Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Glass Bottom by: Karen Pilarski



My husband and I went to Jamaica as a graduation present for earning my Master’s Degree. We stayed in Montego Bay after a hurricane. Each day the red flag was out to inform us it was unsafe to do water activities. One day it finally changed to yellow which meant caution. He somehow convinced me to try kayaking against my better judgment.  The kayak was not spacious and had a glass bottom to it. The salty water was choppy and unsettling to me, an apprehensive chicken for life. I attempted to paddle but wasn’t doing it correctly according to my skilled husband. The glass bottom made my vision a bit blurry or maybe it was the cause of the hyperventilating that was happening.  The clouds above us looked murky and rapidly impending.  My husband’s presence made me feel comforted that he was in the same kayak and was thinking we should head back. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing someone is in same boat with you. 

It is difficult to think other people know what the perturbed person is going through.  Often there are generic and meaningless “I know how you feel” statements that fall on deaf ears.  To the ones in that rocky boat hearing “It will get better” offers solace like a ripped life jacket on a sinking ship. What a distressed soul needs is to hear examples of experiences of similar life disasters.  There is something therapeutic in knowing someone familiar is in the same angry water.  A writer contact of mine was expressing doubts about landing a writing gig. Reading his post made me feel less anxious about the self doubt I was experiencing.  When the flood gates opened others came out of the wood work and expressed the same fears and uncertainty. 

My Master’s graduate research study focused on cancer events and motivating volunteers. The one statement that was as loud as a fog horn was that people want to be around others who are having similar issues. There is a need for connection in order to get through the bumpy waves that life creates. From my research I discovered others want a sense of friendship and the ability to openly discuss the inner turmoil that causes stormy emotions.  Saying what disturbs us somehow hushes the thunder of life and makes it more tolerable to bear. When it is understood others are going through it too, something wonderful happens. Miraculously clouds part and the threatening water calms. Behind the puffy gray clouds, the sun pokes out.  

For the first time in a long time there is a sense of peace. The glass bottom no longer causes a migraine. Focus and eye sight are fully restored. It doesn’t matter the color of the warning flag.  As long as someone else is in the same boat the life preserver is not a jacket but is a preserver of hope.