Who is your life jacket?

By Laura Wailes, Core Writer

Walking toward the Lazy River, I looked down at Caleb who was very offended at being told he was still too little to be on the Lazy River without a life jacket.

“But I don’t need it!” he whined.  “I can do it by myself. I am a good swimmer.”

“It’s just in case,” I offered.  “Soon, you’ll forget it’s even there.”

Through the rest of the day, my four-year-old didn’t say anything else about the life jacket.  He got used to it being there.  The life jacket allowed him to have freedom to do things he wasn’t strong enough to do on his own.

“Wow! That was a big wave!” I told him as he came out of the wave pool. “Aren’t you glad you had your life jacket?”

“No.  I didn’t need it.”

A few minutes later, I watched as a wave tossed him off his feet. He came up from the water sputtering.

As I helped him clear the water out of his mouth and catch his breath, he spat, “The life jacket….it saved me!”

Sometimes my life as a woman and wife and mom and teacher feels like being dunked under the wave pool over and over again.  Every time I think I have a handle on it, another strong current pulls at me or makes me question my ability to survive another day…or another minute.

Just when I think I won’t come back up, I remember you—my friend.

I see your texts telling me you are praying for me or thinking about me.
I talk to you about finding some time to talk, to meet, to do something together.
I pencil things in on the calendar only to have to call and change them because someone is sick or a meeting is scheduled or… well, life.
I am desperate for time to grow and deepen our relationship, but I feel like all I have to give are a few passing words and a promise of “more time one day.”

Sometimes I think I would be better off without the pressure of maintaining friendships.  I’m so bad at it.  I often feel that my time is not my own.  The demands of work and family and the house make me feel like I disappoint you far too often.  I’m afraid that you feel used or forgotten and abandoned.  I wonder if you think I don’t value you.

But unlike my four year old who doesn’t know the value of his life jacket, I’ve lived long enough to know I need you.  I can’t navigate the waves by myself.

I can’t tell you how comforting it is to reach down in the midst of what feels like a tidal wave—a cancelled babysitter, a sick kid, a forgotten deadline, a broken relationship—and feel the clips of your friendship wrapped tightly around me.

I feel it in the Facebook message that tells me you missed seeing me.
I feel it when you ask if there is anything you can do to help when we both know that nothing can be done.
I know you’re there when you offer to come and help me fold laundry or to sit and listen to me cry.
I feel it when you look at my children with love and treat them with kindness.

You may think I have forgotten you are there.  You may feel that I don’t need you anymore, but dear friend, you keep me afloat.

You are the reason I feel strong enough walk back into the waves—the reason I come back up sputtering.

Our five-minute phone calls.  Our cancelled plans.  Our wish for more time.

Your unconditional love for me, even when I feel like I have nothing to give in return.

You are saving my life.

One day, we will sit down and have coffee.
One day, we will go to Kings Island by ourselves.
Some time, we will watch a whole movie that’s not a cartoon.
We will go on a road trip and share all the stories we don’t have time to share right now.

But until then, I just want you to know how grateful I am for who you are.

I want you to know that you are not just my friend.

You are my life jacket.

Who is your “life jacket”? Share this post with her today…

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash