I managed to take a week off from posting and writing, which felt odd to me after doing it on a regular basis. Being out of town without internet played a part, I admit. Nevertheless, I would like to think that if I were really driven to post every week, I would have found a way to do it. As it was, I just wrote off-line instead and went with the flow, and everything went okay--well, relatively okay.
Last Friday, October 28th, my regular posting day, was memorable for quite another reason. I still expressed myself--all day long, in fact. I was attending a conference held by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in my state’s capitol city, surrounded by people who were gathered to focus on mental illness and recovery. It is not a very sexy or entertaining topic, sure, but significant mental illness does affect roughly one-fourth of our population. Having recovered from my own encounter with depression, I can understand those who continue to struggle with their own recovery on a daily basis.
Friday’s lineup of speakers was inspiring and emotional, to the point where it really touched my heart and turned on my own expressive waterworks. I can get teary-eyed over a romantic story or a spiritual journey, so to hear the two speakers talk about their life experience was sure to make me go rooting for a few tissues. Yes, I needed them!
The gentleman who spoke after breakfast, Steve Millard, http://www.bphope.com/Item.aspx/822/dynamos-under-pressure, was a successful entrepreneur, who has since retired and written a book about how he manageshis diagnosis of manic depression. He talked frankly about his highs and lows, including how his friends actually saved his life and helped him get back on his feet at one point. His honesty affected everybody in the room.
Author, psychologist, and radio host, Dr. Daniel Gottlieb, http://www.drdangottlieb.com/, was our luncheon speaker, and he really had a lot to say about mental health and how it is part of a more spiritual process, if we choose to accept and see it as such. A line from the overview for his talk reads, “What heals is how we react to our culture and ourselves.” Needless to say, I really felt his message deeply since he spoke not only of the mind but the heart.
Very touching; very true; very emotional--which led to a very weepy me. In fact, as the luncheon group dispersed, a fellow attendee from my table came around to give me a hug of support afterward! As I said, they are a great group of folks.
Knowing I would be writing of this experience really had me thinking of the best way to describe it all. The tears were significant because of all the water. I felt like my eyes were red and weepy the entire day. Squinty, red, watery eyes are not the most welcoming face to present to a bunch of new people I had never met. On the other hand, I was surrounded by people who know and have more than just a passing interest in topics such as depression or what it is like to manage a healthy emotional balance on a daily basis. If they did not have the experience directly, they supported loved ones who do--so while it may not have been the most opportune time to have to use a bunch of tissues, napkins, etc., at least the people around me understood.
This brings me to the descriptive title of this piece…the pool. Many of us have heard the expression that we are like a drop of water in the ocean--part of a bigger entity. I offer that while this is true, we are really like swimmers in a pool. Some of us need the security of being in the shallow end, with our feet firmly on the bottom and the depth of life a bit more manageable. We may not mind being wet because everybody else is wet, too, and we fit in. We certainly do not want to get in over our heads because we fear what might happen: Will we sink or swim, and what if I am too afraid to find out?
Some are comfortable in the deep end of the pool, with no bottom for the feet to touch, floating and swimming along without fear of drowning. These people are very comfortable and have the skills to manage even in the scariest of conditions. Of course, there are those who like to show off on the diving board from time to time and make a big splash, but they all end up in the water with the rest of us. Hey, just control the splashing, okay?
A lot of us in the pool have a variety of experience we get to manage, and it is a goodthat there are other swimmers nearby. We may get tired and start to go under, but other swimmers are around to rescue us or support us when we need it. We may feel comfortable enough swimming along--as long as we have the aid of a nose plug or a flotation device from time to time. Floating along on top of the water can be very relaxing, but everyone has to get their feet wet at some point getting in and out of the pool.
The pool is another great metaphor for our world and our life experience, because we do not want to mess up our pool. The watery environment is a perfect way to see that we are responsible for keeping it in good working order. I know many people do not want to bathe in water that has become polluted or is too contaminated with chemicals that will harm the body. What sense does that make?
Then there are those who get all dressed up to go to the pool and sit by the sidelines. Maybe they will dangle their feet and get them wet, but they withhold themselves from participating in all of the fun. I guess I feel a little affected by the fact that they get all dressed up and actively chose not to jump in. --Kind of like those people who go to a dance and then sit around all night without moving around even once. I am not talking about lifeguards who are trained to watch out for water safety because we all know why they are there. I mean the others who watch longingly from the other side of the fence, or sit on the side without fully jumping in. We are left wondering about why they do what they do--how they do not share in the joy of life along with the rest of us. I would like to think that if there was an emergency, because of their vantage point they might be able to throw in a life preserver or two, but you really do not know until the challenge presents itself.
The pool is also another good metaphor to help us envision life because at some point, we all have to get out of the pool. Anyone who enjoys swimming will admit that even if you manage to stay in the pool all day, there comes a time when you have to leave. We wait around too long and our skin becomes very wrinkled. It does have its limitations, and we would want to give others the chance to have some fun in there, too.
Provided we are ready, willing, and able to swim in the pool, we can help each other be the best swimmer we can be. We can see how wrong it is to hold another swimmer down. The water in the pool eases the gravitational weight we carry, making heavy things feel lighter. As with many unwritten laws of common sense, there is one that almost goes without saying. Like the woman who came and gave me that hug, we recognize we need to be a buddy from time to time. Despite the watery conditions, there is safety in numbers greater than the one we are.