My partner and I spent last week in Key West. If you like lazy days, galleries with painted driftwood and water sports, you can’t do better than the Florida keys. We took a day to go snorkeling and though I’ve been several times before, this is the first time I wore a snorkeling vest.
The vest is lightweight, thin and only becomes a flotation device if air is blown into a valve attached at the front. A vest had always appeared more an encumbrance than aid in the water, but since I was going to be snorkeling without the use of my left arm on this trip, I figured it would be wise to have a safety device at hand. The fellow leading the trip recommended filling the vest with one lungful of air, just enough to give the vest a little buoyancy. He explained that if someone got into difficulty, either they or a friend could blow into the valve to add more air, making the vest the equivalent of a life jacket.
I dutifully exhaled into the valve making the vest as puffy as a very thin pillow. The day of snorkeling was great, definitely a highlight of the trip. The lungful of air in the vest was surprisingly helpful. I thought it would be more like a placebo and not a true aid in flotation, but it did help me maintain my balance hampered as I was in having to hold my arm against my side. I’m sure my doctor would have been alarmed to know I was out of the sling, but other than some additional soreness that evening, no ill effects from the activity.
Back home this week, I returned to a workload that had remained essentially untouched during vacation. Between long hours back at the office and the natural letdown of vacation’s end, it’s been a struggle not to fall into a state of gloom, become enmeshed in melancholy. I firmly believe that we each, individually, hold the primary responsibility for our happiness. I am responsible for my state of mind. It’s up to me to keep myself afloat. But I’ve been appreciating friendship this week more than most, felt the need for it more keenly.
An email from a friend, the first Christmas card arriving in the mail, it’s like that little puff of air in the snorkeler’s vest. Those expressions of friendship are aids. They lend buoyancy to my day, to my life. They assist in maintaining balance, provide a respite, let me float a little longer. I’m not doing all the work on my own.
Friendship is a source of strength and of happiness. Hardly a revolutionary statement. But just like I’d never worn a vest while snorkeling, always relying on my own swimming skills, I’ve always been leery of looking externally for strength and happiness. What I’m realizing though, is that in a real friendship, you’re giving those same qualities as much as receiving them. It’s symbiotic, a mutually enriching exchange. Friendship is oxygen. Every expression is a puff of air.