No Lifeguard On Duty

  • Reading time:20 mins read

Getting through difficult seasons can be quite daunting. And on the other hand, we all have those seasons when we feel on top of the world. We’ve talked to God about some stuff. He has answered and given us clear direction on how to proceed with our purpose. Then, suddenly, we’re knocked off of our feet with uncertainty, fear, and left with a big question mark. Baffled by the fact, we’ve forgotten God’s promises again. These difficult seasons can be overwhelming and appear to be never-ending. You’re right! It is, especially when we get entangled with emotions and past failures that we can’t get ourselves out of. But, we forgot to read the sign. “No Lifeguard On Duty.” Swim at your own risks. 

No lifeguard on duty, swim at your risk is all too familiar to me. 

My mother was convinced that all of her children needed to know how to swim. So every summer, my mother was committed to getting her children swimming lessons trained. It was an easy task because all of my siblings are about 1 or 2 years a part in age. 

So my mother starts with my two eldest brothers, my two younger sisters. Then me. I’m a middle child. My other siblings learned how to swim the first summer they enrolled. Ditto, for my younger two sisters. In short, I never learned after 3 summers, and one of those summers, I had lessons twice. I hated the water because of all the nasty things that went on such as spitting, peeing, and snotting in the water. 

Bless my momma’s heart. She tried. However, the next summer I balked at learning how to swim. I just couldn’t get the concept of swimming with my face in the water, my body straight, my hands stacked and keeping my arms and legs together. And whatever else.

You see, I’m clueless. 

Nonetheless, I promised my mom. If she didn’t make me learn how to swim, I would always be careful around water and wouldn’t do anything stupid. 

Until one day, a group of children in my neighborhood (swimmers), decided to meet up at the pool. 

Everyone was having fun and going down the slides and jumping off the diving board. Suddenly, someone yelled out “water fight.” They started toward the middle of the pool splashing water in every direction, even mine. 

I watched with excitement and full of tickles because my eldest brother started it and the crowd of splashers surrounded him and splashed away. 

I looked on and chuckled at the sight of their fun. Soon, I was asked to join the fun. I was skeptical at first. But the encouragement was so overwhelming; I took the chance. I joined the crowd of splashers. 

We splashed away. 

The next thing I knew. I was in water over my head. I couldn’t feel the pool surface under my feet. 

My neighborhood friends were still playing as I was trying to hold on to them. Some yelled. “Quit holding on to me. Stop playing. Let go.” I was pushed away and found myself underwater battling for my life. 

As I was underwater, I saw their legs kicking and moving, but I couldn’t get to anyone. 

I was so afraid. I knew I was drowning. Crying!

Fortunately, it seemed like a lifetime. Thank God! One of the guys in our neighborhood saw me in distress and came over to rescue me.

All I could think of was…”How am I going to tell my momma I almost drowned?” 

Moreover, how was I going to tell my mother there were lifeguards on duty?

No Lifeguard on Duty Swim at your own risk

Whew! After all that excitement, I went to the concession area and sat down at the tables to wait patiently for my brothers and sisters to finish. 

They occasionally came over to check on me to make sure I was okay. Then, they went back to the pool for more fun. 

Upon getting home, I didn’t get the opportunity to tell my mother about the incident that happened at the pool. My siblings beat me to it. 

My mother looked at me and said, “Valerie, did I tell you there were no lifeguards on duty. You would be swimming at your own risk?”

Fearful! Standing there looking at my mother.

My other brothers and sisters were trying to persuade our mom that it was other lifeguards were on duty. 

She was well aware of lifeguards being on duty. However, her analogy was much deeper. 

Consequently, as we all sat down on the floor after her stern command. She said “I know good-and-well there was a lifeguard on duty. But I told your sister. She needed to learn to swim for her own sake because none of you can expect or hope that people are going to accidentally help you out of the situations you get yourself into. You have to be equipped to do things for yourselves.” 

Besides, what if she had drowned? 

She made a decision that could have cost her her life. You all have been told not to allow other people to put you in positions you are not equipped to handle or you’ve been skilled to do. 

You have to learn to say NO! 

After her sermon, because it was long, she dismissed my other siblings and asked me to stay. 

Oh boy! Here goes. 

My mother asked me one question. “Valerie, what did you learn from this?” 

I wrote my own script that day; Mom, I could have lost my life.


If you didn’t know, now you know why I don’t get in the water or I’m very careful about being around a large body of water. It literally takes my breath away. 

Now to you that are taking matters into your hands and allowing others to persuade you into making decisions that are costing you big emotional dividends. You have to say no to all situations that are not making you happy and emotionally draining you. In addition, if you are in a relationship or around people that are pushing you to do things that you don’t want to do, you are probably not expressing yourself clearly enough. 

If that’s the case, don’t hesitate or display your hesitation about making decisions that work best for you. It never fails. Once you display nervousness or having second thoughts about the decision you’ve made, it’ll be interpreted as wavering–being doubt-minded.

In all honesty, you’re drifting away from what you truly believe to be safe for you. 

On the other hand, if you genuinely don’t want to do something but people are pushing you to do it, then, it is up to you to make yourself clear about where you stand. Use the opportunity to be matter-of-fact about where you stand and remain firm. 

Furthermore, when you start with the simple no-nos, you won’t have trouble dealing with the bigger no-nos. If you have experienced saying no to bigger things. They will come. Think about this…

As a matter of fact, if you’re being asked to do something that going to benefit you, it is still your responsibility to ask all the right questions because you don’t it’s still a drowning situation. Keep in mind. Everybody is not willing to let you drown. In all honesty, most people are surrounded by their own agenda and what feels good to them. 

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The question is. Are you willing to set those same boundaries for your own agenda to be accomplished? 

Today, my mother’s advice still holds true. Say no! Be clear about your No. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. And remember, it’s not the end of the world. 

My near-death experience gave me a new way of looking at things, people, situations, the list is endless. 

As a result, not saying NO changed my life forever. 

That one situation changed my life forever. I evaluate every situation as though there is no lifeguard on duty. I’m well aware of the decisions I make. I’ve chosen to swim at my own risk. 

Subsequently, I still haven’t learned to swim nor do I desire to learn. However, when it comes to saying NO to situations and compromising my integrity. I do it with no hesitation. 

In conclusion, the decisions we make in our relationships can also cost us our lives. Especially, when we allow others to manipulate what we know to be true and what we’ve been taught. Saying no is not something many people can do and really mean it. But many have also died because they compromised themselves at the benefit of someone else’s happiness. They decided to swim with no lifeguard on duty. 

PTSD Workbook

Say No to painful relationships that keep you guessing. 

These are the most painful relationships to be a part of because you never know what version that person is going to be from one day to the next. You find yourself being on pins and needles each day trying to work through their emotions while leaving yourself and emotions behind. They’ll be completely loving one day and the next you’ll be wondering what you’ve done to upset them. When this happens, you will find yourself making excuses for them or doing everything you can to make them happy. The efforts become cumbersome. 

When you notice someone does something toxic the first time, don’t wait for the second time before you address it or cut them off. Valerie Tatum

Say No to manipulation.

These people have a way of sending out vibes that you owe them something. They also have a way of taking from you or doing something that hurts you. Then, maintaining they were doing it for you the entire time. The lies they tell. Also, you can’t allow people to manipulate you into doing things that are not going to bring you fruit or goodwill. (You know I learned that the hard way when I almost drowned.) But, confidently know you don’t owe anyone anything. Something to remember–If your relationships don’t feel mutual and comfortable, this is a sure sign that someone is being manipulated. 

violence and maltreatment

“As I was growing up, no one in my family got their needs met through respectful negotiation and compromise.” ― Olga Trujillo

Say No to proving yourself to them.

When you find yourself proving yourself to someone over and over again, you’re putting yourself into a position where you have to choose between them and something else – and when this happens, you’ll always feel obliged to choose them. For example, these people will wait until you have a commitment. Then, they’ll turn your life upside down with drama. They’ll say, ‘If you really cared about me you’d skip what you have to do and spend time with me. The problem is–it will never be enough. You’ll always have to prove to them who you are. 

“I have to remember it is not love that has hurt me; but someone who could not love me in the right way.” ― R. YS Perez

Say No to never apologize. 

Some people refuse to apologize. They’ll twist the story to always make you believe it’s you. And you’ll be the one always returning to make it right. 

They’ll never apologize even when they are wrong. And feel like you need an apology to move forward. They also don’t believe apologies are important in their relationships. As for you, learn how to move forward – without them. However, don’t surrender your truth. Some people want to be right more than they want to be happy and that’s okay because you have better things to do. Your destiny is calling you. 

“… to be in any sort of relationship where you do not express yourself, simply to keep the peace, is a relationship ruled by one person and will never be balanced or healthy.” ― Bronnie Ware

safe people relationships

Say no to never ever sharing your joy.

They’ll find reasons your great news isn’t so great news. The classics: You get a promotion – ‘The money isn’t that great for the amount of work you’ll be doing.’ A holiday – ‘the weather is going to be great for shorts and swimming’ It’s going to be too hot; let us not go there. Do you get the idea? It will always be a reason or negative response to why it can’t happen. Don’t let them dampen or shrink you down to their size. You don’t need their approval anyway – or anyone else’s for that matter. Take your joy somewhere else. 

“It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” – Nicholas Sparks

Say no to exaggeration.

They’ll use words such as ‘You always … ‘You never …’ It’s hard to defend yourself against this form of manipulation. They will always have a way of focusing on the one time you didn’t or the one time you did as evidence of your shortcomings. Don’t buy into the exaggeration. You won’t win. It will be a continuous conversation that will keep you going around in circles saying nothing. It’s kinda like the dog that chases its tail. Every once in a while the dog catches its tail, but eventually, lets it go because it is too painful to hold on to.

“Honesty is the key to Trust; Trust is the door to healthy relationships.” ― J.R. Ince

stepping off relationships

Say not to judgmental criticism

It’s a fact! We all get it wrong sometimes, but judgmental people will make sure you know it. They’ll judge you and beat up your self-esteem every chance they get, suggesting that you’re less than who you are because you made a mistake. You’ll always be judged by much stricter standards. In short, you’ll never get it right or the praise you’re seeking. 

Finally, if you know the characteristics and signs of people that are surrounding you. Don’t tie yourself in double knots trying to please them. Some people can’t be pleased and some people won’t be good for you. We sometimes hurt because they don’t fit, but we have to realize there is no lifeguard on duty. We are swimming at our own risk. Taking matters into our own hands. 

“Real forgiveness in close relationships is never easy. It can’t be rushed or engineered.” ― Sharon Salzberg

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