When I was about four years old, I was playing in a lake and got into water that was over my head. I started drowning. I still carry a distinct feeling with me of spinning in that lake, getting dizzy and taking in water. There was no way I could even begin to think about saving myself; I had no idea which way was up. I do remember a hand reaching in, grabbing hold of me and pulling me up. While I spluttered and coughed, my Aunt Amanda kept repeating over and over again, “You’re okay. You’re okay.”
I doubt I was under water for more than a few seconds, which can seem like an eternity to a four-year-old. Just having Amanda hang on to me, getting me out of the water, hearing her calming voice, quickly reoriented me. It wasn’t long before I was right back in the water, playing with my cousins.
I had mostly forgotten about this long-ago event in my life until several recent conversations with people who are feeling overwhelmed and unable to see their way out. They were drowning in their work, and needed someone to reach in, grab hold of them and tell them, “It’s okay.”
It’s hard to figure out which way is up when you are drowning. It’s okay to need a hand to grab you and tell you it’s okay—over and over again—until you believe it, too.