Updated: May 28, 2021
Musical Memoir You Say by Lauren Daigle
“There is no greater power and support you can give someone than to look them in the eye, and with sincerity and conviction say, I believe in you.”
The long weekend brings back oodles and oodles of wonderful memories. The always anticipated opening of the cottage on Sturgeon Lake in Fenelon Falls took place on this weekend rain or shine. The start of what always promised to be a summer of joy, laughter, long walks, time spent with family, and treasured moments were all wrapped up in a beautiful gift box labelled "May Long Weekend." Together with grandparents, cousins, parents, and a beloved Aunt and Uncle we would begin unwrapping this gift by putting in the weathered dock, wrangling the always unbalanced boat lifts, jumping in the crisp lake, a bonfire, and always plenty of food. It was here under the roof of a cottage my grandfather built, gazing out the over sized picture window across Sturgeon Lake that I learned a life lesson and value that I continue to hold dear - the value of what it means to believe in someone. More importantly the value of having a champion who believes in you.
I was eight years old and had heard time and time again, stories passed down from one generation to the next about the largest fish caught, the first to swim under the falls, the first to jump off the cliffs into Fenelon river and the youngest to swim across the lake. The names of those who held these titles were esteemed as legends when their stories were told over the orange glow of nightly bonfires.
I remember one evening while sitting in contemplation, roasting marshmallows pondering to myself what it might take to dethrone one of these legends. I was young, naive, and bold when I blurted out across the flames to my father, "I want to swim across the lake and beat the record of Nancy Davies." Nancy swam the three kilometre trek at age 11 and I was determined I would bump her out by completing it at age 9. I should have known at this stage of the game that declaring anything out loud in my family was a commitment one could not back down from. If you uttered the words out loud, you better be prepared to follow through. (For any of you who know me well, this life lesson is one I am still working on - learning to keep my mouth shut.)
A three-kilometre swim across a lake should never be done alone (especially if you are nine). My adventure would require an adult to accompany me so my dad would have to paddle the fishing boat beside me in the event I needed saving. My commitment meant his commitment as well and he had no interest in venturing out unless he knew I would succeed.
As he always does, he created a plan. He made a "training schedule" with incremental goals for me to accomplish. Swimming back and forth to Davies dock (yes the cottage of the girl I was intent on dethroning) was a daily chore. When I was able to complete 10 laps without pause, my father said I would be ready. Begrudgingly I proceeded to train every day. My dad would supervise while casting a line or sitting in a lawn chair. The number of times I hopped out of the water saying, "There, I did it," only to be told, "No you aren’t strong enough, your stroke is weak and your breathing isn't consistent" are far too many to remember.
The day finally came when I hopped out of the water to declare I was ready that my father nodded his head in agreement, "Yes you are ready."
I remember the day being grey and the waves being higher than I had hoped. It didn't matter what the weather conditions were, I had made a commitment and I would be forced to follow through. My mom accompanied my dad in the aluminum fishing boat as they travelled alongside me to witness the journey and rescue me should I need saving. I was a strong swimmer and I firmly believed I would conquer the goal ahead of me.
A couple of hours into the journey I got a stitch (you know that pain in your side that is your body's cue to consider stopping whatever you are doing to let your body recover) - ya that pain. I looked ahead of me and the other side seemed much further than I originally thought. "I don't think I can do it," I uttered as the waves lapped over me. His response, "Keep swimming." I continued to swim reminding myself that our bodies are designed to push through the pain but the stitch only intensified. With tears in my eyes, I begged my dad to let me in the boat. He denied me. Torn between heartache that I wasn't going to succeed, the pain in my side, and my tired aching muscles I was distraught to think my rescue team was turning their back on me. Did he not understand? The journey was over. I had failed. It was time to rescue me.
I continued to swim as the anger and disappointment flooded over me like the waves that were crashing against my exhausted body. I could hear my mom demanding that my father let me in the boat. (She is the compassionate, nurturing, rescue team everyone wants in their corner in a crisis and in my mind THIS was a crisis.) Surely he would come to his senses and pull me out of the water, but he didn't.
With every stroke I questioned myself. "You were silly to think you could do this," "You should have trained harder," "Who do you think you are trying to dethrone a legend," "You aren't strong enough," "Next time don't be so bold," "Better yet, don't plan for the next time - don't ever declare out loud that you can do something big, brave or bold, because you can't."
I was defeated and heartbroken and I knew I would never set my sights on attaining such a ridiculous goal again. Dreaming big only led to disappointment and I needed to accept that reality. "Stand up," he said. I could hear my father's voice but I was wallowing in self-pity and defeat focused on the rhythm of my stroke. Tears streaming down my face I saw him standing in the boat motioning to me. I lifted my head in preparation to tread water and pause long enough to listen to what I expected would be an echo of my voice. "You were silly to think you could do this," "You should have trained harder," "Who do you think you are trying to dethrone a legend," "You aren't strong enough," "Next time don't be so bold." But as I listened to the voice in the distance and dropped my legs below me, I felt the rocky bottom on my toes. "Stand up," he shouted and as I did I could see clearly that his tears of joy paralleled mine. "You did it," "Way to go kiddo," "Congratulations." I was standing on the other side. The side I thought I would never reach. The side of the lake that had I acted on my convictions, pain, and desire to give up, I never would have reached. "Proud of you kid," I could hear in the distance.
My fathers' words of confidence and praise continue to ring loud and clear. At every crossroads in my life when I have stopped believing in myself, I hear his voice. When the goal seems too grand or the training schedule too demanding and the voice of doubt steps into my mind, I remember his belief in me. Having someone in my life that knows me better than I know myself, that believes in my abilities more than I do and that is willing to push me beyond my limits even when it is uncomfortable is a gift. "Stand up," he says as I push my shoulders back, breath deep and stand tall. He knows me better than I know myself and I will forever be grateful.
My beloved cousin's David, Erin and Jamie at the cottage with their black lab Seamus. The weathered dock, aluminum boat that accompanied me on my swim and the never balanced boat lift in the background. *Note - none of my beloved cousins dethroned me from my legendary title - youngest to swim the lake - just sayin'.