If you are a driven person, you’ll relate to this story I’m about to share. If you know someone who is (possibly) too driven for their own good, you’ll appreciate this story. Perhaps you’ll even want to share it with them. 

After two days of lying in bed, too sick to think, I wondered if salt water might help my sinuses. So, I got up, put on my swimsuit, and headed to the bay at Lewes beach in DE. My plan was to do some dolphin kicking for ten-to-fifteen minutes, and then go lay back down. 

Grateful to be outside, and in the water, I kicked along. Ten minutes later, I felt a soft seaweed graze my right thigh, and thought, “That’s weird, but whatever,” and kept right on going. It was a glorious day. 

Something Isn’t Right 

Then, my right thigh started to burn, and I realized that was not seaweed. Stopping, I looked around and saw a couple of people on paddle boards and kayaks. “Have you seen any jellyfish?” I asked. 

“No, nothing… and I’ve been out here for a while,” they said. 

It must have been a fluke—a stray jellyfish, I thought, and continued swimming back to where I had started. Though, clearly, something in me knew it wasn’t just a random jellyfish because I asked everyone I saw if they had seen any. 

“Nope, none,” they said. 

Ignoring the sting on my right thigh, I kept right along, enjoying the gentle movement and salt water. Then, I plowed face first into a mess of them. 

Shit! I screamed, inside my head, that’s my face! 

Pain Can Feel Like Quicksand 

Feeling stuck in a quicksand of jellyfish, my heart rate jumped up into the clouds lingering above, as I kicked and pulled as hard as I could to get away from them. So much for a gentle swim. 

Now, everything burned… especially my face, and I didn’t know what to do, or if waiting too long to address the sting might cause long term damage. (No judging… I cannot help the stories my brain makes up.) 

Finally, I made it to the lifeguards and EMT, who instructed me to sit at the edge of the water and rub sand all over the stings. 

“Seriously?” I asked 

“Yes, it’ll help,” they said. 

So, there I was sitting on a crowded beach bathing myself in mud as strangers watched on, clueless that I had just been stung. 

Look For The Humor 

Imagine the hilariousness of that moment for a second. 

Part of me wanted to use my booming voice to let everyone know why I was rubbing mud all over my body. Another part of me didn’t want to scare the shit out of them. And still another part of me enjoyed the humor of the stories I imagined they were making up…  

What kind of a spiritual ritual is she doing? 

A few minutes later, I was back with the lifeguards… “It didn’t help… my face is burning.” 

“Here, try this,” he said, giving me a tube of something. 

“That did nothing,” I cried out, as if I had a million tiny flesh-eating bugs forever lodged in between my pores, “it burns.” 

“Here, try this,” he said three more times, with different types of cream. 

“My lip is numb, but my face still burns. Is this normal?” I asked. 

The Doing Is Sometimes Just A Distraction 

When the lifeguards shrugged their shoulders, it occurred to me they might not actually be able to help me. I asked, “Do I just need to suck-it-up-buttercup? Will this pass on its own?” 

“Yes,” he said, “it takes about twenty minutes.” 

Jumping in my car, I headed home. When I got there, we tried vinegar, a warm shower, and more creams. Nothing helped. Finally, realizing that there wasn’t anything more I could do to make the burning stop, I crawled into my bed, put my headset on, and listened to relaxing sounds as I felt the stinging sensations. 

Everything Passes, Including Pain

A few hours later, my skin cooled, and the burning stopped. That’s when I realized how much extra pain I had experienced because my brain made up that… 

… I was going to have long term damage

… this was never going to stop burning

… I have a severe case, and something bad is going to happen 

Of course, this kind of added pain happens in all areas of life… 

  • Career
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Money
  • Materials things
  • Health

Fear Tells Us That Something Is Wrong 

Something happens, or doesn’t happen, the way we think it’s supposed to happen, and fear tells us that something is wrong… very wrong, and that we need to fix it… now, preferably. 

It doesn’t occur to us that the “stings” of life are okay. No, they’re not pleasant, but they are okay. And we’re going to be okay, even good… better than before. 

Better? Really, better? 

Yes, here’s how… 

Now I know 

  1. Jellyfish stings are not a big deal; they just hurt,
  2. If I’m stung again (which will probably happen because I will get in that water again), I should rub sand on the sting as quickly as possible,
  3. Vinegar, hydrocortisone, and warm water neutralize the allergic reaction (or pee on the stung parts—LOL!), and this one is BIG
  4. Relaxing and calming my mind removes the added pain of tension.

Other Remedies For Stings 

After hearing the story, my friend Dave said, “I’ve been stung by everything, and I’ve always found that enjoying a good beer with friends after being stung makes it go away.” 

I don’t know if there’s scientific evidence to prove that beer helps with stings, but something tells me that it’s more about where we put our attention—on the fear, or on relaxing and giving into (instead of resisting) the events of life… 

We get stung, in the water and out

Loved one’s pass

Freezers break, full of expensive meats

Careers stall

Friends go away

Family isn’t always the way we wish it were

Children get sick

Bodies change, and hurt sometimes 

Responding To The Stings Of Life 

None of these life events are enjoyable, but they are a whole lot easier when we accept them, along with the grief these losses stir up. When things feel like they are falling apart, and anxiety has commanded your attention, see what happens when you… 

  • Stop trying to fix it,
  • Notice how it feels in your body,
  • Trust it,
  • Accept the facts, and
  • Sit down with your feelings. 

Because running from the feelings, along with the sensations in our bodies, is like fighting the current when the river is trying to take you to a better place. 

Here’s to your greatness,  

Misti Burmeister 

Misti Burmeister equips leaders and teams with skills and resources to empower and engage across generations. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com