Do you need rescuing from a cave?

Last week we were all holding our breath for the 12 boys and their football coach in Thailand who have been trapped in a cave for two weeks. It is thought they went on a fun outing, to celebrate one of the boy’s birthday. Their rescue operation is currently in progress.
This is every parent’s nightmare. Your kids head off for a bit of fun and the next thing you know, you are doubting your sanity. I remember the first time my son went to the shops on his bike on his own. The shops were only a mile away, but I swear I didn’t breathe until he came back. In his absence I already planned the funeral and how I was going to arrange my face as the grieving mother with dignity and not lose control, seeing as I am all spiritual, and supposed to be philosophical about these things. I know, I know, this is pathetic as he was nowhere near a cave and was only gone for 30 minutes but in my defence, he was going down a single-track country lane and it had blind corners.

The Thai boys and their coach were found by rescue divers last week, perched on a high ledge in the cave. What must they have gone through before the rescuers got there? How did they keep their spirits up? They must have been frightened out of their wits with no way of knowing if they were ever going to get out alive. The kids range in age from 11 to 17. My 18 year old would probably be too cool to panic and my 13 year old will still be pondering whether it is cool to panic or not but, after the first few hours, I think all thoughts of coolness will go out of the window as hunger, cold and tiredness set in and the kids just degenerate into being kids.

Children can sometimes withstand very traumatic situations unscathed because they lack the life experience to put on the ‘what if’ layers that grown-ups project onto situation. They can stay ‘in the moment’ and not panic, and that allows them to take one step at a time. They also have the ability to trust a grown up implicitly and allow him/her to take control of the situation. For grown-ups however, it is a different story.
Spare a thought for the poor coach who is trapped with the boys. He has already sent an apology to the parents of the kids. He is feeling the huge weight of responsibility of keeping those kids alive. He has to keep his wits about him (no luxury of panicking for him here) as well as protect the kids, all in the face of the uncertainty that they might not make it out alive; never mind the unpredictability of the kids’ behaviour.

So what would you do in a cave with other lives dependent on you when you couldn’t be sure you will ever be rescued?

• Will you just cut your losses and give up, as there is no point?
• When you are surrounded by screaming kids losing their heads and you are frightened yourself, what will be your default line of action?
• When you have done your best but there seems to be no end in sight, what do you do?
• When you are up against it and every negative thought you ever had is running through your mind telling you how pointless it all is, what will you do you?

There are some people who are of the ‘never give up’ persuasion and they keep going no matter what. They seem to thrive on adversity. I envy those people. I wish I was like them. My default setting is somewhere in the middle and I must work hard to keep my head up when the chips are down. I am a pragmatist and can quickly assess situations and render them hopeless when others hang on in there. Those people are sometimes referred to as dreamers, but are they? If by dreaming you get to stay alive, who is to say they are not onto something?

We all sometimes need to let go of the facts staring us in the face and just hope against hope. Sometimes when we think we have done all our analysis and are in possession of all the facts, we forget that our five senses are limited and there are things we don’t see or hear but still exist. I am not talking about the supernatural here, just normal frequencies and wavelengths that our five senses cannot perceive. That is why when we have done our best with our five senses, sometimes we just have to let go and just hang on in there, because we just cannot afford to give up.

After one week of the kids and their coach being in the cave without being found, they could have given up and started acting on their negative impulses. How were they to know that they would be found in week two? Now the world’s media and volunteers are camped at the mouth of the cave and all sorts of diving experts are there helping with their rescue. They will be celebrities when they come out. They have already spoken to the president of Thailand. I can already see the film, I wonder who will play the coach?

This case has parallels with the 33 Chilean miners in 2010 who were trapped 700 metres underground for some 69 days! Against all the odds, all 33 of them were winched to safety. They hung on in there when all seemed lost, desperate and pointless until help came. To the naysayers out there thinking help doesn’t always come, you are right; but it is never over until it is over. You must give yourself a chance to be rescued. There is no point in giving up before the rescuers get there because the fact is you really never know and in the absence of that certainty, you need to hang on in there.
Now, some of us might never go near a real cave in our lifetime but we are trapped in our own caves in our everyday life:

• The dead end job
• The abusive relationships
• The expensive lifestyle
• Keeping up appearances
• The bad eating habits
• The addiction
• Debt
• The illness

The list goes on. You know your own cave that you are trapped in. You might have tried several times to get out of the cave and perhaps you are perched on a ledge waiting for rescue. No matter how many times you have tried and not succeeded, you cannot afford to give up. It is never pointless to try and get out of your cave.

So long as you are fighting for a worthy cause (you), you cannot give up the fight of getting out of your cave. You just have to do your best, take one day at time, and not let your negative thoughts persuade you of the futility of the situation. Why? Because you are worth it.

You owe it yourself to hang on in there and keep trying until your rescuers come diving in or somewhere a drill is found that will drill down 700 metres to find you. Your daily efforts are not wasted, they keep you positive and focussed on the goal and stop you from having a downward spiral. I explain the need to be positive in my book: Octopus on Treadmill: Women, Success, Health, Happiness. Believe it or not, it is your efforts that keep you alive long enough for the rescuers to turn up.

So, whatever your cave is, keep up the good fight, you are doing great.