First 30 Days Blog

18 aug

Sacred Partnering

“Separation leads to disintegration, and joining leads to miracles.” -Marianne Williamson

No one knows the truth of these words from Marianne Williamson as well as someone who should be dead, as I should be.

A long time ago, on a late mid-November afternoon, my roommate/housepainting partner and I cleaned our brushes and work pots and headed back to our rental home. The house faced Monterey Bay in Rio Del Mar, a few minutes south of Santa Cruz, California, and was one of a small, gated enclave of vacation houses that shared a private beach. As all of the houses but ours were closed for the winter, my friend, my wife at the time, and I were the only residents.
It only took my friend and I a few minutes to peel off our dirty painting overalls and run down to the beach, where we dove into the bracing waters as my wife, bundled up against the wind and cold, sat down on the sand to read a book. We liked body surfing, my friend and I, and we did that. Then we decided to swim farther out to catch a bigger wave. We swam a little, but when we pulled up we saw that there were no waves coming in.
This was my first inkling that we were in trouble. I turned towards shore. Waves were breaking back there, all right, but we were suddenly way beyond them.
“Let’s swim back!” my friend said, his voice betraying his own fear.
We swam until our lungs ached and we couldn’t swim anymore. Winded, we pulled up to, discovering that we seemed to be exactly where we’d been when we started! Shivering from the cold water, I caught my breath and said I was going to dive down to see how close we were to the bottom. I dove straight down, down, down, until I felt dizzy and nauseous. Turning around, I furiously clawed to the surface, Gasping, terrified, all I could offer my friend was a shake of my head: No.
At that moment, we both knew the truth. We’d been caught in one of Monterey Bay’s infamous riptides, which had swiftly swept us out over the edge of the Continental Shelf. On the shore far away, we saw my speck of a wife running back and forth on the sand, waving her arms.
I went down three times, and that’s when I knew for certain that I was going to die. We were exhausted. Hypothermia had already robbed us of most of our remaining strength. Resurfacing after my third sinking, I gasped Do something! My friend screamed HELP as loud as he could. It might have been comical except for the fact that we were about to drown.
Then-how else to say this?-a miracle happened. As if he had materialized out of nowhere, a boy paddled towards us on a white Styrofoam raft. He looked like an average child of twelve. As he reached us and turned around towards shore, my friend and I weakly grabbed on to the sides of his raft, and kicking and flailing for what seemed an eternity, we flew up on the back of a breaker and crashed face-first onto the sandy shore.
I remember crawling up the beach a little before collapsing. My friend managed to rise up on his knees and thank our rescuer. Later on, he told me the boy never said a word, then just seemed to vanish.
“I looked over at you,” he said, “then back to the boy, but he was gone! I looked up and down the beach but saw nothing.”
Even stranger, my wife says that she never saw the boy at all.
To this day, I know that boy was an angel, and but for him, my friend and I would have died in those choppy, frozen waters. Clearly, there was more work we were meant to do. But what?
My recovery from our ordeal was long. I’d suffered severe hypothermia and couldn’t get warm or stop shivering for weeks. Shaking like a gourd filled with beads under blankets in my bed, the one thing that lifted me up and rejuvenated me was watching Oprah on TV. She was pretty new to television back then, and it was the first time I was aware of her. Her show was more tabloid-newsy than it is today, but I was moved by her energy, empathy, and ability to connect, it seemed, with anyone. I couldn’t have articulated it, but I believe now that Oprah’s daily example of positive engagement in the lives of others began to nurture in me a vision of how I might benefit people.
Over and over, I replayed our near-tragedy, what should have been the end of my life. Why was I spared?
I’ve come to believe that the sacred partnering of true friendship is one reason my friend and I survived. We were together. Alone, freezing, panicking, about to die, emotionally and physically we held each other up. Just as important, we stayed connected through words.
In ancient Ireland, every community included the equivalent of an individual, woman or man, who filled the role of spiritual guide. Meetings between this person and citizens were not formal confessions. They were conversations, and the “priest” was charged with reading a friend’s heart. That’s what my friend and I did as we struggled to survive in Monterey Bay’s frigid waters and treacherous currents. We opened our hearts to each other, read them, and so deepened a sacred partnership, the essence and quality of which survives and shimmers to this day. And having done so, without knowing it then, we welcomed the intervention of The Divine as we were being swept to the very edge of eternity. That the intervention arrived in the shape of that mysterious boy, that guardian angel, will surprise no one who believes in spirituality.
I see now that partnering created the conditions for our survival, and I believe that the outcome would have been different if either one of us had been out in those waters alone. The most intense, sacred partnering saved us that day, just as it saves all of us every day. By reading the hearts of friends, by making our own hearts readable for others, we not only survive, we thrive, and we love and change each other and the world in the process.

Shared by poetrymentor.

Posted by First 30 Days on August 18th, 2009 in Personal Stories | 0 comments

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