I visited the pool from my childhood this summer, and as we walked in, a smile burst across my face when I saw it; the high dive. They don’t build them like this any more. I was flooded with memories of trying new dives with childhood friends, sitting on the side of the pool until we caught our breath, only to walk up the stairs and courageously try again. It was more than silly kid fun; it was overcoming fears with a spirit of excellence. We did it together. It was absolutely awesome.
As I played with my children in the shallow end, I kept looking at the high dive, and it seemed to be looking at me too. “Hello, old friend. I’m still the same. I’m just as fun as I used to be … Are you?” As a mom of three little kids, it was an intriguing question.
I continued playing in the shallow end, but on that second night before going to sleep, I retraced the steps to the one and a half in my mind. The bounce, the flip, the landing. I could feel the splash. I could taste the chlorine. My blood rushed as I wondered if I could still do it. A one and a half off a low board is not as complicated, but off a high dive, when you are flipping and falling fast, it is a big deal. The stakes of landing right are as high as the board.
“I’m going to do it,” I told my dad. It had been about twenty years since I stood on the high dive. I asked my sister to video it and she agreed. I didn’t walk to the edge to size it up or talk to any onlookers. I knew what to do. My heart was beating so hard and I could feel the adrenaline as I climbed those familiar stairs and stood at the back of the board looking out. Ready. Set. Go. I could hardly believe it, but…I nailed it. My dad was watching from the shallow end cheering with fist pumps and holding my children. It was so exhilarating and liberating to know that this older body can still do it. I was beyond elated!
I wanted to share the video with my childhood friends and on Facebook to give other moms and “older” people the “me too” that says “you’ve still got it” and “you’re still fun!” It was a reminder to me that as a grown up, I don’t have to always sit by the pool with dry hair, but can show my children that I too have dreams and challenges and a desire to overcome fear with a spirit of excellence.
I watched the video, and my sweet sister had flipped the camera as I flipped. It didn’t take. I was crushed. I decided to do it again and asked my mom to video it. She did. I nailed it again. But, she was talking with the lifeguard and the video didn’t take exactly as I wanted. Did it capture the flip? Yes. Did it communicate the “me too”? Yes. But, in that moment, pride snuck in my heart. My desire to share shifted to a desire for approval. And the video wasn’t quite perfect enough to meet that desire.
I returned to the high dive again, and as I entered the water, I heard a loud crack. My pony tail holder not only came out, it shattered. I felt a little fuzzy and a little sore, but didn’t think much about it. Two days later, the headache lingered. It hurt to think. It hurt to touch my head. It just hurt.
Worried about my brain and wondering if I needed to see a doctor, I called a good friend who is a neurosurgeon. “You have a concussion.” he said firmly. “It’s like you’ve been in a car accident.” Oh dear! He told me nothing would make it go away but time. I could not exercise and needed to rest. A concussion in the 100+ degree Alabama heat when my brain was needed for the mental gymnastics of back-to-school was awful. God had my attention.
And He spoke to me in a book recommended by that neurosurgeon. During our conversation about my head, he (also a father of littles) happened to recommend a book for my children, “You Are Special” by Max Lucado. I got it for my kids, and while reading it, realized it was for me.
The story is about wooden people who live in a land where they give each other stickers for everything. They get stars for good looks, successes, accomplishments, etc. and dots for bad looks, mess ups, mistakes, etc. Punchinello, who is unattractive and clumsy, is covered in dots and very sad. Then, he meets a girl who has no dots or stars and asks her why. She tells him that she spends time each day with Eli, the woodworker (their Maker) and lets Him inform her who she really is. Getting to know Him made her stickers fall off. Punchinello goes to meet Eli who delights in Him and tells him the secret about the dots and stars; they only stick if you let them.
What a brilliant book! I felt like God was very protectively and kindly whispering through my pounding head, “when you look for those stars to stick, you’re going to get hurt.” He has brought me so far in not letting the dots stick. Countless dots have fallen off since I met Jesus, and I will never stop singing His praises for that. But the stars. Oh, how I love the stars! Oh, how I can stick them on others too. Oh, how I desired stars in capturing the high dive flip on film in the perfect way. The flip wasn’t the problem; it was doing it the third time. It was the heart seeking stars from others that led to seeing stars through my injured head.
Will I continue to struggle with this? Yes. Will God continue to help me overcome it? Yes. Every day, He will. The high dive was a gracious, painful, powerful and (in hindsight) humorous reminder that the One who made the stars…counts me as one of them. No stickers needed.