I was lying on my top bunk at summer camp in 1985. There were ten of us on five bunk beds formed into a circle inside a large teepee that was likely built by several 20-somethings from the city that had been hired for the summer. The bunks were old, rusted out metal with small white and blue striped mattresses each atop a wire coil frame. There was a fire going in the middle, its smoke billowing out the top of the teepee after swirling around inside. Colleen, the girl in the top bunk beside me, was banging her head against the metal frame and calling herself a head-banger. Jill was lying below me, her arm in a sling from a fall yesterday on our long hike. The rest of the girls are lost outside my memory, in the blur of adolescent girlhood where nothing matters but where you think you stand in the social circle. We had all just changed into our pajamas, inside our sleeping bags for fear of being seen by the other girls; a skill one learns quickly at summer camp. No one was speaking. It was too dark to read and too early to be asleep so we were all just laying there, absorbed in our own thoughts. Most of the time I thought about candy and how much I missed it, wondering what I would eat first when I got home. I thought of home of course and wondered what everyone else was doing but I didn’t really care as I was here and they were there.
Prayer to me at this time was a quick and desperate plea to get what I want. ‘Oh, please,’ started every prayer I made. My life was great so I didn’t feel the need to pray to end suffering. We had more than enough food, I was good in school, my parents adored me – there was nothing to want. I didn’t feel any global responsibility to pray for those suffering in other parts of the world, I was focused on my own ‘needs’ as they related to sports and boys. Lying there in my bunk, I started praying about getting into a swim club that fall. I wanted to swim more than anything. I was obsessed with it, like I would die if I couldn’t do it. The 1984 Olympics had been very good for Canada and I adored Alex Baumann and Victor Davis. If I couldn’t swim, I wanted to be a diver like Sylvie Bernier (completely forgetting that I would never jump off something head first). I lay there begging God to do my bidding, ‘please get me on the swim team, I’ll do anything you want but I need to know BY TOMORROW’. Apparently at this point God had had enough of my demands so he stepped in.
I started having some trouble breathing. Not life-threatening trouble but enough to make life unpleasant and scary when you’re away from home and in the middle of nowhere, never mind that appearances were everything and there was NO WAY that anyone was going to find out I was struggling. The smoke was filling the teepee at this point and it was not agreeing with my lungs. I carefully turned myself in my bunk, away from the smoke. God began to speak to me, “my time is not your time. I love you and I will always look after you. Let it go.” I never thought about my prayers being time-sensitive before but of course they were. I was always asking for signs – signs that the boys I had a crush on liked me too, signs that I would win something, whatever struck me as important at the time. I pulled my sleeping bag over my mouth to help keep the smoke away and began to relax. I realized at that moment that I had been living my life always looking ahead with anticipation to the next thing, never enjoying the present. I rolled over towards the fire and, keeping my sleeping bag over my mouth and nose, watched it with wonder as the flame turned to smoke and swirled around and out into the starry night.
Written in response to today’s Daily Prompt.