“OMG…I CAN’T BREATHE!”
No one could hear me.
I was trapped underwater.
She held me under until everything began to move in slow motion. I was looking up at the sunlight glistening as the cold water was swirling around me. Like a plastic bag being held over my head, I was thrust into a world with no air. I wondered, “Is this how I am going to die?”
Her powerful vice-like grip crushed my ribs as she squeezed hard, tightly locking her legs around my body. Watching from under the water, I held my breath. Laughing and struggling, each team tried to be the victor of this chicken fight. Their arms were entangled, pushing then pulling, and my worry slowly turned to panic.
Right from the start, they overpowered us. The opposing team drove us back into the deep end of the pool until I was completely submerged. I was doing my best to keep the girl on my shoulders upright and above the water line. Balancing her was a difficult task, and I tried to be a good sport as I fought to hold my breath as long as I could. In their euphoric fun, they were not aware I was starting to drown. Panicking, I screamed, “I CAN’T BREATHE!” No one could hear me.
The instinct to survive exploded inside me. Uncontrollably kicking and grasping like a trapped animal, I tried to overthrow the girl who was locked onto my shoulders. Attempting to pry myself from her restraint was exhausting, and the fact that I was drowning terrified me. Knowing I was on the verge of losing consciousness, I frantically did the only thing left to do….as hard as I could, I dug my nails deep into her thigh and pinched her. It was the key that threw open the door to my liquid prison, and just like that, she fell off my shoulders.
Pushing myself from the bottom of the pool, I broke through the surface of the water. While greedily gulping in air, I burst into tears. Grabbing onto the side of the pool, I coughed up the water that was choking me when she swam up. Spitting water in my face, she angrily shouted, “Why did you PINCH me?!” As hot tears and cold drops of water dripped off my quivering chin, I sobbed, “Because I was drowning.”
Hours earlier at home, I was twirling the pool party invitation in my hands. Tingling with excitement, I could hardly believe that I had been invited.
For decades, the sensation of being “trapped underwater” and “fighting to breathe” continued to haunt me. Grieving over the death of my dad, dealing with the trauma of reviving my three-year-old who accidentally strangled on a window blind cord, and the paralyzing fear that my daughter’s chronic knee problem was due to a growing tumor in her leg were some of the things that overpowered me and drove me into the deep end. It was like being submerged underwater and drowning and, once again, being imprisoned in a world with no air.
Instinctually, the need to breathe kicked in, and I fought to find the key that would open the door and free me from my nightmare.
Doing the only thing I had the strength to do, I grabbed my blanket. Dropping to my knees, face to the floor, I pulled it over me. It was my cocoon. Sinking into the deep and letting the stillness wash over me, I shut out the world. This time my blanket was the key.
Hiding under my blanket was a magnet to my three little ones, and I could hear them gather around me. “What’s Mama doing?” my daughter whispered to Michael, “Shhhhh, Mama’s talkin’ to the Lord!” Placing their tiny hands gently on my back, they waited quietly and listened. When they couldn’t resist any longer, they crawled under the blanket with me, and like a mother hen, I tucked them beneath my wings. Holding them close, we listened to the stillness together. They didn’t know that I was simply trying to breathe. It’s hard to talk when you’re drowning.
Without words, I taught them my survival skills as we sank deep into tangible peace. It was the life-sustaining oxygen I needed when I couldn’t stay above water. The feeling that I was drowning even entered my dreams.
I remember one night I had a dream that I was slowly sinking deep into the ocean. Enjoying the sensation, I held my breath and let myself sink. It wasn’t until I needed to breathe that I realized I was way too deep to reach the surface in time. Frantically, I fought to swim to the top, but I was starting to drown. Still way too deep and paralyzed by fear, I was locked inside this familiar underwater cage. My dream became a nightmare as I silently screamed, “OMG! I CAN’T BREATHE.”
I figured no one could hear until I realized someone was swimming behind me. He said, “Just breathe.”
Irritated, I thought, “Seriously, just breathe? Don’t you see I’m drowning?”
His voice calmly continued, “You were created to breathe in the deep.”
Like watching a movie, I saw a tiny baby growing inside a womb, breathing amniotic fluid, in and out. In a split second, I understood what He was showing me. Breathing underwater and breathing in the deep was the first way I learned to breathe. That ability allowed me to live and grow in the depth of my mother’s womb. Instantly, I knew I was designed to breathe in deep waters.
So I opened my mouth and carefully breathed in the fluid. At first, I panicked and choked because my body resisted. As I slowly relaxed, my lungs remembered what to do. The second and third breaths came easier as breathing in the cold water began to feel natural. Being able to restfully breathe was the key that would set me free from my prison, and that’s when fear of drowning lost its grip. Breathing water sustained me, and hope filled me. I did not have to hold my breath. Drowning and fighting to breathe was no longer my reality, and the possibilities seemed endless.
In my dream, I looked up and saw the sunlight glistening through the water. Its beauty took my breath away. Fascinated by this new perspective of my underwater world, I ventured to look far below me into the deepest, darkest part of the ocean, and for the first time in my life, I fearlessly marveled, “I wonder how deep I can go?”
Featured Image by Pixabay