Swim team practice has not been going well since my 11-year-old daughter had extensive oral surgery about a month ago. She tries to swim, but the pressure she feels beneath the water’s surface is uncomfortable. I was very patient about this issue for several weeks and even had her examined by the orthodontist to make sure everything was okay. The doctor found no reason she couldn’t swim as normal, so we returned.
That day I planned to run errands while Avery practiced. She asked me to wait for a few minutes, so I did. The next thing I knew, she was holding onto the side of the pool with the look of distress on her face.
The first thoughts that came to my head were unkind. Things like:
It's all in her head.
How long is this going to go on?
She just wants to go home and play Xbox with her friend.
As I walked from the stands to the side of the pool, I asked for a new way to see and hear this situation that was getting quite tiresome.
As the pool water splashed my feet, three powerful words came to mind. I’d said them to my husband while white-water rafting with my family. As we navigated our first set of raging rapids, I was scared my younger daughter was going to fall out. I began calling out orders, sharp and gruff.
“Don't be mad,” my husband had said.
“I'm not angry, I’m scared,” I said holding back tears. That’s when three significant words came from my mouth: “That's fear talking.”
His face softened at my admission. “We got through it, Rach, and that was supposed to be the hardest one.”
I am learning this about myself – when I am scared and anxious, I get controlling and mean. I am working on a different response, but in the meantime, I am learning to interpret my unpleasantness for my family so they know I am struggling and need time, space, and understanding.
With those thoughts fresh on my mind, I bent down to talk to my tearful daughter who was now holding her hand to her forehead.
“I can't breathe,” she cried. “I can't do this.”
This time I did not hear annoyance or an excuse to try to get out of practice. I heard something familiar. I heard fear talking … and because of that, what came out of my mouth was surprisingly supportive and empathetic.
“It feels different than it used to, doesn't it? Things are still healing so it feels different, and different can be scary. Thank you for trying.”
She nodded like what I was saying was true.
About that time, her coach came over and asked if she was okay. When we told her the situation, she suggested Avery grab her kickboard and fins and practice with her head above water. I was so grateful to her coach for providing an alternative so she could continue practicing in a more comfortable way.
Avery did as she was told but asked me not to leave. So there I sat, watching her glide back and forth, amazed at the amount of bubbles my strong girl could make with her feet.
As I slowly let go of the things I'd planned to do, I could see clearly.
And what I saw was a girl who’s been through a pretty traumatic event and is doing her very best to adjust to a new mouth and nasal cavity.
It was different than what I’ve seen over the past month. And that is because I was listening beyond the words to hear her heart.
When we realize fear is talking
Anxiety is talking
Despair is talking
Hopelessness is talking,
We realize this is not about us.
And that allows us to respond to the hurting person in ways we couldn’t before.
Our empathic response has the power to create one small act of bravery and one glimmer of hope.
From there, anything is possible.
Dear friends of the Hands Free Revolution, if you are part of my Facebook community, you may have read these words this week. Honestly, I was quite amazed by the response … the number of people who said my admission created a light bulb moment … connected dots that had never been connected before. Therefore, I felt it was important to share it here with my blog readers who may have not seen it. Please continue to leave me comments in public spaces and private messages. Your support fuels me to continue sharing my hard truths and healing revelations!
Michigan friends, I hope to see many of you at the Girls on the Run fundraising event on Saturday, Nov. 18th. Ticket sales close in a few days (Nov. 9) so please get yours while you can! Click here! I can’t wait to meet you!
Also, there are still some YOU ARE ENOUGH silver cuffs left! I have given two cuffs to dear friends as gifts and the look on their faces indicated that was JUST what their heart needed to remember. Love you all. Thanks for walking beside me. You are enough — and then some.