enthusiasm. I thanked him and once I was able to touch the ground I slowly walked myself to shore and collapsed. I laid down on the sand feeling angry and ashamed at myself. It was at that moment I received one of my biggest moments of clarity. I realized that my wife and daughter almost lost a husband and father. They had no idea I even went into the ocean. I had another “I AM Now” moment that felt very different from any other I had ever felt. I had escaped tragedy by the skin of my teeth. It made me feel fragile. I realized that my moments were just a grain of sand in an endless beach of existence. My “Now” moments are not there for my amusement. They are reminders that life is finite. I need to make the most of them. I don’t want to live my life in the striving for something else. Those moments I spent fighting the currants of the North Pacific taught me that is pointless. Life is not lived in the planning. There is nothing before me other than a string of “Now” moments, each leading to the next. I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to keep going that day. And although my situation was dire I saw it as a problem to solve and a moment that was meant to lead me to the next moment. I think of this every time I look into my wife’s beautiful eyes or see my daughter’s contagious smile. I’m looking forward to many more moments to remember during my short but sweet stay.

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