There are times in our life that stop us in our tracks. Experiences that are forever imprinted on our minds. Some of them are due to joyful moments and others because of sad and tragic times. Today was one of those days for me and I wanted to share it with you in the hope that you will feel inspired.
I’ve had bereaved families in Manchester on my mind this week, especially as I lost my youngest daughter tragically and unexpectedly. I know only too well the devastation and shock those parents are experiencing and the fact that their recent experience will change the course of their lives. It takes longer than forever to come to terms with these needless losses but I came to realise that, as unlikely as it seemed in the beginning, it is possible to still experience joy.
When I’m in Florida I love to attend water aerobics classes. The instructor arrives and a group of about 30 women and a few men congregate for an hour to move around in the water feeling lucky to be in the sunshine with blue sky above. Today, however, storms were forecast and I doubted the class would be on. As I spend most of my day pinned to my chair writing or speaking to patients I try to make a point of taking an hour out to exercise, so decided to go outside anyway to see if anyone showed up.
There were five of us in the pool. The instructor didn’t arrive as predicted. But a woman who is a breast cancer survivor in her 70’s, who also trained as an exercise instructor, led us through our paces. Amongst the five was a wonderfully empathetic woman originally from Russia, also in her 70’s, who came close to death a few months ago following complications with her heart. She was accompanied by her lovely partner of Italian descent from New Jersey. The fifth member of the group was a gorgeous petite woman who I thought was in her eighties, but discovered after the class that she is turning 100 in a few weeks-time and they are planning her party.
When we looked at the grey heavy sky we knew that it was going to pour, but instead of getting out of the pool as I assumed they all would due to their age or medical circumstances, each of them made the decision to weather it out. And pour with rain it did, so much so I had to wear my swimming goggles instead of my sunglasses as the water was pouring down my face relentlessly.
When the rain began, being the youngest and most agile, I jumped out the pool to put their towels and bags under the beach chairs to protect them from the rain. I returned to the pool and for an hour we jumped, stretched and laughed so hard at our craziness. Despite the downpour the air was warm and the rain nothing short of exhilarating.
During that hour together each person talked about gratitude and love. They admitted that they intentionally stayed in the water to create a memorable joyous time to reflect upon. No matter their past suffering they were all simply in the moment and having more fun that you can imagine.
At the end of the class we all hugged and kissed each other on the cheeks. We were full of endorphins, those lovely feel good hormones, smiling from ear to ear. When I retrieved my bag from under the beach chair it was in a deep puddle. I had to wring my towel out as it was so drenched, which made us laugh even harder.
It was one of those special times in my life I will never forget. It reminded me of the importance of taking breaks, looking after myself, being in the moment and being willing to share heart felt thoughts with others. Despite the chaos in the world and the puddles filled with tears, we all felt so very lucky to be alive.