“Wait for me, Mom! I can’t get through the crash zone!” yelled my daughter over the surf’s roar. While my son and I had already swum into the ocean’s calm, she was still swirling in the water’s chaos, unable to control her flailing limbs. “Just stand up!” I hollered back. “It’s only a foot of water.”

My, how we forget. Just like my daughter fighting the waves on Guatemala’s breathtaking coastline this past summer. It’s only a foot of water.

Like her, we too walk in knee-deep seawater. A wave comes crashing towards us and all of sudden, as if surprised, we are knocked off our feet, salt pours through our mouth and nostrils and we are caught in the wave’s menacing grip. We are left thinking the worst – “This is it. I am gonna die.” 

But, we forget. We forget that all we have to do is stand up. We aren’t drowning. We’re only in a foot or two of water. The sanded seafloor is still there.

My feet work. My legs are strong. I can replant myself anytime I choose and resurface into breath and life.

Such a frightening scene is exactly how we feel when we get emotionally triggered. It’s as if we are standing ashore. Peering out at beauty, excited to approach its offering. As we ease in with excitement and anticipation … boom! Holy shit. We’ve lost our way. Everything we knew and counted on is gone, swept away by some form of verbal or emotional assault. We’re suddenly out of control, being overtaken with thoughts and feelings from this harrowing trigger that came out of nowhere, that is now controlling my internal world.

As our life flashes before us – while we are being carried out to sea with salt in our mouths – we forget that we’re really not powerless. All we have to do is stand up. Recall who we are and how far we’ve come. That we can make choices and set boundaries. That we can re-center ourselves in the grounding that we have worked hard to create. That a sanded bottom cannot be permanently taken from us.

Once we have recovered, dried off, taken a cool drink and caught a few drops of the sun’s warmth, we try again. Hope is renewed and that ocean keeps calling.

Perhaps this time, I won’t be knocked down by those waves. I’ll march forth with new determination. I will resist being caught in some else’s emotionally provocative turmoil.

Or, if I belly-up again, that’s okay too. After all, those waves are robust. But maybe, just maybe, this time, I will be underwater for shorter and pull my feet under me quicker. I will arise dressed in my red “Super Cape” declaring, “damn you, wave! No messing with me.”

My feet work. My legs are strong. I can replant myself anytime I choose and resurface into breath and life.