We are proud to showcase an original piece by lyric fusion poet Alzenira Quezada, a.k.a. Lady Zen.
Some time ago, Fran was moved deeply by Lady Zen’s performance of “Quicksand” at a bar in Portland, Maine. She recently approached the artist to request a written version.
“I remember so well the three dimensional inloveness I felt when you performed it at MJ’s. Inside myself I correlated the quicksand to mental illness and the wiggling to the struggle for life.”
What Lady Zen wrote for Fran is more than a transcript of her live performance. In Fran’s words, “Your offering in a more documentary vein expanded my thinking. Thank you.”
“How to Get Yourself Out of Quicksand” is presented with the author’s permission.
How to Get Yourself Out of Quicksandby Alzenira Quezada
It was one of those nights when I wanted to turn off my mind and watch mindless television when I surfed upon a documentary about what to do if you find you’ve fallen into quicksand.
As I watched I couldn’t help but think how this valuable survival information was applicable to our everyday lives. How we humans are affected by mental illness, depression, and grief—pools of emotional quicksand. Those unforeseeable circumstances that mix with our vulnerabilities and create a soupy mess of slow sinking feelings that paralyze us.
But did you know that quicksand is only a slightly dangerous situation?
Yes, it’s true being stuck in quicksand could ultimately be fatal but as it turns out, it’s not too difficult to free yourself from it. It’s like anything in life you just gotta know how to work with it. What actually causes people to sink and die in quicksand is panic. When we find we have stumbled into quicksand, our nervous systems give us every indication to panic but that only makes things worse. Before long we’ve taken the leap from a sticky situation to deadly one.
Thrashing about in quicksand stirs up sediment and water causing a suctioning effect—much in same way memories can trigger a flood of dormant sentiments in our thought patterns.
These attitudes, thoughts, and opinions stir up anxieties which often lead to us feeling hopelessly stuck. When the individual sinks lower and lower or becomes too afraid to do anything at all—or waits for some miraculous event to lift them out of the muck, all the while continuing to sink—this is where real danger lies.
If you do nothing at all or wait too long you will be exposed to the elements or worse—the devises of imagination and most “pools” are only a few feet deep.
Completely sinking in quicksand is virtually impossible. I mean it can happen but because of physics—the whole volume vs. mass thing—it turns out we are very buoyant in quicksand. Generally, the most one will sink is waist deep. Who would have thought?
If you find you’ve stepped in quicksand, take immediate steps back. Depending on how far you’ve gotten yourself in, I can assure you it may take several hours to get yourself out.
The obstacle becomes our minds—the more we struggle the harder it is to believe we can free ourselves from these kinds of situations, but we can—easily enough.
For the bystander seeing someone fall into quicksand can be particularly traumatizing. Especially since the general consensus about quicksand is that it’s deadly and will swallow everything whole within seconds—but that’s not true.
It’s imperative that everyone stay calm. Don’t grab someone who is falling into quicksand. Remember the more you try to pull someone out, chances are you will only cause tremendous physical pain.
If you pull too hard it can feel as though the body will be torn in two as the suctioning effect keeps pulling equally as hard as those on solid ground.
Let’s assume for a moment that you have no resources to get yourself out of quicksand. You’re alone and don’t have a walking stick or a rope; there’s no solid bank within reach—it’s just you and the quicksand.
One of first things you gotta do is throw off any heavy attachments, anything that is weighing you down. Unstrap any negative self-talk or belief that you can’t get yourself out of this situation. Toss all that aside and take a deep breath.
Be aware of what’s on your feet. If possible, get out of your shoes. Often the shoes we wear are too flat or inflexible and can increase the suctioning effect when they tread into quicksand.
If aware you’re headed into territory where there is a high likelihood of quicksand—change your shoes. Better yet, go barefoot so you can be more in tune with sensitive shifts in the stability of the ground.
If you find you’re stuck from feet to ankles, as slowly as you can, wiggle your toes. When things begin to loosen a bit, rock back and forth as if you are tapping your toes in slow motion. This is really important: slow everything way down.
If you get tired—rest. Extracting yourself from quicksand is physically exhausting but eventually you will be able to move your foot and can take that all important first step.
In order to move forward, you must patiently loose the other foot and accept that the one you just freed is going to sink yet again. I know, it’s hard and at some points disappointing to not make more progress but again, this is not a quick process—be patient and gentle.
If in quicksand up to your thighs, repeat the above instructions—wiggling your feet in small slow circular movements. The water and sediment will begin to separate making it easier to remove yourself from the situation. If it is more serious—say that you find yourself sinking deeper as a result of your actions—stop and move on to the next step.
Quicksand can be tricky and unpredictable but if you are moving slow enough you can stop adverse reactions—like firm ground turning into more quicksand or getting yourself in deeper—just slow everything way down. Remember, quicksand is much more dense and complicated than water and makes you more buoyant.
If in quicksand waist deep, lean back and relax a bit—which I assure you is much scarier than it actually is. Pretend you are floating on a still tranquil lake.
Once you are on your back the pressure actually reduces the suctioning effect and provides a small window of opportunity to free your feet. When this happens, gently raise your arms as if in surrender and use your hands as paddles.
Don’t submerge your hands, don’t paddle with your whole arms in big sweeping movements, just gently brush along the surface. All the time in the world is yours, breathe deep and float. Gently paddling yourself back to solid ground.
I hope this helps, after all you never know when you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of a couple of feet of quicksand or god forbid one of those particularly deep pools.
Just to recap: keep as much air in your lungs as possible—don’t yell and scream or resist by thrashing about. Keep air in your lungs. You can’t sink if there’s air in your lungs. Not only will it help to relax you it makes you more buoyant and peaceful and you need to stay as calm as you can.
Take lots of breaks, work judiciously, don’t get too tired and every once in while test the ground you’re walking on. It could mean the difference between a quiet hike through life and a wrestling match with a big, messy pool of quicksand.