Sunday evening, Memorial Day Weekend, Jacksonville Beach, Florida. 8:00pm on a day that marked the end of a six-day monsoon saw people unwilling to give up the waves:
Have you ever had something happen, a situation that comes at you instantaneous and unexpected, and you’re forced to make a snap decision about how to handle it? You might pull it off, you might manage it effectively, but if you don’t, you face certain humiliation? To up the ante you don’t have too much time to waste considering your options because if you don’t make a choice you won’t have a choice to make. Later on after it’s passed, after you’ve had a little time to think it over, you’re astonished by how well it all worked out – and how it could have gone 180 degrees differently. It was, frankly an either / or predicament. Any number of things could have occurred to alter the outcome from sweet relief to abject mortification – and they didn’t. They didn’t.
It was a discrete situation. It happened, and then it was over. Unlike other times in our lives when we’re beset by events that aren’t so immediately resolved however much we’d like them to be. Instead of a crisis moment, they are a condition; an amending of circumstances that might be precipitated by crisis, or other, more subtle influences that ultimately shift your reality from point ‘a’ to point ‘b’. Or straight to point ‘d’, no stops along the way, an abrupt trajectory, a white-knuckle ride from ‘before’ to ‘after’. There might be a continuum of condition, a sliding scale perhaps. Whatever it is, you do understand that now is the time to call out the “coping skills”, that handy little term so useful when soothing others but is often a challenge when faced with adversity. While you do hope that the condition will resolve itself by either miraculous means or luck, and soon, it doesn’t. It’s here to stay. For a while, or forever, you just don’t know.
Unlike the sudden situation that comes and goes forcefully but swiftly, the condition settles in and brings its friends, the sinking feeling, the heart-in-the-throat, the punch-in-the-gut and the generalized anxiety. It’s a longer lasting state of being. It might take a few months but you realize that those feelings come with the condition, and what else can you do but figure out how to share the space without letting them take all the air in the room?
Sometimes you contemplate other people and wonder if they have a condition too? You’ve learned, from living with the condition for so long, that others’ lives aren’t always what you expect. Maybe the condition is new to you, but living with a condition truly is the framework for many people’s lives and now it’s your framework too. Perhaps security and oblivion were the aberration and the condition is more the norm. You dig a little deeper with people; they’ll fill you in. Maybe you improve your social skills by asking how someone else is doing instead of perseverating on your own condition. There is such a thing as too much introspection. It’s called self-absorption.
Sinking feeling, punch-in-the-gut, heart-in-the-throat, and generalized anxiety come and go in varying measure from week to week or day to day. (They’re never far away.) You might be coasting along just living in the moment (which = good coping skill) when suddenly you hear that someone you know has lost their house and hello! punch-in-the-gut. Always there, always lurking. Give them an opening and they’ll slither on in and wrap themselves around your thoughts and your viscera until you remind yourself that you’re in charge, not some feelings, and you struggle to regain your equilibrium however precarious you think that it is. You aren’t going to lose to the condition.
Then one day you experience this little crisis moment; you have to react quickly, so you do, and everything that could have gone wrong, didn’t. You think, quite simply, if that wasn’t God watching out for you, you don’t know what else to call it. Serendipity? You believe serendipity is God. So you consider it in the larger context of your condition, when sometimes, you admit, you’ve wondered (and you can’t be the only one): ‘‘where is God?”
So: this little crisis moment. It’s an illumination, proof. Proof that there is something larger than our own selves, who cares about our own, personal lives. Only you know how the crisis moment could have turned out. Twenty different things could certainly have happened in that span of fifteen minutes; things you would not so easily forget. Your tentative social abilities would have been eviscerated. Instead you were spared. It was, quite simply, like the voice of God straight to you, “I am here. I’ve got your back. I’m glad to see that you understand this. Now about that situation you’re calling the condition? Release it to Me. I don’t make guarantees because human life is hard at times, it just is. But don’t let those other feelings you’re talking about take over because they crowd me out. I’m a pacifist; I don’t fight. If you call on me when you’re in distress – like you just did – I won’t let you down. Remember that, and carry on now…”
And just like that, I’m gifted with a bit of insight and while I didn’t actually hear the voice of God, you know they say that actions speak louder than words.