I am floating on my back, looking up at the clouds, relaxing my tired body after swimming nearly a mile across the lake. The shore is in sight, but still a distance away. I am far ahead of the group of youthful swimmers I have been leading. I have a few moments to relax and be fully present to the wonder of the water. All is right in my world. Swimming is my blissful escape from my little world within, it is my haven. My body is strong, my mind is clear, the fatigue I feel is comforting. I am safe, surrounded by fresh, clear, beautiful wetness. I am happy. I am 19 years old and the Waterfront Director at a Girl Scout summer camp in Massachusetts, coming out of a few of the hardest years of my life. My world these past years has gone topsy turvy. I had so many dreams and hopes for what could be, but reality held nothing close to what I imagined. I underwent extreme stress and loss in my life during those years, including a move across country just before my senior year of high school, leaving all my familiar friends (and my dear boyfriend) just when we were supposed to be enjoying the best year of our lives together, graduating high school.
The details of these hardest years include not just the move across the country and away from the familiar and all the struggles that came with that experience, but the loss of my beloved father as he became very sick. I thought my college experience would be the best time of my life, but it ultimately was a source of deep disappointment. My summer at this girl scout camp gave me the opportunity to be someone else, not the daughter with the ill father, not the girl commuting by day to the ostentatious all girl’s boarding school where I learned first hand the meaning of the term “rich bitches”, not the faculty daughter living in the town of historic Deerfield (the home of Deerfield Academy) where the boys attending that prestigious boarding prep school placed themselves far above me in status and privilege. My time at this summer camp and my return to the water, teaching swimming, counseling and leading water activities, was a return to my core. Every week I would lead the mile swim across the lake, my favorite part of the session, the girls a mix of terrified and eager. I probably swam more that summer than ever in my life, swimming away grief, swimming away pain, swimming away my feeling of being lost in a frightening world.
I’m not sure why I woke up this morning with this memory so urgently at the forefront of my mind, but it was as clear as if all this took place last month. I think there’s something about sobriety that clears our minds so thoroughly, our memories start jumping out to catch our attention. That mile swim across the lake is one of the best memories of my younger years. I remember when the summer ended, I wished I could return to that lake, that healing water, wished I could submerge myself in the baptism of that delicious experience.
Yesterday was the 4th of July, a day hotter than my comfort level can tolerate at 100F as I worked outside all day. It was challenging to keep up with the busy pace of the scorching afternoon, challenging to breathe enough air through the required mask I had to wear all day as I repeatedly performed my role as tour guide and story teller with each of our guests. For the most part, people are delightful, and I thrive when engaging with them. I am absolutely a social animal, a former party girl, a “make-things-happen” person. I felt emotionally punished, locked in a way-too-small cage of isolation during the quarantine. I tried my best to go within and make the most of my forced period of solitary confinement, but the truth is, I love to work and I feel immensely better when I am in connection with other humans.
I awakened this morning feeling filled up with a joy deep in my bones. Sometimes when I vent about the things in my life that are not to my liking, when I lament about my work situation or any other part of my life, I feel a tinge of guilt for the negativity of it all. Writing is my way of processing the difficulties in my life, these pages are therapy for my mind and heart. I always return to my center eventually, and that’s where I am floating this morning. I am floating in the lake, held by the mystery, safe and comfortable in my amazingly healthy body, my mind clear, my mental health solid and strong, my heart oozing with gratitude. I feel enormous appreciation for my existence today, despite the obnoxiousness of the loud and inappropriate fireworks that continued into the wee hours and kept sleep at bay. I am ecstatically happy with the distress of yesterday’s work day now behind me, despite the heat I endured that made me feel so depleted. Today is the last day of my work week, my Friday. I have so many plans for my time off, lots of exciting possibilities await.
When the sun rises, it is a new day. I am in a state of bliss. I choose to appreciate all the very best of each circumstance in my life, of which there is an abundance. Counting my blessings has always come easily for me, I have always believed myself extraordinarily blessed. Today is going to be one of those red letter days, I feel it. Today I am going to be a beneficial presence on the planet. Today I will spread joy to all those I encounter, even the ones who trigger me. My sober life is taking me to all new heights, raising the ceiling of my joy. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and it’s a very, very good life.