Tag Archives: swamp

Swamp Survival

Making it across the swamp, all the way to solid ground, has been a scenario oft repeated in my life. I shared my original swamp story on this blog last week. That story has spawned much pondering and many conversations over the years — with family and friends and strangers.

Though details may vary, the realities of swamp stories are:

  • feeling lost
  • wandering in unfamiliar territory
  • fearing the unknown
  • feeling overwhelmed
  • being abandoned
  • lacking knowledge of how to proceed
  • unsure of survival
  • hopelessness

Maybe your life doesn’t feel like a swamp that threatens to suck you to its muddy bottom. Perhaps your life is more like a zoo, filled with interesting creatures at every turn, all demanding food and attention, and cages that need to be cleaned. Maybe it’s like the desert, where safe shelter and cool water are scarce, and loneliness covers you like the night sky. Or perhaps you’re in the forest, where all the trees look alike, the trail has disappeared, and the night noises steal your sleep.

So what’s a person to do when you feel abandoned and scared and have no idea if you’ll ever set foot on solid ground again?

1. Take courage and share your fear — even with a stranger. You’ll find you’re not the first person who’s been lost in a swamp.

2. Assess what you have — your life, a bit of energy, the ability to look ahead, perhaps just for a tree trunk to hold onto for a bit.

3. Rest — life looks better after we’ve allowed ourselves to be restored.

4. Move forward — there’s no value in continuing to look behind you at what has already been.

5. Check your boots — lest the swamp water flows in the top and sinks you.

6. Keep your lunch dry — guard carefully those things that nourish you, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. They are your lifeline.

You can make it to solid ground.

Until next Tuesday . . .

A Swamp Story

Characters:

  • THE REPORTER, who works for a small newspaper someplace in Kentucky
  • THE ARTIST, from down the hall, who does graphic design for some marketing wizards
  • ME, a mere mortal who keeps trying to juggle too many projects

The story evolves over the course of three days, from an email initiated by Me.

AIRPLANE TICKETS TO IOWA

I used to think I live in a zoo here at work but I’m changing my mind. It’s a swamp, complete with black murky stuff on the bottom, thick nauseous green water with strange creatures lurking beneath the surface, submerged stumps that snag your butt, and trees and moss hanging everywhere, making navigation nearly impossible. My boat is small, the motor is questionable, and swimming doesn’t look like a viable option. I’m just holding on to my oars and trying to keep my lunch dry.

“Keep paddling,” The Reporter said. From across the newsroom one of his coworkers noted there’s a dead possum in the bottom of my boat. Yuk!

The possum dropped from one of the overhanging cypress trees. The possum had been securely wedged in the tree for some time, but as its bloating increased it rolled off the branch. It’s so large, had it not landed in the center of my boat, it would have tipped me into the water. It stinketh! I’m squeamish about the dead possum, but grateful for still being in my boat.

“But you are so happy,” The Artist said, “that it landed in the center of your boat. How pathetic is that?”

“Ecstasy is relevant,” I tell her. “It just depends on what’s happened recently.”

“Do you think I should take this story seriously?” I say to The Reporter. “Perhaps I could develop it into a full-length novel. I’m not sure whether it would be fiction, nonfiction, romance (now there’s a concept!), science fiction, paranormal, or mystery. Romance in a swamp seems a bit far-fetched . . . but there is a possum, dead and bloated though he may be. Perhaps he’s really some other kind of spirit waiting to be unleashed.”

The Artist chimes in, “I think it should be one of these ‘This is What I Learned from the Swamp’ nonfiction, how-to books. Maybe it could be a reality show.”

In an attempt to improve my situation, I tied a rock to the dead possum, threw him overboard, and he sank. However, this morning he has mysteriously reappeared, and is worse than before. In a brief moment of sick humor, I declare, “He has risen to the occasion!”

I’m looking for a way out of the swamp, but I hate to learn by trial and error. Lacking a map or paper and pencil to document my movements through the swamp (only for the purpose of not going round in circles or going down the same dead-end channels) I’ll have to rely on my memory and keen observation. It’s a matter of public record, here in my office, that my memory skills are lacking, so sheer determination and stubbornness will have to get me out of here.

The Reporter is looking for headlines. “Return of the Zombie Possum” or “The Possum Also Rises.” He’s been smelling too much newspaper ink.

It’s a wonder the rock didn’t tip the boat itself, but since the possum returned I’m figuring it wasn’t a large enough rock. But you can only use what the swamp provides, and the swamp ain’t providing much that’s useful or helpful.

The Reporter continues. “You never know what the possum might have brought up from the murky depths of the swamp.”

“Check under the boat.” The Artist is offering advice for my predicament. “The rope you tied to the possum is probably caught on your propeller. By the way, that’s probably why you aren’t getting anywhere! It’s usually the things we do that hinder us most.” In a moment of judgment or perhaps insight, she continues, “But Jean, it’s probably something YOU put there!”

The Reporter adds his bit. “Sounds like you need the latest copy of the ‘Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook.’ If only some kind soul would airlift one to you. Going by memory is difficult, since all the trees look alike after a while.” He offers little real help.

“It reminds me of a scene from The Muppet Movie,” The Reporter reminisces, “where Dom DeLuise is lost in the swamp and finds Kermit sitting on a log playing the banjo,” For The Reporter all life events can be found in an old Muppet movie.

“I’ve lost my sense of direction,” says Dom.

“Have you tried Hare Krishna?” asks Kermit.

I don’t get it; perhaps I’m too old.

I find it totally ironic at this point that the ongoing subject line of our email conversations is “Airplane Tickets to Iowa.”

Duh — I went to the boat dock instead of the airport.

That explains everything.

Until next Tuesday . . .

 

 

Swamp Crossing

Quote of the week:  I am here today to cross the swamp, not to fight all the alligators.

I don’t know who said it — and it doesn’t matter. I found it in my most recent read:  The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

Crossing the swamp is about getting from Point A to Point B. The journey is from where you are now to some new place — a place you think and dream about. Perhaps it’s a place that only exists in the Kingdom of Wishful Thinking. Perhaps it’s a place that seems achievable for other people but not for you. Only you know what your Point B is.  For me, it’s getting my memoir published and playing my second annual piano recital in April.

A swamp lies between Point A and Point B, but the swamp is not the problem. The real problem is the alligators in the swamp. Alligators. ALLIGATORS. ALLIGATORS!! They are all those things that make your journey to Point B impossible. They are your excuses for not attempting to cross the swamp. We say to ourselves, “I can’t cross the swamp until it is totally devoid of alligators.” Translation:  everything in my life has to be perfect and in order before I can begin the journey.

I’ve named a few of my alligators; you might do the same:

  • Messy Desk
  • Dirty Bathrooms
  • Company’s Coming
  • Personal Incompetence
  • No Time
  • Need A. Nap
  • After I Get Organized

We work, or play, at eliminating the alligators. We get rid of one only to discover others are eager to take its place. You know how it goes. We just can’t seem to get ahead of the alligators.

Here’s the question: Do you really want to get to Point B? Really.  Really!

If your answer is yes, then you have to find a way to get there in spite of the alligators. Recognize them for what they are — excuses — and take the first step of your journey.

Here are some scenarios you might consider:

  • “Alligators, I’m building a wall across the swamp. Your territory is the left side of the wall. I claim the right side of the swamp for myself.”
  • “Alligators, keep your swamp.  I’m building a bridge above the swamp, a bridge too high for you to reach.”
  • “Alligators, I’m walking across your backs, like stepping stones, while you’re sleeping.”
  • “Alligators, the best feeding grounds are the nearby swamp. Follow me and I’ll show you how to get there.”

You have a choice. You can stand on the bank, wishing you could cross the swamp, but you’re too afraid to move. Or, you can take charge of your own swamp crossing and find a way to get to the other side — in spite of the alligators.

Until next Tuesday . . .