The Breathing Apparatus

“It’s stressful and a time to cleave to true principles.”

Am I lucky or what, to get texts like this from my friends?

It’s like this: I went on vacation to the Galápagos Islands with my family back when I was in high school. My mom is petrified of the water, but undaunted soldier that she is, she decided to brave the water with us.

What did this look like? Well when we went snorkeling she joined us fully equipped with a life jacket, boogie board, the snorkeling instructor on one arm, and oh, the whole BOAT on the other.

And then we went snuba diving. It’s basically the same as scuba diving except with the water tank on a raft above you, as opposed to on your back. That and you don’t have to be certified.

Predictably and understandably, about ten minutes into it my mom started to become uneasy.

For those unfamiliar with them, scuba masks are pretty uncomfortable. They restrict and slow your breathing and it certainly takes some getting used to.

So how did my mom react? By ripping out the scuba mask, the one thing that was bringing her air. Then she started swallowing water, the instructor didn’t notice that she was asking for help, and she continued flailing around in the water for one long minute. Thankfully, she was okay and the instructor did help her out after a minute.

Because we’re just a mean spirited and cruel family, we like to tease my mom about this in our safe retrospect. It seems silly, right? Take out the one thing helping you?

But the point is when we’re in that much fear, we lose all ability to think rationally.

We respond with the same knee-jerk reactions to emotional situations. Introduce the slightest emotional tension and I will immediately revert to past patterns of behavior that left me utterly lifeless. I WILL toss out the habits and judgments that have been slowly feeding me life for the past three years. Shoot, they feel uncomfortable at the time. I’m not used to it. I will swallow mouthful after mouthful of salty, emotional ocean water and God help me if there’s no one around to yank me out of the depths.

This isn’t how it’s meant to be. Rather than reverting entirely to instinct, these are the times when it’s paramount to stick to what’s true. In the words of my wise friend, it is in times of stress that we must cleave to true principles.

The breathing may be slow and encumbered while we’re underwater, but it is our best chance for life.


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