Waterskiing

But in these unprecedented times, we are offered the unprecedented opportunity:

To rise to the occasion.
To tackle challenges rather than sit safely on the sidelines.
To find our voices and declare, ‘I want to be here and do the thing that needs to be done.‘”

stacie odeneal

Stacie Odeneal
The Odeneal Law Firm

I refer to my three children as “pirates”.  Because they love to ride on boats.  They talk funny.  And they occasionally steal things. 

Hopefully the part where they steal stuff will pass.  Hopefully the part where they love boats will not.  We live in the wrong part of the world to do much about the part where they talk funny. 

My youngest pirate is five years old.   She has spent the bulk of her hand full of summer months collecting sunshine in the back of my 1999 Mastercraft ski boat that we bought to accommodate a bigger pirate crew when she and her brother joined us from foster care. 

For the past three years, I have dutifully asked her if she would like to waterski, like me, and her older sister.  For the past three years, she has dutifully responded, “No! Leave me alone!” promptly returning to her perch in the stern to collect more sunshine. 

This year, ski season began the same as each one before.  I found a place where the water suited me, put the boat in neutral and began to prepare to ski.  Like we’ve done a dozen times, I zipped my life jacket as the youngest pirate pulled my skis from the boat floor.  Like we’ve done a dozen times, she unraveled the ski rope as I fastened my gloves.  Like we’ve done a dozen times, she hung the rope from the ski tower as I said, “You wanna ski next?”

But this year, unlike all the other years, she was ready to rise to the challenge.

This year, for the first time, the impossible task of walking on water felt preferable to sitting safely on the sidelines.

This year, for the first time, she said, “I wanna ski.”

Even when it was scary; 
Even when she was ill-prepared; 
Even when history had prepared her to say no, one more time; 
She decided to take action.   

When her turn came, she tightened her life jacket, grabbed the ski rope, and fell backwards into the river tied to a set of combo skis.  I held my breath half hoping/half expecting her to pop up in a remarkable act of beginner’s luck. 

But rather than skimming gracefully across the water, she immediately popped over the front of the skis, face planted, and then drug, like a 40-pound spinner bait, just inches below the surface as I hollered, “Let go of the rope!” and “Stop the boat!” in panicky rotation. 

I tried to find the perfect cliché to both comfort and reassure her in the face of  a colossal and nearly fatal failure.  When I asked her if she wanted a break, she climbed up on the ski deck and looked at me.  

Not with panic.  Not with fear.  Not with an air of defeat. 

With a broad grin. 

“I did good, didn’t I, Mama?”

My response was anything but cliché: “You sure did, sis!”

Because she did good.  Despite having met no subjective indication of “waterskiing,” her day was an overwhelming success.

It takes an incredible amount of fortitude to say “yes” when the habit of “no” is far more familiar.

It takes a unquenchable hope to claim the power of “what if” instead of sitting quietly in the comfort of “I won’t.”

It takes a bold courage to jump into the unknown depths with only the dream of being able to stand up while the world around you is going in other directions.

And she did it. 
And you do it. 
And we need you to do it some more. 

We are living in unprecedented times, where every current of our world seems to swirl and push against our ability and need to navigate, to rise above. 

But in unprecedented times, we are offered unprecedented opportunity:  

To rise to the occasion. 
To tackle the challenge rather than sit safely on the sidelines. 
To find our voices and declare, “I want to be here and do the thing that needs to be done.”

Even if it is scary.  Even if we are ill-prepared.  Even when it feels more familiar to let someone else do the hard stuff.

You can do it.  And we need you to do it some more. 

Because when you find the fortitude to fling yourself from everything you know to be safe, with only the dream of standing up while the world around you is going in other directions, know you have a lot of courage about you.  You are brave, you are hopeful, and we need you to show us it can be done.

But also don’t be afraid to let go when you’re drowning.

Feel free to take a break when you need it.

And don’t forget to remember to remind yourself, “I did good, didn’t I!”

Because you absolutely did.  

Even if it doesn’t feel like a success, know you have done the hardest thing necessary to see the best and highest we can ever hope from you, or that you can ever expect from yourself: 

You said yes when you could’ve said no. 
You jumped in. 
And you tried.  

So the next time won’t be quite as scary, because you are already more prepared, and have begun practicing saying yes. 

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