On the Fear of Drowning… and Blowing Bubbles Anyway

Today was a Slumped in the Kitchen Corner kind of day, even though I wasn’t in the kitchen.

And an I’m Not Sure I’ll Rise Again kind of day, even though I wasn’t literally down.

And an It’s OK, Go On Without Me; Save Yourselves! kind of day, even though Ohana means Family and Family means No One Gets Left Behind or Forgotten.

But you guys. Guys. Not to be dramatic, but it was the moment in the movie when I’ve got my hand pressed to my gut in a futile attempt to staunch the excessive bleeding, because the tiny hits were just coming from everywhere today, and no matter how fast I dodged, I couldn’t avoid the blast pattern.

The prescription for the new meds for my kid – the first thing that’s made a substantial difference in his ability to function without extreme anxiety in 11 YEARS – costs $270 per month. PER MONTH. Out of pocket. POW!

And another kid’s having surgery next week. ZING!

And the dog – oh dear Jesus, please help me not kill the dog – the dog gifted our floors with decorative footprints using mud and probably poop as his medium. BOOM!

And No, Kids Do NOT Stop Wanting to Sleep in Your Room When They Become Teenagers, and all those people who say they do are lying liars who LIE.

And the 1st graders can’t find their shoes, EVER.

And I can’t find my undies, EVER.

And ALL THE THINGS, you guys. All the Things. 


One minute I was standing and pulling my weight and being a team player and the next minute I was propped against the cupboard watching the blood leak through my fingers, looking up at you, my fellow momrades, wondering what just happened.

You slid down next to me, and you held my hand, but you and I both knew there was nothing we could do, and so, momrades in arms, we stopped, and we made eye contact, and we nodded once, ever-so-slightly to each other in the middle of the fight with blood spatter everywhere, because it was over for today.

We loved each other well, and we did the best we could, but the fight was over for me.

We knew my fate.

Done in. Kaput. Finé.

I just looked at my tag line up at the top of this blog and thought, Optimism, HA! Optimism can BITE ME. But I feel OK about that because I’m not the one who said I was optimistic, anyway; that was one of you, and today we’re just going to assume it was one of you who’s delusional, and I want you to know, that’s fine. Delusional is fine. Delusional is welcome here, always. Delusional is, in fact, AWESOME because it can give someone like me something to shoot for – or shoot at – and right now Optimism has it coming, and Authenticity is just the tool to take that smiling a-hole down.

Also, I might need to adjust my meds

Or get a tiny bit of sleep.

Or read a trashy novel.


Look, I know what to do in situations like this when the days are overwhelming and I’m done. Practice an Attitude of Gratitude. Which makes me want to harf, but I have an Attitude of Gratitude anyway, and I can prove it:

  • I have floors on which my dog can track crap.
  • I live in a place where my kid and I have access to the medications we need, and I can probably even figure out a way to pay for them.
  • I have children who are alive and who have shoes somewhere and who want to sleep close to their mommy even though she loses her undies as often as she loses her poo.

But I just hate it when people say “things could be worse,” even when I’m one of the people who says it, because our ups and our downs and our feelings needn’t be comparative, and because it’s OK – it’s always OK – to long for things to be better. 

The truth is, we’re all drowning sometimes. Underwater and not sure where the next breath is coming from. And there are a lot of people who will tell you that’s the time to sink or swim.

Sink or swim, they say. Like it’s that simple.

Make it or break it.

Succeed or fail.

But life is not sink or swim. It’s just… not.

Life is sink and swim. And sink and swim. And sink. And swim.


My friend, Heather, is afraid of the water. 

Not a tiny bit afraid. 

Like, IMPENDING DEATH afraidTotal panic. Outright terror.

Heather did something this week, though.

She got into the water.

On purpose. 

Because there’s something important about casting off the things that hold us back and hold us down. Something powerful in learning to be free, even in the water that can drown us.

And Heather was scared. Which you can see in her pictures. 


Like, not-messing-around SCARED scared. This was hard for her. 


But she had a goal, which was neither to sink nor swim, but just to breathe. For now, to breathe.

Breathe in with her head above water.

Breathe out with her head below it.

Blow some bubbles.

And breathe.

Why are we so afraid of drowning? Probably because the water can kill us and we’re not stupid.

Why do we even enter the water, then? Because there’s magic there. In the sinking. In the swimming. And in, simply, learning to breathe.

Friends, I don’t know how your day was. I don’t know if you skipped through your day, whistling at the sunshine and hugging puppies, or if you, like me, were fighting for breath for whatever reason.

The truth is, we’re all drowning and none of us is getting out of this life alive, but we’re here, in the water, on purpose anyway. Sinking and swimming and sinking and swimming and sinking and swimming and learning to breathe.

And we are, all of us, very, VERY brave. 


HeatherEspana4P.S. All photos credits to Heather España. Photos used with permission.

P.P.S. Heather España is the artistic genius behind Puttering. Check out her modern miniatures work on Etsy and on Facebook. She’s amazing.

P.P.P.S. Heather’s not affiliated with this blog, didn’t pay me to promote her work, blah, blah, blah. She doesn’t know I’m putting that plug there. I just love Heather, I think you will, too, and I’m very, very glad she allowed me to publish her photos and story. I only had to beg a little. 

P.P.P.P.S. For those of you joining me for 40 Days of Lent: 15 Minute Projects, you can find today’s project – sort of – here on the 5 Kids Facebook page. I promised you photos. I’ll post them eventually. This story felt more important than that one today.

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32 responses to “On the Fear of Drowning… and Blowing Bubbles Anyway”

  1. About your son’s meds: Have you called your insurance company to see if that’s the copay for every month or if it is only till your deductible is met? If it’s the permanent price, you could ask at his doctor’s office to see if they have samples from the drug reps. Also, if it is a name brand medication, check the drug’s official website. Often they have coupons or discount cards you can use at the pharmacy. Sometimes there are patient assistance programs as well.(I work at a pharmacy, and see this on a regular basis. It is sad that people have trouble getting the meds they need.)

  2. You speak my reality. Thank goddesses in heaven for you. For us. For the mamas who mostly hold our crap together and love our kids and our lives as much and often as we can, hoping that it’s all good enough, and celebrating that it truly IS.

  3. My son asked me what optimism is yesterday and I kinda blathered on for awhile. Now I know what to tell him. It’s a smiling a-hole.

  4. That is one craptastic day! I’m sorry but so glad you can share with the rest of us and keep your humor in tact.
    Your insurance company is especially craptastic! However, I think I would become a bank robber if necessary to pay for a medicine that would “fix” my daughter’s severe generalized anxiety disorder. So far the insurance pays for her medicine but it doesn’t work so we continue on with our psychiatrist copays while he ever so slowly tries new dosages or medicine that aren’t even for anxiety because she’s too small and stilll has too much brain developing lef to take anti-anxiety meds. Makes me want to poke a fork in my eye.

  5. This post is very comforting to me, though that won’t help you a bit, dear sister-in-arms. I’ve had many, many days like these, with SIX children and a husband to care for. All I can say to encourage you is, hang in there. Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one problem at a time and things will get better. One day you’ll feel a lightness of heart, and you’ll realize that you got through it and you made it, and you’ll be so thankful. Today–even today will probably be better.

  6. Yes! Thank you so very much, because yesterday was a sinking day for me too. The kind of day that required I call my husband at 6 pm and ask where in the H he was because I was DONE. (And someone this week asked me what I do as a stay-at-home mom…) But, you know what, you are so right about the sinking AND swimming, and I really appreciate the freedom that analogy gives me. It’s fine for me to sink today because tomorrow I might actually keep my head above water. And, also, tomorrow I’m headed off on a girls’ weekend, which makes swimming so much easier. 🙂 Thanks again!

    • So funny I did the same thing to my husband. Then he got home and I told him I needed to go for a run and was totally done running before the kids were supposed to be in bed but I hid in the garage on my phone till I was sure he was done with the bedtime getting ready stuff. Muahahaha!

  7. PREEEEEEACH!!!! This is so totally my day. Boo Hiss for meds that aren’t covered – which is part of my day too. We started a new treatment for my son and I started the day confident and ready and then 3 hours later was totally overwhelmed and OH MY GOSH I CAN’T DO THIS!! We spent 2 exhausting days in the hospital this week and I felt like such a wimp complaining and wondered how in the hell did I manage three months in the hospital.

    Yes, sink and swim and do it again. So good to not be alone.

    Thanks for the momraderie today!

  8. I hope you didn’t take my FB comment as flip. I TOTALLY get how your day was. I have TOTALLY had MANY,MANY,MANY, TOO MANY of those. Just not yesterday. But I was empathetic, I promise.

    Try checking with the manufacturer of the drug – they often have assistance, if you were to qualify for such. Usually the qualifications are fairly liberal, and often there is a coupon program. My daughter can get her insulin for 1/2 of her usual expensive copay through one of these company sponsored programs.

    Love you!

  9. I love how you can still make yourself find the positive in life, because even when you are feeling like life is crappy you still have enough life left in you to at least see the land. We all have these moments in our lives, and sometimes they last years, but when we do surface for those breaths of air, and we get a chance to see the sun we appreciate it even more then we ever would have if we hadn’t dropped down so far. Lives go up and down, I wish we could really appreciate life to it’s fullest without so many downs. More than just waving in the dark, sometimes we need a helping hand to hold, or a passing goofy fish telling us to “just keep swimming.” For better or for worse this is where you get to become the light in the dark, even if it is just a candle light’s worth. Like you said we are all in the process of bobbing up and down in the water, all simply trying not to drown. We all have our own struggles, whatever status we hold in life. Life is relative to our own experiences. Keep the memory of the sun in your heart and head, and remember you will see it again. (and thanks for letting me blab like this, it helps me remember how to see the sun when I’m down there too)

  10. Oh, man. Last week was my sinking, drowning, small tragedies week. I broke the surface on Sunday, and I’m mostly swimming. But I’ve been seeing this theme everywhere, all week: we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful. Or, in keeping with the analogy, we are not called to be Olympic swimmers, we are called to stay in the pool. In fact, I’d hazard a guess that treading water is acceptable. Also, water wings, kick boards, and life preservers. I only have Spider-Man or Cinderella water wings at my house – which ones would you like?

  11. Isn’t it crazy how one minute you can feel totally on top of things and the next minute you’re laying in a heap on your bed screaming into the phone at your husband (who is completely innocent, by the way) about the terrors of your life while those terrors are banging on the door repeatedly asking you to come out? But then sometimes it seems all you needed was the break down. Kind of like when you feel like you’re drowning. You just need that one gulp of fresh air to calm your panic and remind yourself that you’re just FINE. Not okay, not perfect, not really even SANE, but just FINE. Sometimes crying in a heap on my bed is the breath of fresh air I need. 🙂 And congrats to A Friend From Just Down the Road! That is happy news!

  12. I have to do something utterly, completely terrifying today. Crying out to God for help. I just finished this book called “Refuse to Drown”, and without going into my long story, let’s just say that somehow He is reminding me through this post that though my friends may fail, He never will. I’m afraid of the water, too. Can only dog paddle, badly. Am pretty sure there going to be a lot of near-drowning today, but I’m going to remember these words and the words in that book and refuse to drown, ’cause He’s swimming right there beside me. And hope I don’t cry too much.

  13. Beth, I wish I could give you a big hug. Kids needing meds and surgery is worse then what I have going on. When I saw the picture of her trying to breathe underwater I felt like that was me. A few weeks ago my husband was fired. We followed family and a job to where we live and now we have no family or job here. I feel like we are treading water trying not to drown, day after day, week after week, treading treading and treading. Trying not drown. Breathing. The uncertainty of what will happen next is killing me.

  14. Oh Beth. Oh Loren oh. Oh Stacy. Oh J. Oh Sarah. Oh thank you for sharing because I was so right there with you yesterday. After a morning of feeling ill and sick and yucky for the gazillionth day in a row and dragging my full-of-beans, kicking-and-screaming toddler to nursery and my phlegmy, wheezy, too-young-to-feel-this-old and sooo tired old ass to work my boss took pity on me and sent me home. ‘Don’t let yourself get so run-down’ she said. ‘Go home and get some rest’ she said. So I went. But did I go home? No. No way. Not on your life. Because home is NOT where the rest happens. Home may be where the love happens, and the magic and the good times, but it’s also the place where the mess happens, the endless interminable mess, and the relentless, exhausting cleaning up at 1 in the morning so we don’t miss the magic and the good times with the afore-mentioned bouncy toddler. Home is where the not-wanting-to-miss-a-moment and the not-having-enough-hours-in-the-day happens, where the giggling and chasing and tickling and hiding and shouting and yelling and crying and tantruming happens – but rest? Not so much. So I did what all self-respecting women have done since probably the beginning of time and I went shopping. Only to the supermarket and only to buy medicine and necessary supplies without having to drag the toddler around with me, in case of the unlikely bumping into anyone from work happened. But it turns out the supermarket 2 weeks before Mother’s Day was full of nice things designed to tempt the hapless female. And in my ill and weakened state – I succumbed. So I came home with the scented face-masks and bath-oils and the fancy sewing-basket and the how-to-crochet book and the mug proudly proclaiming my status as a mother, as if it wasn’t obvious enough from looking at my eye-bags, my unfashionable clothes and crumpled face and general air of harassment. ‘They saw you coming’ my husband said and ‘it’ll have to go back’ he said and though I probably agree about the onsie, because those things were just not designed for anyone with as many wobbly bits as me, I may just have to keep the rest. Because yes, they did see me coming. They saw me and all the other mombies, like the raveging, sleep-deprived hordes we are, coming with all our guilt and stress and lack of time and money and they sold us a dream. A dream that one day there might be time to read a book or learn to knit or paint my nails or even just to take a bath, by myself, for a whole 20 minutes without someone waking up and crying for me. And I am not prepared to let go of this dream. Because home? Home is also where the dreams happen. So I’m keeping the stuff, dammit, even if it means I’m just adding to the pile of stuff that still hasn’t found anywhere to be put away to and I never have time for. And maybe – just maybe – I’ll do myself a real favour and call in sick again today, so I can get a jump-start on cleaning the house while the toddler’s at nursery, so that tonight I might actually get to sleep before midnight. To sleep, perchance to dream…

    Oh and Beaverton – oh. Congratulations. I’m so jealous. Because yes, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

    • Christina, this is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your words and the way you describe home. It was like a deep sigh of so-much-yes reading your description that was just so right on. I hope you DID call in sick again today and buy yourself a few of those much needed lost-in-time moments where the world goes on around us and we are able to let it spin and swirl and just do what is most pressing on our hearts.

      • Thank you Stacy, your words mean more to me than I can possibly say 🙂 Yes I did call in sick and now today I get to enjoy my day off with the toddler chore-free. And the sun is shining… Today home will be where the joy and fun is 🙂 I hope you have a blessed day too xxx

  15. the social worker in me immediately thought, “prescription scholarships.” the therapist in me is too exhausted to couch that with any sort of empathetic pleasantries. nope. just: prescription scholarships.

  16. Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes.

    You got it, sister. Sending good thoughts your way today. I’d hand you coffee and chocolate/noise canceling headphones/a pillow to scream f**ck into/a copy of Frozen to watch, yourself, on the couch, or with whatever company you’d like/something to help you feel better for now until the real feeling better happens later, through the computer if I could.

  17. Beth,
    I’m so sorry your day was like this. But I’m very grateful that you decided to write about it. How did you know that this day was unexpectedly HARD? I was feeling overwhelmed by being an adult and a parent and having to foresee everything that could go wrong and prevent it from happening. What if I have forgotten something and it turns out to be the critical thing? And then someone hit my car with my two children (a.k.a. my universe)in it (they are fine) and then that person drove away. It was a small collision but I felt powerless and scared. Oh and ANGRY. And it was a thing that I failed to prevent from happening. Anyway thank you for reminding me to breathe and that I am Brave. You are amazing.

  18. Sometimes it’s All The Things, sometimes is All The Judgements… My heart has been a bit stripped and a bit exposed and feeling a lot bit Not Enough this week, which has again left me a bit broken and overwhelmed and just trying my best not to run away and hide where no more hurts can come find me. But we put on that smile and keep doing but failing and trying anyways at All The Things, hoping one day it will feel like enough, and that those broken pieces begin to make sense and and we can dust off and move forward. Anyways, cheers to dusting off and trying again tomorrow, and knowing we’re not alone. At least there’s that.

  19. There is great comfort knowing we all lose our shit sometimes. I was feelin’ that HARD today. I too was in the kitchen corner, but mine was the single dude bedroom corner waiting until I had the house to myself so I could lose it in the ‘belt your heart out lamenting’ kind of way. In the ‘everything needs doing and I’m responsible for it’ way. In the ‘why did you let me believe this would turn out how it didn’t, God?’ kind of way. We unite with all of humanity in those moments, because everyone loses their shit eventually and sometimes and more often than they’d choose. I’m with you in that corner, Beth, and yes; we will take another breath.

  20. Dear Beth,
    Today I peed on a little white stick and got a blue plus sign, but I’ve known for at least a week.
    And Beth, I’m excited. SO excited. I’m actually looking forward to being pregnant this time. My fears are more concrete, more rational, and based in the last three years of experience – so the voice in my head tells me I know what I’m getting in to, and (let’s be honest) there’s a LOT to worry about this time. (How will we afford this? Will I get PPD again? All the things that could go wrong…)

    But today – this whole week even – I’m just excited. Happy. Not ignoring the troubles to come, but I’m not overwhelmed. Not yet.

    And, Beth, I know your day was … poopy.
    REALLY Poopy.
    Hyperbolically poopy, even.
    So I wanted to share my smile in hopes that it might make you smile, too – because you’ve made me smile so many times. And sat down with me in the mud. And shown me again and again that it doesn’t get easier, but we do get stronger. And that no matter how lonely we feel, we are not alone.

    I’m strong today, Beth. I want to lend a bit of my strength back to you, because I know for a fact some of it was yours to begin with. I hope tomorrow is better.

    With Love,
    A friend from just Down the Road

    • Congratulations to you, neighbor! =) What great news! (I’m in Beaverton, too.)

      I think it is important that we don’t feel it’s only necessary to commiserate on rough days together, but that is it okay to sit down next to each other and take a minute, whether in the mud or the dairy aisle or just on our own kitchen floors next to our screens together.

      Some of us with wonderful news like yours, some of us with soul scraping days, but the good and the bad and the happy and the sad… Both/And, together and not alone.

  21. I’m (kinda) glad I’m not the only one drowning right now. The vehicle that gets my husband to work is probably permanently kaput, I can’t keep up with the one chore I enjoy (laundry) never mind the rest of life, and both of our (small and mommy loving/needing all day) kids have been waking up and needing us all night right when we’re going to bed, every night for weeks. Exhausted is what I was before this new pattern of not sleeping, but by comparison, I was totally energetic. Hope tomorrow goes better for you.
    Also, while I’m not especially afraid of drowning, I’m very afraid of falling, but I plan to go skydiving someday because it somehow seems like lots of fun.

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