61 - The Sea Inside

Submitted by Ken Watts on Wed, 04/04/2007 - 10:12
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Mazie was just finishing a delivery the next morning, when Julie came for another lesson. I was standing by the back door of the restaurant, checking off the deliveries on my clipboard, when she came around the corner of the building. She was clearly excited by something. She didn't even pause to say good morning.

"I've figured it out," she said. "I have to "taste" the right thing to do."

Mazie was rolling a dolly stacked with boxes of soft-drink syrup by me. I put out a hand to stop her.

"Is that cola?"

She checked it.

"Root beer."

"We only need cola."

She shrugged and wheeled it back to the truck.

Julie couldn't stand still.

"I have to taste the right thing. Am I right?"

I raised my eyebrows at her—I was getting good at that.

"What do you think?" I said.

Julie searched my eyes, then laughed.

"I'm right. I know it."

Mazie came back with the delivery form.

"So how do I do it?" Julie asked.

I waved her off.

"Just give me a minute, okay?"

I signed the form, took my copy, and thanked Mazie.

Julie was practically jumping out of her skin.

"How do I taste what's right?"

"Not like that. You have to calm down first."

I steered her over to an open step ladder I'd been using to clean out the rainspout.

"Sit."

She sat down, and tried to contain herself.

"Now close your eyes, and take a couple deep breaths. Let them out real slow."

She did.

"Feeling a little calmer?"

"Uh-huh."

"Okay. Now, tell me, where exactly is this problem?"

Her eyes popped open.

"What do you mean?"

"Where do you feel it? In your head? In your back?"

"Oh."

She closed her eyes again.

"It's—it's somewhere in my stomach. I think."

"Okay, in your stomach… now, what does it feel like?"

She giggled.

"This is stupid."

"Fine," I said. "I've got work to do."

"Okay, okay. I'll try."

She concentrated for a moment."It feels like, like—it's not in my stomach! It's in my throat! Like I can't breathe."

"Like there's no air," I said.

She shook her head violently.

"No. More like I'm holding my breath."

She became very still, and spoke in a whisper.

"Yeah," she said. "Wow."

I bent close to her.

"That feeling, like you're holding your breath, that's a wave, from the sea inside you."

"Really?"

"Really. Now ask the sea-ask it what that wave means."

"Well, I guess it means…"

"No! Don't guess. Ask. Ask all that water behind the wave. And wait. Wait for the answer."

"Okay, okay. Just give me a minute…"

She waited.

After a minute or two, she took in a short, startled breath.

"It's about… I'm suffocating… like someone's holding a pillow over my face, except it's really me, because I'm holding my own… Oh!"

She took a deep breath. When she let it out, her whole body seemed more relaxed.

She opened her eyes, and looked at me, surprised.

"The wave," I said. "That feeling you can't breathe. It changed, didn't it?"

She moved inward for a moment and then came back.

"How did you know?"

I shook my head.

"What did you hear?"

She considered.

"Do I have to tell you?"

The best thing to do at moments like this is relieve the pressure. When they know they don't have to tell you they usually do.

"Absolutely not," I said. "The important thing is to welcome whatever the sea tells you—even if you don't do anything about it."

"Welcome it?"

"Be grateful. Thank the sea for telling you. You don't have to do anything about it, but don't stop listening—understand?"

"I think so."

"Of course, you can tell someone-if you think it will help?"

She thought about it.

"I don't think I want to, right now."

I could handle that.

"Fine," I said. "No problem. I have work to do."

I left her there, lost in her newfound discovery.

The door only slammed because I was in such a hurry to get back to work.