I Was Drowning, Why Didn't You Rescue Me?

Because they couldn't...

This might come as a shock, but no one can rescue you, but you.

Obviously, I'm not talking about if you were in a pool, or in the sea fighting a strong current, that no one could rescue you. Of course someone could and they would. No, I'm talking about you, where you are right now, fighting whatever demons you're fighting - and we all are - no one can rescue you from your thoughts, or save you from the situation you find yourself in, but you.

I've always loved being in the water, from as young as I can remember I would swim in our family home pool. Cold, hot, raining, whatever the weather, I would swim. I was reasonably good too and ended up doing a lot more of it growing up, eventually competitively too. Training multiple times a day and throughout the year, training even when on holiday, camping with my parents (if the caravan park had a pool - which I think my folks always made sure it did), my sister and I swam.

I trained hard and developed the skills needed to succeed in the water.

There was natural talent though I think which made it easier. The training merely helped me become better and more competitive, but the natural talent in the water meant that swimming never felt foreign to me, it felt right like it was always that way and would always be that way. And thirty-seven years later, it still is. But, whether its swimming, rugby, tennis or anything really, if you have a natural affinity for it when you're young, you have an immediate advantage over others. My eldest son, for example, could ride a bike with pedals, unassisted, when he was just two and a half! He didn't even need training wheels. It just came naturally. And now, at ten years old, is earning provincial and even national colours for BMX and Mountain Biking.

And isn't life, in general, that way too?

Some people just seem to have an affinity for life, a natural talent. They're not hamstrung by setbacks or hindered by a war between their ears. They do life, and they do it well.

I've never had that affinity for life. For me life has been a struggle, no, not my upbringing - although I've had personal issues which have arisen from it - we were not desperately poor, we didn't want for much. We were loved and mostly brought up in a loving environment. Life for me has felt like a struggle because mostly I have felt lost. Like being in the middle of freezing cold pool and not knowing that in order to not be there you need to swim to the side.

And for many years, most of my adult life really until recently, I've resented people who just seem to do life well.

"How can it be that life can be so easy for you?" I would ask myself.

The answer is, is that it isn't. I know that now, those emotions was misplaced - wasteful and destructive even - because my life was no harder than theirs, they simply had better skills for navigating it than I did.

They knew in exactly in which direction to swim. Hell, they could do lap, after lap, after lap, in every different pool of life - school, sport, marriage, work, friendship, finance, parenting, everywhere... Where I was just treading water, flailing, not knowing what to do or where to go.

I was drowning, why didn't you rescue me?

Because they couldn't. No one could.

They could stop and tread water with me. Even lift my head out of the water just for a while, so I could regain my breath. Help me towards the shallow end where I could momentarily hold myself up on my tippy toes. But they couldn't rescue me or magically transport me somewhere else. They couldn't drag me behind them, or permanently keep me afloat, else how would they not drown themselves? No, they needed to get back to navigating their own troubles, circumstances... Their lives.

Because each of us is in this on our own.

Even with spouses and partners at our side, we are in this on our own. One cannot lift the other up, rescue the other from drowning. We can only swim together, sometimes scrapping and splashing, making hard work of it, and other times in perfect beautiful synchronicity, together slicing quickly through the rough water...

It's only with time, understanding and real learning from the past that those feelings of resentment have turned into admiration. I admire people who do life well. I admire their passion, hard work, their will to just keep going, to make things work. I admire their affinity for life, their natural talent. And now as a father, I admire their parents who guided, nurtured and taught until it became imprinted, second nature, a natural talent.


There was a swimming school down the road from where we lived growing up. I can remember my first day there - a clear and lasting memory. Standing at the edge of the pool in my Speedo, I was maybe three or four years old. Suddenly I was in the water in the deep end, but, I hadn't jumped in, I was pushed.

I remember being shocked as I looked up to see my new swimming teacher laughing and smiling knowingly. "Why would someone push me in? On my first day?" I thought... It didn't matter though. I didn't panic or cry. I just bobbed there, treading water, keeping myself afloat. I knew how to swim, and she knew it too.

The irony of knowing how to swim when I was pushed into the deep end of a pool, and drowning when pushed into the deep end of life, is not lost on me. It is however perhaps been life's greatest lesson; that anything can be learned if you are willing.

That guiding, nurturing and teaching my children will enable them to develop a natural talent to navigate life, so that one day when adversity arrives, when it feels like they're drowning, they'll know how to rescue themselves.

🏁

Header photo by Cristian Palmer on Unsplash