Florida winters are cool and breezy. As a daily exerciser, during the cooler months, I roller blade up and down a quiet street in my neighborhood, listening to my favorite tunes.
However, during the hot, balmy Sarasota summer, because I can’t tolerate the pounding heat, my exercise of choice is walking in the water. The Gulf of Mexico, close to my Siesta Key home, offers soothing, cool relief from the radiant sun. For years, on a daily basis, in the summer, I’ve ridden my bike to the waters edge, waded into the inviting sea, and began my meditative walk.
Since moving to Florida from New York City in 1990, walking in the water has truly been one of my favorite things to do. Basking in the great Sea is soothing and relaxing to my body, mind and spirit, as I drink in the incredible vast beauty all around me in the sand, sea and sky. I also love the benefits: walking through the water gives my body much needed enjoyable and fat-burning exercise. Then there was that one unforgettable August day last summer . . . It seemed like just another hot day. I didn’t know the water would be rough until I arrived at the edge of the Gulf after my 10-minute bike ride, through the heat, to get there.
I’m always reluctant to go into wavy water because as much as I love the outdoors and the beauty of the ocean, I’ve always had a fear of the water. I can’t swim. My husband has tried on numerous occasions to arrange for swimming lessons for me. However, two experiences of a near-drowning earlier in my life had kept me reluctant to do so. After researching my situation, I also learned that some people just don’t float, and it has to do with the number of fat cells a person does or doesn’t have. My experience has definitely been that I do not float in the water – rather, I sink!
However, on this day, I wanted relief from the high temperature, so I decided to go in anyway. I was walking along in the water, entering into a peaceful zone, feeling my body embraced by the sea. I felt safe because I cautiously was making sure that the water would not go over my chest. What I didn’t realize was that the shoreline had changed much over the years and the floor of the sea was no longer consistent in its depth.
All of a sudden, the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, gave way under me. I was in deep water unexpectedly! I thought to myself, if I just go back the way I had just come, I should be fine. But I couldn’t retrace my steps. I could not find my way out of the deep water! I began to feel a sense of panic. I grabbed a breath and looked to the shore. It seemed almost a football field away. I hadn’t realized how far out to sea I had walked. I knew that I could float on my back and do the backstroke. That was one skill I did have. However, my attempts were thwarted by one wave after another, the water spewing into my nose and mouth.
I looked to the shore again. It seemed so far away. How could I possibly get there? I tried to calm down and swim toward the sand, best I could. I looked up. I had gotten nowhere.
Spitting water out of my mouth, I wondered, “Could this be my time?” I was 53 years old. Was it possible? I remember feeling so surprised. How could this be my time? How could I go this way without saying goodbye? I felt like I was still in my prime with so much to do and share, and my daughters still so young. . .
I looked to the shore again, seemingly hundreds of yards away. And then I saw him—one man standing there. He was the only person I could see on the beach and he was standing facing me, ankle deep at the shoreline. I knew I had to reach this young man. I called out, “Help me.” He stood there. He wasn’t coming towards me but he didn’t turn around either. I became more desperate. “Help me,” I cried. “I’m drowning. Please help me.” I didn’t even know if he could hear me. It seemed like minutes went by as I swallowed water, pleading with him to come and save me. And then it happened. He started to move towards me. I watched him come towards me as I battled the waves.
When he reached me, I grabbed onto him, and he spoke to me with kindness and compassion. He could see that I was terrified. When we were about waist deep, another middle-aged man waded in and helped the younger man bring me to shore. When I got to the beach, I sputtered out a thank you and told him that he had saved my life. He just turned and walked away as soon as he was sure that I was OK and knew where I was going. Thankfully, I walked down the beach, back to my bike, and headed home. I looked for him every day, that summer and beyond, wanting to thank this Angel for saving my life. I never saw him again.
3 things I learned from my near drowning experience:
1. We Are Not Alone
God does send us angels when we need them the most. For me, this angel came in the form of an actual man in the flesh. He was there when I needed him to save my life. All those years of faith and prayer culminated in a Divine intervention when I needed it the most.
2. Our Thoughts Matter Because Thoughts Are Energy
As I went over the events of the morning, I reviewed what I had been thinking about when I lost my footing and fell into the deep water. I recalled that I had been ruminating about an argument that I had earlier that day with someone I love dearly.
What was my mental state at the time of this “accident”? It was one of pain. I was feeling hurt, anger and blame at that exact moment. Were my thoughts and feelings justified based on what had occurred earlier that day? Yes, they may have been by human standards of right and wrong. I realized that understandable or not, when my consciousness is steeped in negativity, for any reason, I am attracting negativity to myself.
3. Every Act Of Goodness That You Do Earns You Grace
Sometimes it may seem as if the world isn’t fair. You give to others and they don’t give back to you. And then it dawned on me. Everything is going around and coming around but the people you and I give to may not be the same ones that give back to us.
So it may appear that you are a giver and those around you are takers. But your giving is still a gift of deep value that must come back to you. This man—a complete stranger—gave me my life back. I could never repay him in any way and I never have seen him again. The way I save someone else’s life may look completely different. It may be by inspiring them to lose weight and respect themselves. Everything you give does come around to you in this great mystery of life.
I learned so much from this experience. Maybe my greatest teaching is that our most frightening or upsetting circumstances always carry the greatest possibility for growth, appreciation, perspective and healing.