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How do we navigate this?!?

Updated: Jul 4, 2022

It amazes me how quickly life-altering challenges can present themselves. Imagine you are a long-distance marathon runner, taking steady strides, gracefully making progress towards the goal line. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. You can see the goal line in the distance. Life feels great. Then suddenly, in the very next step, it is no longer concrete beneath your feet, but instead quicksand, and this quicksand feels like it is trying to swallow you whole. The marathon continues, and runners are rushing by, but you are stopped, unable to move forward. The goal that felt so close only a short while ago, begins to feel completely out of reach.

Sometimes, life can feel that way. Losing a loved one, divorce or relationship issues, battling illness, sudden career changes, or even simply raising children – these pits of quicksand in our path can easily stop us in our tracks. And the hardest part is that many times the quicksand blends in so well with the concrete that it is impossible to see it coming. It is just there, and we don’t realize it until both feet are sunken in. Much of life is that way. We are dealt sudden tragedies or stressors that can make us feel stuck, much the same of sinking into quicksand.

When someone steps in quicksand, their weight is what causes them to sink, and unfortunately for some of us, the burdens we carry can be quite heavy. It is also a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning its viscosity changes under stress. If you panic and frantically try to remove yourself from the quicksand, the rapid shifting of your weight will only suck you down deeper and faster. Quicksand also becomes thicker over time. If you take no action, it will be harder for you to remove yourself as time goes on. It is easy to see the similarities between quicksand and the burdens of life, because in times of duress, if I choose to panic or if I do nothing at all, the situation usually becomes much worse.

The good news is that it is nearly impossible for a person immersed in quicksand to be drawn completely under. Experts say that the best way to remove yourself from quicksand is to simply remove any heavy items you are carrying, make slow movements, bring yourself to the surface, and just lie back allowing yourself to float on the surface. So how do we unload our heavy burdens, make slow progress, heal our authentic emotions, and lie back allowing ourselves to take it easy during our own times of struggle? I didn’t understand how to answer that question until I attended Discovery in Austin, Texas eight years ago.

The Discovery program gave me the tools to acknowledge when I was stuck, identify and offload heavy burdens that were no longer necessary for me to carry, and make slow shifts towards healthier habits and changes in my attitude. Immediately my general outlook improved, positivity increased, I was able to truly define and stand strong in my own authenticity, take action on what I could control, and let go of what I could not. Essentially, Discovery armed me with the tools so I could free myself from the quicksand that had kept me stuck for quite some time.

That isn’t to say that life remains perfect. Life still happens, and problems still arise. In the last two years I have faced unexpected brain surgery, cancer, sepsis, a total hysterectomy at 42, my children moving away from the nest, closing a business that was my dream due to illness, a subsequent career change, and the sudden loss of my nineteen-year-old nephew. All the while facing the isolation of the pandemic along with the rest of the world. I look back on the words I just wrote, and I realize that is A LOT of quicksand. And I will be honest, there were some moments where I wanted to just be sucked under. The weight of the quicksand felt so heavy and escaping truly seemed unachievable. Fortunately, I have a great community of family and friends around me who have also been through Discovery. They saw me sinking and encouraged me to break out the tool kit and use the tools Discovery gave me. And each and every time I took action, I was able to free myself from the quicksand.

I’m still here. The sun is still shining. The birds are still chirping, and I am running down the concrete again, enjoying this marathon we call life. The path behind me is a little curvy. The path in front of me a little bumpy. My goal line has changed some. And I definitely watch where I run a little closer. But sometimes I close my eyes for a moment and just run, enjoying the moment, allowing my feet to fall where they may with confidence that should I find myself stuck again, all is not lost. It is only temporary. And when I’m ready, I have the power and knowledge to free myself. I thank Discovery for teaching me that.

- Natalie Johns

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