Warrior—Definition: a man engaged or experienced in warfare; broadly : a person engaged in some struggle or conflict
I have a very clear memory of standing at the edge of a diving board and peering down into the deep end.
The water appeared like it was very far down and I appeared to be very high up. From the edge I could see the bottom of the pool with it’s wide, black stripes lining the concrete floor. Every other kid in my swim class had climbed that ladder, walked to the end of the board and jumped.
Some kids actually dove—head first. One boy flung himself outward with his arms and legs outstretched landing on top of the water with a loud thwack making a belly flop. Not one of those kids had drown, or hit their heads on the board, or sunk to the bottom. Not one.
So why was I still standing at the edge with butterflies in my stomach and feeling like the only thing I really wanted to do at that exact moment was to walk back down that board that seemed way too high up and climb down that ladder?
I’m not and have never been the type to jump head first or with my arms and legs stretched outward. I am the one who weighs every option and possibility—frozen in indecision and left shivering alone while everyone else has moved on to something else. I am a chicken, a wimp, a scaredy cat.
And then something odd happened the other day; I was sharing a story with a friend. I told her some of the things that had happened in my life in the last 10-15 years. I hadn’t really told the story to get a vote of sympathy or to complain. I mentioned something offhand about my niece turning 18 which lead to the story about how she became my daughter (kind of). I told her the stories that lead up to my niece becoming a girl that I would raise and think of as my own, and the trials that she and I, and the rest of us faced.
And that is when the odd thing happened: my friend called me a warrior.
Reading those words in our online chat made me pause, smile and blush a little. I don’t think of myself as a warrior, I typed back. And I don’t. In my mind, a warrior is brave and stares down a battle without question or fear.
In every struggle or conflict, I didn’t welcome what was happening when it was happening but rather just kept moving. I kept moving in any direction, whether that was just to get out of bed in the morning and go to work when I really wanted to hide under the covers or if it was to come back home when the thing I really wanted to do was just drive and drive.
To be honest, I didn’t truly want to hide away from the world forever or disappear into an unending journey on the road, but there was always a moment of wanting—of needing—to escape even for a little while. There was always a moment of standing on the edge and being frozen in indecision. Should I or shouldn’t I? What will happen if I do?
There have been many times where I have stood at a crossroads.
I have found myself on my knees in despair. I have been in a place where I have accepted that I failed and found the strength to get back up and face the day. I have looked in the eyes of each of my children at different times and told them that I didn’t know what to do. I have buried people I loved. I have re-built myself over and over again, unearthing new layers with each destruction. But looking back, I’m not sure if that makes me a warrior or just someone who was more afraid of stopping than going, more afraid of what would happen if I didn’t get back up after the fall.
While standing there on the edge of the diving board that day, peering over into the water that seemed so very high up, I had to do something. I had to jump, or climb back down. The instructor finally scaled the ladder and stood next to me on the board. How about if we jump together, he asked me. And so we did. Four feet hit that water in unison and I didn’t drown, or sink to the bottom or hit my head. From that point on, I knew I could swim. And I knew that at some point, no matter what, I would have to jump.
You are still standing and your heart is beating, said my friend. Yes, I am and it is.
So, maybe I am a warrior.
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