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Sunday, October 15, 2017

How to Save Yourself Without Drowning Others

Why are there federal, and in most cases, state laws on whom should wear a life-jacket or PFD (personal flotation device) on a moving boat?   I'd venture to guess it's because it is recognized that kids of a certain age are either a) not likely to know how to swim or b) they are likely to weak of a swimmer.  That is they have built up the stamina to swim far or for an extended period should they be required to.  In other words, they are deemed to be a greater drowning risk if the boat takes on water, they fall in the water or they get too far away from the boat.

Absent such a device, our natural instinct is to fight as hard as we can to keep our head high above water (See wikiHow to Prevent Drowning).  Unfortunately, even with the presence of another nearby to help us, the natural instinct is to panic when we feel ourselves going under.  We have to have the presence of mind when an experienced lifeguard is trying to save us from drowning to listen to him or her and not inadvertently pull them down too.  Sounds easy--listen to the experienced pro--but in the heat of the moment when panic starts to set in, we can lose our perspective and flail. 

From what I see, the same can happen in our personal lives.  That is, when we are in the process of 'drowning', fear can take over and we can allow ourselves and others around us to be dragged down by the path we choose.  Instead of taking from our faith, listening to others who are there for us, remembering that we've made it through rough circumstances before and focusing on the things that are going well, we get stuck on path that inevitably is destructive to ourselves and others.

I think most people have a story involving them or someone they know in which someone was stuck on a destructive path and could not get beyond it.  One that hits home for me occurred around at the end of 2012/beginning of 2013.  The situation involved my dad.  In hindsight, he'd had symptoms of Parkison's disease for quite a while, but had not been diagnosed with it until earlier in late 2011 or early 2012.  

If I recall correctly, he tried to hide the extent of his health problems until the first time his legs locked up and he fell.  At that point, he couldn't hide that he had a problem and the extent thereof.  As he lived by himself, it quickly become clear that he needed to to have someone available 24/7 to watch over him and/or help him.  My brother and I had been helping him clean around the house, pick up food for him and to take him to places as time permitted us.  But as his fall risk become clearer, it became clear that he'd need someone there all the time or to be somewhere where that would be the case.  As all he'd known for the better part of 40+ years was his house, he wasn't going to move without a fight.  As my brother and I were both single, had full time jobs, I had a child and both of us had other responsibilities, we could do more to help him but we couldn't give him the help he needed and get by.  From what I see, he saw going somewhere that he'd have 24/7 access to help as 'drowning', but he couldn't afford for long the care he needed at home.   So, he came up with a 'solution', he'd give each of us a little stipend in return for staying by his side.  There was no way we could do this and effectively get by.  But in his now more cloudy mind, that was an option.  In short, in his mind, he was drowning.  So, he was doing whatever he could to keep himself afloat, even risking dragging under the ones that were trying to help him.  I realize at the time and even more so now that he wasn't in a good place, but it still was tough saying no to someone who'd be a strong figure in our lives.

This story led me to consider how we affect others around us, sometimes wittingly and sometimes unwittingly.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn't trying to hurt his kids, but was becoming increasingly confused and afraid.  He had talked for a number of year of getting rid of his house and moving somewhere which he didn't have to do as much.  We were on board with that, but he never took the steps to put that in place.  He never made provisions for anything really.  In short, he'd been swimming in life's waters for a long time and didn't plan for what would happen if he became too tired to swim.   

I believe if we've lived long enough, most people have a story of wittingly or unwittingly putting someone in a bad spot or someone else putting us in a bad spot.  So, how do we save ourselves without drowning others?

How to save yourself without drowning others
  • Plan for the day in which you can't do it by yourself so you don't put the ones you love in an impossible situation.  That doesn't mean don't leave a place for them to help, but don't put them in a situation that is impossible for everyone.
    • Consider the future realistically.
    • Don't leave yourself dependent on needing things to turn out perfectly, because chances are they won't.
  • Listen to your loved ones and don't dismiss their concerns for you  If they've truly been loyal to you, chances are they are looking out for you.  In other words, take their concerns into account.
    • This can involve health and safety concerns.
    • This can involve addiction concerns--to the point of accepting an intervention.
    • This can involve concerns for other negative influences in your life.
  • Learn to lean into your Higher Power (God) and faith.  If you develop a healthy relationship with your Higher Power and/or work on your faith, fear stands less of a chance to totally consume you should disaster or bad circumstances strike.  If we stop to think, we can usually find a time or two in which He was there watching out for us.
  •  When ones you can reasonably trust offer to help and you could really use it, consider taking them up on it.  Better to swallow a little pride and accept the help now than wait until the situation or circumstances have spun out of control--risking the well-being of yourself and possibly others at that point.

(For no apparent reason, except that I like this song).

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