Updated: Feb 8, 2021
We lived near a creek when I was younger. We would cross a bridge over it on our walk to school. I loved looking down at the water. It was mesmerizing with the sound of rapids, watching the water quickly move downstream.
We had strict orders by my parents that we were not to go down to the creek. It was too dangerous. Being the fifth out of seven children, my parents couldn't keep an eye on all of us, all the time. So, we went to the creek any chance we could. I would sit, for what seemed like hours, with one of my brothers or sisters, trying to catch crawdads from under the rocks, watching the ducklings swim behind their mothers, and sometimes, we would even take off our shoes and socks and bravely step into the cold water.
On one hot summer day, we found ourselves down there with some of the neighbor kids. It was a perfect day to wade in the water. There were some deep spots that we had to be careful about, but we could see where the shallow areas were, and we thought it was safe.
Suddenly, the girl right next to me took a step in the wrong direction and got swept under by the current. She had been right there, and then she was gone. She resurfaced a little way downstream only to be pulled underwater again.
I was in shock by how fast it happened. I knew I had to do something. The current was moving so quickly. I had a handful of swimming lessons in kindergarten and felt confident that I could swim well enough. So I stepped into the same direction that took her under.
That same current that swept her under the water, took a hold of me and pulled me in as well. My swimming lessons had not prepared me for this. It was beyond my control. I couldn’t do anything. I was being pulled downstream by something bigger and stronger than my six-year-old body was. The water moved quickly. And I fought as hard as I could to not choke on the water I was swallowing.
And then, just as suddenly as I had been swept under, I felt a rock under my hands and I grabbed ahold of it. I pulled myself up onto this rock with what energy I had left, and I searched the creek for my friend. I found her, holding on to a rock just downstream from where I was. We stared at one another, wide-eyed, and coughing between the gentle sobs of hysteria and relief.
After climbing out of the water, I sat there with my arms wrapped around my knees, cold and wet and shivering and crying. I kept going over in my mind what had just taken place; I had wanted to save her. I went after her. She was in trouble. But I couldn’t save her. I couldn’t even save myself. The current was too strong. Somehow my hands found a rock, and it was the rock that saved my life. Holding on to that rock, saved.my.life. She found a rock to hold on to as well. A different rock. And it saved her life too. It gave her the strength to hold on.
When I first started talk therapy after my divorce, I told my therapist that I wanted to help people heal. She looked at me and said, “Sarah, to help others heal, you are going to have to heal first.”
I wanted so much to help others heal. I wanted to reach out and pull them from their waters of pain. But I wasn’t out of the waters myself yet. It was my journey of healing that became the rock I needed. It helped me find the strength to hold on when I felt I was drowning.
The rock I hold onto today may differ from the rock I hold onto tomorrow. What gives me strength today, may not give me the same strength tomorrow. The waters of pain will look different too. Each of our lives will look different. And each of our rocks will look different too. No two rocks look the same. What gives you the strength to hold on, is beautiful in its own precious way. Hold on to that rock. Find your truth. Your answers are within you. Trust yourself. And when the waters shift, and the current starts to pull you under, look for that rock to hold on to.