I love the water!  I like the sounds it makes, the shapes it takes, and all the magic that goes on underneath the surface.  As a child I did anything I could to get near it.

I jumped from the high diving boards into public pools.  I went on overnight boating trips. I played for hours on the beach building things from sand, only to have them washed away in a flash. I learned how to put a minnow on my fishing pole hook so I could fish.  And I also learned it’s a bad idea as a toddler to jump off the dock into the lake when you drop your pole in the water accidentally. Especially when the only adult around is stuck in a sailboat with no way to get to shore.  Yikes!

My love of water extends into rainstorms!  The bigger, the louder and the harder the rain comes down, the more I want to be under cover but up close and personal, just on the dry side of the rain curtain.  I can watch it coming down in sheets for hours, blowing in all directions and exploding through the air.

But water hasn’t always loved me.

As a kid I went to overnight summer camp where I learned to water ski.  The first time I saw someone my size being pulled across the water on skis I was hooked.  There was nothing like that feeling of the first full stretch to stand tall and glide across the water!

And water skiing was just the beginning!  We also swam, kayaked, canoed, sailed and played water games that we made up.  I spent a significant amount of time in the water at camp.  And that unfortunately led to spending a significant amount of time in the camp “infirmary” as it used to be called.

Because sooner or later, a droplet of water from my water activity escapades during the day would find its way down into the cracks and crevices of my inner ear at night, where it would wake me from slumber with an unbearable pain.  When this happened, I went to the nurse in tears, and she did what she could to comfort me.

But most times my “swimmer’s ear” infections required more than nursing interventions.  Sure, administration of ear drops, staying out of the water and positioning the “compromised” ear side down to help things drain were usually quick and effective nursing treatments.  Yet somehow, I always ended up with a fever and other symptoms that garnered me multiple trips into the local town’s emergency room.  It became an annual tradition, no matter what any of us did.  It eventually evolved into a standing joke, both at camp and at the local hospital.

The ear infections weren’t funny though.  The pain was terrible.  Being sick in the infirmary where I couldn’t get comfortable or distract myself while I listened to the “FUN” being had by my fellow campers with intact ears was lame.  And going to summer camp only to be restricted to land and non-water activities was miserable.  One minute I was flying high on one water ski over the water as if gravity and I had become one, and the next I was back in the nurse’s car listening to AM radio and heading into town for antibiotics.

You might be thinking, “Why not just stay out of the water?”  If water activities repeatedly landed me in the ER every summer, why would I continue to do them?

Agreeably, it would have made sense to stay out of harm’s way by NOT repeating history, and instead opting for land-only, dry activities.  Why would I go back into the water summer after summer, with the latest and greatest ear plugs, lamb’s wool inserts, ointments and all kinds of other remedies to keep me infection-free for my three-week stay?  Wouldn’t it have been easier to just learn to love arts and crafts?

“Yes!”  It would have been easier on my health, to stay out of the water.  I could have avoided the ear pain by not participating in water sports.  However…

At some point my experience of “summer camp” became defined by water skiing and other water activities.  It was the only part of my life where living in a wet baiting suit seemed like my most natural state.  I could have opted out to save myself from future suffering by doing boondoggle and playing more tennis and capture the flag.

But then there would have been no tall victorious stretch as I rose up out of the water into my Wonder Woman skiing stance.  I’d have missed gliding across the sleeping lake, as if just inches above the water.  I wouldn’t have learned how to recover from a capsized boat or how to win a water polo game by more than just luck.

Being at camp WAS being in the water.  Anything else was a spectator sport and I knew that at a young age.

So I jumped in the water, and thus the repeated swimmer’s ear infections willingly.  It was just part of the package.  Sure, I wondered why other kids did this with ease and no discomfort.  For a minute.  But I didn’t waste my time complaining or feeling victimized.

If I wanted the experience of water sports, I knew there would also be some health care shenanigans involved.  And although I didn’t love them, I knew they were organically part of the deal.  And the deal was this: “If you don’t want swimmer’s ear stay out of the water.

It was a deal I was unwilling to make.

Which brings me to the “life” deal that we all consent to by being alive, even though we pretend it is not real.  We know that if we love people we will also be devastated when they are gone.  We know that we will pre-decease some folks but mostly we will attend a lot of funerals as we age.  And we also know that the list of people on our prayer lists will continue to grow with each passing season.

And yet, we still jump into the nature of our humanity when we regularly allow ourselves to love and to be loved.  We create circles of tradition, memories and connection.  We engage with the world even though we know nothing lasts forever.  Why?

Because much like the water WAS camp, love IS life.  There is no doing life without love.  Sure, we can go through the motions, making a living and not doing much else.  But that would be too much like staying on land for fear of contracting swimmer’s ear. I’m not saying it’s easy to love someone, and then to lose them.  But I am saying there is zero mystery in how things will inevitably shake out.  If we are fortunate enough to live at all, not only will all people around us die, but so will we.

Will it be easy?  Hell no.

Will having this knowledge help us learn to “protect” ourselves from suffering grief and loss later on?  (A second)  “Hell no.”  We can’t.  Grief and loss are organically part of the human deal which is just this:  We GET to love and we GET to lose.  If we don’t want the pain, we will have to stay on land and stay out of the water.

And as many times as my heart breaks again and again (related post linked here) for the deaths of my children, friends, mentors and other family members, staying dry at the cost of missing out on love is a deal I am still unwilling to make.



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