Do you ever feel like you don’t know who you are anymore? Like, your life gets so wrapped up in this or that and suddenly you don’t know where you begin and this other thing ends. I’m an expert at getting lost in things. Books, movie marathons, the aisles at Target… but then something always wakes you up. Maybe it’s something a friend says to you in a casual conversation, or your pastor preaches at church, or you hear a particular song lyric that speaks to you. I remember a time in college when I was absolutely certain that Lifehouse’s “Who We Are” cd was written just for me; Every single lyric seemed to hit a soft spot in my bones. Other times it more than a conversation or a lyric, it’s being awoken from a deep sleep from the jolt of an earthquake. It’s a phone call at 2 am that breaks your heart. For me, I’m petty sure it was the boat accident with my family on Christmas Eve. It’s been months now and sometimes it feels like that whole thing was a dream, or a nightmare, like it didn’t really happen. And then other times, the memories of floating out there in the bay, so helpless and small and alone come back to me. The indescribable fear I felt when I couldn’t see my Dad anymore and I honestly thought he might be dead or unconscious or drowning. How hard I I had to fight away those fears and just keep swimming for shore, as car after car drove by without seeing the little floating blobs of yellow in the bay who were waving and yelling for help. It’s absolutely stunning how much time can slow down in a situation like that. An hour of feeling those feelings and thinking those thoughts felt like days. Every single second hung in the air and fueled the fear. I’ve never had so many thoughts in my life. And yet, I was being carried. My boots that filled up with water should have pulled me under the water when we first went in and I was hyperventilating. Instead, I sat there floating in the water, crying and screaming and without any kind of flotation device. I wasn’t even treading water. I was literally just floating, water-logged boots and all. My hair never even got wet the entire time we were out there. I didn’t swallow any water and my eyes didn’t burn with the sting of salt water. The current carried us first into the heart of the bay, and away from the waves in the ocean, and eventually towards the rocks where help would be waiting. We were scared and we were wet and we were tired, but we were ALL OKAY. I was the first one in the ambulance and I remember hearing that everyone was okay and out of the water and I just started crying. i was shaking from the cold, but also from the sobbing and the sheer thankfulness that I felt. I calmed down a bit when Isaac (my brother) joined me in the ambulance and gave me a hug. In an effort to comfort me he said “It’s okay Adriana, we are all okay. We are all safe. Everything is going to be okay” and I just lost it again. Similarly, when I saw Andrew walking and talking with the paramedic, I felt immense relief. And when the EMT’s told us, “We got your Dad, he is okay, but he is a little bit colder than you, so he is going to go to the hospital” I broke down again.
That woke me up, there is no doubt about it. Christmas with it’s shine and sparkle and presents, my very favorite holiday of all, lost it’s luster. We still sat around the Christmas tree and opened presents but nobody was very excited about anything. Suddenly, everything that had been on my wishlist and that was now in my hands didn’t mean a thing. Nothing mattered, except that all of the people I love most in this world were sitting next to me.
One thing that I will never forget about this whole experience was the after. How everything felt so surreal. Driving back to my grandma’s house naked, all wrapped in blankets. Seeing my Dad at the hospital, beneath all the warming equipment. Offering to finish my Mom’s grocery shopping for Christmas Eve dinner so she could stay with my Dad at the hospital. Walking into the grocery store and being greeted by a worker saying, “Merry Christmas! How’s your day going?” and feeling SO WEIRD about the fact that he was asking me how my day was going and one hour ago I was floating in the bay thinking my Dad was dead. I don’t even remember how I answered, but that question will never leave my mind for as long as I live.
Now that I’ve got a few months on this whole experience, I’m struck by how similar it was to how I felt going though my divorce. Not physically, of course, but emotionally. It felt like my whole life was sinking and I had no idea how I was going to stay afloat. Part of me wanted to drown. I didn’t know how I could face everyone in my life, or say goodbye to people who had been my family, my sisters, for so many years. I didn’t know how I could walk away from this person I had known for over half of my life and that I’d promised to love until I died. Life didn’t make sense anymore and no amount of yelling and screaming for help seemed to get me anywhere. And yet, I was being carried. I was floating instead of downing. My hair never even got wet.
When Andrew and I first found our amazing church, I couldn’t go a single service without crying. Sometimes, I would sob. I imagine it was pretty confusing, or maybe even embarrassing for him. I stopped wearing mascara on Sundays. But I was crying from sheer joy and thankfulness. I can’t believe I made it through. I made it out. And I’m on the other side. I get to live over here! I get to live and be loved and laugh more than I ever thought possible. I didn’t even know how to form the words to ask for help, and yet all my questions and doubts were answered and blessing were thrown on me and at me, from every direction, even in the midst of my deepest, darkest pain. I still cry when I think about it. I guess it just comes down to the fact that I get to live this life. It’s not perfect, not by a long shot. But it is very, very good. And so much better than I could have ever imagined, especially when I was floating around, helpless and small and cold in the water.
I am so thankful for where I am now; who I am now. But some days I still struggle with who that is. I was so sure I was going to be defined by my divorce forever. But I’m beginning to understand that I am not “the divorced girl” anymore than I am “the girl who survived that boat accident”. Sure, those are parts of me. And like any good puzzle, those pieces fit into my soul somewhere. On my best days, I’m even thankful they are there, if for nothing else. the perspective they give me.
I’m still figuring it all out, but I know this for sure – I have been bent and boken, but – I hope – into a better shape. (Charles Dickens).