“And at the end of all this
you can’t just cave in and quit
cause you’re a survivor
see how you’re alive through it all.”
-Tim Baker, Survivors
I recently served as a ‘Warm-Down Marshal‘ at my daughter’s swim meet. Don’t let the title fool you—it sounds way more impressive than it actually is.
I signed up for one reason and one reason only: to watch my seventeen-year-old daughter swim.
Due to the pandemic, there are no spectators allowed at swim meets; volunteering is your only way in.
Sign me up.
When I arrived at the aquatic center, I was given an official neon yellow vest. It was just about as stylish as the fanny pack I wore around my waist. I was then told of my duties: Stand by the warm-down pool, and make sure the swimmers stay six feet apart. No chatting or playing. And if you see a swimmer walk by without a mask, ask them to put it on.
I breathed a sigh of relief. No numbers, no math, no earth-shattering responsibilities, just observing. I love observing. I got this, I thought to myself.
As I watched the swimmers exit the competition pool after their first event, I wondered how many would skip the warm down. I mean, I don’t know about you, but after swimming 200 yards as fast as humanly possible, I’d be eager to get to my towel and the fortifying snacks I brought along.
But the swimmers didn’t skip the warm down. Not one of them.
After checking in with their coaches, they quickly walked to the warm-down pool. Over their face, their masks heaved in and out from their accelerated breathing. After placing their mask in their personal plastic bag, they jumped in.
I watched the swimmers glide through the water with long, easy strokes. Some eventually rested their arms, gently kicking on their backs, eyes fixed to the ceiling as if it were a sky full of stars.
Suddenly, a thought occurred to me: What am I supposed to see here today? Afterall, I’m filling a role that didn’t even exist until the pandemic came along and changed everything.
I snapped a selfie in the neon vest. I figured they weren’t going to let me keep it, and I wanted to remember my observations as an ‘Official Warm-Down Marshal of 2020.'
A few days later, as I was preparing to work on an important proposal that was due, I stopped. I stopped in the middle of everything I was supposed to be doing to write the most unusual letters I’ve ever written.
To the teachers of my middle school daughter, I found myself apologizing for the change in her this past year and to thank them for not giving up, for going above and beyond to keep her from drowning.
Oddly, I didn’t cry typing those words.
I didn’t rush to get them over with.
I didn't worry about perfect delivery.
I just let it all out.
Next, I wrote an unusual testimonial. My therapist for the past eight months asked me if I would. Who am I to write a testimonial when my healing is far from over? I thought skeptically. But as I put pen to paper, the words poured out. Yes, the work isn’t over; she didn’t “cure” me, but she believed in me—and because of that, I’m in a place I never thought I could be.
And finally, I wrote to a friend to tell her of the void she’s filled in my life. Words I’d tried to say to her throughout 2020 found their way to paper. I’d been ashamed to tell her that someone had walked out on me—and she had stepped in. She needed to know.
As hard as it was to do these exercises, they were cathartic. Sure, I could’ve skipped them, but then that tightness in my chest from navigating these deep waters would still be there.
Sure, I could’ve skipped them, but then the ache in my muscles from failing to acknowledge those who kept me afloat would still remain.
I now know why I had the honor of being a Warm-Down Marshal at the end of this grueling season: I have a message for those looking for the quickest way to exit the pool where they just endured the hardest race of their life. I have a message for those who can't wait to burst through the shiny door that says “2021” and never look back.
And that message is this:
Don’t skip the final and possibly most important exercise of 2020 –
the processing, the stretching, the return to breathing as normal as possible.
My final exercise of 2020 was acknowledging what was – and it was not pretty, and it is not over, but I made it through territories I didn’t know I could.
I don’t know what your 2020 warm down will look like, and at this point, you probably don’t either. But with this awareness, you will recognize it when it comes. As you navigate the final days of 2020, something will stop you, and you will sit down, and you will not rush, and you will let it all out.
In that moment, you will see the current you fought,
The stifling temperatures you survived,
The canceled events you accepted,
And through it all, you stayed in your lane, and you kept going.
In this departure from a “normal” holiday, there is time to see the strength in yourself and in those who cheered as you kept swimming.
Warm Down 2020 – please don’t skip it.
You might just find that there, floating on your back, an ordinary ceiling looks like a sky of stars because you just endured the hardest race of your life.
Dear friends, thank you for your love & support throughout 2020. Time and time again, you lifted me up. Please consider joining me in 2021 for a new session of Soul Shift Lift – my shame-free, hope-filled, self-paced, come-as-you-are online course that is my passion & my family. Click here to enter your email and be notified when registration opens at a discounted rate in January. The journey begins February 1st and will help you make healthy, loving responses a way of life.
In case you have not yet purchased my work-of-heart that was released in 2020, it is currently at its lowest price ever. I recently received a note from a reader that said LIVE LOVE NOW is helping her to “re-parent my inner child who still roars from unmet emotional needs.”
What a gift to be on this healing journey with you. My hand in yours.