Riding Over the Sharks is Better Together


Standing at the brand new park near our home, the evening was the kind of Autumn chilly I love. It was just cold enough for me to zip my hoody all the way and wear a favorite hat (kind of an aqua blue with a grey pom-pom on top). I promised Eli we could go to the park if he finished his homework. Dave was leaving for San Francisco the next day and had a million things to do beforehand.

It was already dark when Eli finished his homework and I heard him from the other room exclaim, “Dad, I am finished. Let’s go!”

“Eli, I’ll throw the football outside with you for a few minutes.” In my mind I wanted to hit pause putting both Dave and Eli in suspended-animation. During this time-stopped moment, I would run over and fill Dave in about the promise I had made. Oh life, where is your pause button when I need it?

Instead and because I felt Eli’s temperature rising, before a complete melt down ensured, I said, “Hey guys, let’s go. Dave you can stay home if you want, but I promised.”

“Beth, it is so dark and I have a lot to do.” Dave replied.

“You can stay home, but I want to follow through.” I said as I rushed the boys first to put on their pajamas (track shorts and an old t-shirt) and then out the door. “Don’t forget your sweatshirts. It is cold.” The boys, indulging me, assured they had them and also assured, “Mom, really? It is not cold.”

Once at the park, I left the boys and Dave (yes, and yay! he came) to play Frisbee (with their brand new Frisbee) in the brand new soccer/lacrosse field while I started to walk the long circle that outlined the field. I had no idea how they could see the Frisbee clearly enough to not get smacked in the face. On my second lap, Dave joined me. We could hear the boys screaming in the darkness and knew they had made it over to the playground. “Mom, can you see us swinging? It’s crazy! If we jump off we fly right into this big pole.” Sure enough, Dave and I made our way through wood chips and playground equipment to see the boys swinging hard. “Mom, look. See the pole?” Kyle said as he swung higher and higher. “Mom, you have to watch this. Watch.” All of a sudden Kyle was airborne and flew right into the pole thankfully with his hands outstretched. The pole was indeed large and also unprotected. The park is new and knowing this Dave and I both uttered, “Poor planning. They are going to have to do something about that.” And then I continued as I often do, “As soon as some kid gets brain damage, you know they will.”

The boys were having a blast so Dave and I continued our chilly, dark evening walk-talk. It has been a hard few days. Between Dave’s frequent business trips, the new and long daily school commute, PMS, a combo sinus infection/double ear infection, I have been off. I mean, crazy off. I sound whiny. I know. Usually I can swim away all of life’s sharks and rise above my own insecurities. I just wasn’t cutting it and felt like I was starting to sink. I don’t know if it was the PMS or the nasty cold, but something definitely shoved me off center. Petty issues were turning into giant monsters and as soon as I would pick myself up or take a deep breath, something small would grab my ankle and knock me over again. And because I was feeling discouraged from feeling knocked down, even smaller things were grabbing my attention. Dave and I walked and talked. I whined. I finally said, “Why does everyone have to be so dumb? Why are some of the most annoying, cruel and undeserving people the most successful? Why do people who work hard and long get screwed? Why do people our age still care about being cool or popular? Blah blah blah I am feeling sorry for myself!”

Dave responded with some harsh words or really what I felt like were harsh words, and I felt worse.

As I walked and fumed I thought to myself, “I know Dave doesn’t mean it. He has my back. I know he does.” Then I thought about what he told me the other day when something else was bugging me, “Even if you do not care to be a part of the group, no one likes to be actively excluded.” I know Dave gets my pain. I knew he understood I was feeling blue. Why the harsh words? In that second I got it. I re-grouped and realized he was just trying to help me SNAP OUT OF IT!

“Hey Dave, I am sorry. I don’t think I am expressing myself well. I feel bad because in this moment I feel alone. I think some people are really lame and I do not understand why things happen they way they do.”

It really didn’t matter what I was complaining about because I was. Dave got it and after I told him I didn’t think I was expressing myself well, then backed up and slowed down, he began sharing how he understands. He explained the pitfalls, ups and unfair aspects of his chosen path. “It doesn’t make sense.” He responded.

It does to me. It is about empathy.

Struggling to climb up for air, all I needed was some genuine I-know-how-you-feel feelings. It is much easier to swim past the sharks when someone is there holding your hand. It is even easier when you are in a life boat together and that they totally get why you need to stay afloat.

Our conversation continued, we were in the car, had found the lost soccer ball (twice), the new Frisbee made it too (thankfully) and were on our way home. Dave cracked me up because when I told him how much it meant that he empathized he informed me that he felt his advice was useless and that his words had merely been selfish: “All I did is tell you the bad things that happened to me.” And then Eli jumped in, “Empathy? Empathy? What does that even mean?” I am not sure he really cared as much as he wanted to be a part so we told him, “It is kind of like sympathy, except you have experience that same or similar things yourself.” “Oh.” He responded.

We were home walking our trash cans to the curb. I brought up our conversation.
“Dave. I am so glad you said what you said. I loved it. You told me things that reminded me that you get it and that I am not alone. You see, my friend, it is much easier floating on a raft with you than all alone. At least when you die, I have you there to eat you so I will not starve.” I shared.

And then Dave added, “Really you need to eat me before I die when I am nice and healthy. If you don’t the meat will go bad and you will starve too.”

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15 thoughts on “Riding Over the Sharks is Better Together

  1. I love the ending of this…a sense of humor definitely makes marriage so much more do-able, don’t you think? (It makes me think of what my hubby said to make me smile on Saturday: I was dropping him and our son off at O’Hare at 4am (!) and from the curb through the terminal glass I could see many Navy guys in their dress whites. I told my boys to say thank you to a serviceman. He then hugged me goodbye and when he leaned into kiss me he said “lots of seamen.” Maybe it’s just us but I could not help but laugh!!)


    I am new to my state (1 year) and to this town (5 months). I am in a book club and I have a couple other friends. I am alone a lot, but luckily I am someone who needs that (some people cannot stand it). Still, I would love to feel more included. I find Midwesterners to be nice people, but there are still cliques at our age. People often don’t think to include someone who is new, or in your case I’m guessing, seem to exclude people. I so often wonder the SAME thing you said: “Why do people our age still care about being cool or popular?” I could totally see this when I was at the middle school open house a few weeks ago. Not that I want/expect to be friends with everyone, but what is wrong with people? Act like accepting grown-ups!

    I love how you were able to step back and realize that you may not have been expressing yourself well. That is awesome. Kudos to you, and kudos to your hubby for getting it when you said it another way. You make a good team!

  2. Andrea, I love the humor you and your husband share and I love your thought process. Thank you for understanding my discouragement. Honestly I think anything would have knocked me down the last few days and my complaints are minor. Perspective is a good and healing thing.

    That being said, I do not understand the constant need to be cool, especially at our age. Who cares? Big hair has merely been replaced with Botox. And frankly neither really seem to help out in the being-cool department, you know what I mean? Oh, other parents at school events, well, that is a whole other post [wink wink]. And cliques, I think they never end. We are wired to want to fit in and that is that. Oh well!

    Thank you for appreciating our team-ness. You seem to be doing it right yourself. Moves are adjustment-full and Midwesterners, well, we are all full of “nice.” Please know you and your kind words are always valued here and always have been. Thanks again faraway friend! Hey and I love my alone time — a lot! 🙂

  3. OMG…yes, parents at school events. At that aforementioned open house, some parents were late to every class as we followed our child’s schedule. Hello?! (Disrespectful to the teachers, I say!) Then I looked at the last name on the nametag and recognized it as someone that my rule-following child mentioned in an “unfavorable” light. Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

    Just curious…why the “new and long daily school commute”?

  4. Being surrounded by good friends and partners who “get it” turns the swirling school of sharks from something to be scared of, into something where you nudge your friend and say, “hey, sure are a lot of sharks down there, I’m glad your here swimming with me”. Thanks for the good thoughts, as always!

  5. You are cracking me up, Andrea. Apples often do not fall far form the tree. Hang in there. Hoping things get better out there.

    School change due to a really cool opportunity. We loved our other schools too, as a matter of fact. And I am learning no situation is perfect. We just strive for the best, most complete and well suited experience for our kids

  6. Beth! we must catch-up. we’ve been thinking very much alike- only your sharks are my dragons and your floating on a raft in treacherous waters with davey advising you to eat him while he was still healthy? that’s me needing some salt water- i meant the pacific ocean but ollie made a clever and more convenient substitution and drove me to the salt palace where we walked hand-in-hand into the glimmering briny lake. my first time in the great salt lake! have you been? xoxo!

  7. I like that where you end up is “taking the trash out.” Roll that mess out to the curb when you’re done, you don’t need the bad stuff! I love the way you do “slice of life,” simple yet pithy, something we can all use. 🙂

  8. Can I be in your clique, even if I’m not that cool?? 😉 And I totally noticed how the pole is right in way of you jump off the swings at that park when we were there the other Sunday! I hope no kid gets hurt. Xoxo

  9. Quel, we must! I love your dragon image. I love the great Salt Lake. Beautiful place to take photos. Go Ollie! Thank you sweet, Raquel!

  10. OtherB, Pithy is one of my favorite words. Other favorites: esoteric (because it sounds like an intellectual/mental onamonapia). Glitter: (of course, because it is sparkly). Right? Taking the trash out was an unintentional yet serendipitous end. Thank you for getting it. Thanks for loving how I slice life. I like slicing.

  11. Travis, Of course you can and you are way too cool. Really the post was about empathy and I happened to throw some common complaints/observations like cliques out there. Basically I was feeling sorry for myself and you could really fill in the blanks of my complaints with some exterior issue that in the big picture does not matter. I know you understand.

    OH the Pole. Glad you notice it too. That pole will be fixed. I am sure of it. I hope no one gets hurt either. Hey and thank you for your loving words.

  12. Beth, I’m so glad you have each other! And that Dave is so good to you, even unintentionally 🙂 Love reading about your “garbage”.

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