“I think that guy and girl are struggling.” Bill, my husband, was watching a pair who looked like a father and teen daughter, as they tried to swim back to shore. We were at a beautiful beach in an off-the-beaten path location, where we could easily socially distance from others. There were no lifeguards. We had rented a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and I had taken it out a little earlier, but it was a windy day and the current made the experience challenging. I decided that my 30 minute ride was it for the day and nobody else would go out, as it felt too dangerous. I had been forewarned by our AirBnB owner that this particular beach, that seemed so innocuous with the beautiful sandbar, had a dangerous rip current and a few people had drowned quite recently.
The girl made it back to shore, but her dad seemed to be getting tired. My son, a lifeguard at our local pool, was watching now too. Suddenly, he and Bill sprang into action. They grabbed the SUP and swam out to the man. Between the two of them, they towed him back to safety. His wife called 911 and the paramedics arrived, and ended up taking him to the hospital. He was exhausted and in shock. His wife told us that her husband had a heart condition, and he should never have been out there. His daughter was understandably upset and in shock over it all. We found out the next day at the local fishing shop that he had been kept in the hospital but he was going to be OK. I kept thinking, THANK GOD Bill had put his book down and seen what was happening, THANK GOD I had the SUP that day, THANK GOD my son is a certified lifeguard so I knew that everything was going to turn out OK.
I was also thinking that day about what you are supposed to do if you are caught in a rip current. It’s not something that most people know. If you find yourself being dragged out, and no matter how hard you swim, you aren’t making much progress, you’re probably in a rip current. And the smartest thing to do is to stop fighting it. Instead, relax, and let it take you where it’s going. It sounds scary, to let yourself be dragged out further from shore, but eventually the current ends. At this point, swim parallel with the shore and then when you feel like you can swim toward the beach relatively easily, do it. This is the safest and smartest way to get back without exhausting yourself and possibly getting into panic mode. Trust me - it’s happened to me. It is a terrifying experience, feeling like no matter what you do, you can’t get anywhere. And when it happened to me I was a kid, and there were sharks in that area. I hadn’t known how to handle rip currents. Now I do, so if I hear of an area with rip currents, I avoid them, but if I am caught in one, I focus on breathing calmly, allowing myself to be carried out, and then when I can swim without encountering resistance, I swim back to shore.
This eventful day at the beach, and the near-drowning that was prevented by my heroic husband and son, often crosses my mind at random times that have nothing to do with the beach or swimming. How many times are we in situations in life when it feels like we are swimming upstream and no matter what we do, the resistance just builds more, and we get more fatigued and frustrated? Maybe it’s traffic; or something in our work, or in our relationships, where we feel that no matter what we do, the desired outcome or goal is always beyond our reach. Parenting is a perfect example of an area where we really want to have control, but no matter how much we push, say, or do, we are continually reminded that we really cannot control other people.
I often wonder, how about if I treat this like a rip current? Focus on my breath, soften - surrender - into the flow that right now I cannot control, and when things get to a less turbulent place, I can build the momentum by doing the right thing, and then the next right thing, over and over, until I get back to shore.
“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to what already is? what could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life — and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”
― Eckhart Tolle
Wellness coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.