Dr. Marry and Me,  Personal Writing

Who are the banks of your river?

I’m finally back at spin with Dr Marry after missing it for more than 5 weeks thanks to travel, being sick and day job meetings. One of the mental break songs this week hit me hard because it’s exactly what Dr Marry, in all his glorious sobriety, has become for me: the banks of my river.

According to our friend Wikipedia, “In geography, a bank is the land alongside a body of water…In limnology (the study of inland waters), a stream bank or river bank is the terrain alongside the bed of a river, creek, or stream. The bank consists of the sides of the channel, between which the flow is confined.”

My initial instinct is to recoil from the word “confined.” It smacks of someone trying to be the boss of me, which, as you may know, I hate.

But what if it’s not a control thing? What if, instead, it’s a safety net? A gentle constraint so that we don’t spiral out of control? An opportunity to create inside boundaries that give us depth instead of spreading ourselves too thin?

Read this chorus and tell me that you don’t want this in your life:

I wanna hold you close but never hold you back

Just like the banks to the river

And if you ever feel like you are not enough I’m gonna break all your mirrors

I wanna be there when the darkness closes in

To make the truth a little clearer

I wanna hold you close but never hold you back

I’ll be the banks for your river


Go back and re-read the Wikipedia definition again. Focus on the word “alongside.” In tandem, in partnership, in relationship. Not to control but to hold and support.

I’m in the midst of making big, life-altering decisions, and Dr Marry’s opinion is the most important one to me now. Today, he listens, asks thoughtful questions and considers all the options before sharing his ideas. The banks he provides keep my water contained but moving forward in a dynamic, fluid, evolving direction. We are alongside each other, the water up against the bank, creating an equal push and pull. And we effortlessly transition back and forth between the two different roles depending on the needs of the other.

But that certainly wasn’t always the case. Pre-sobriety, Dr Marry would have only added to the challenge of making the best decisions I could about virtually anything. Rather than support me or even be a quasi-partner in our lives, his inability to be rational and visionary would have dragged me and us further down, creating a dam that stopped all forward momentum. I know I hindered his forward movement at times, too, which helped feed his addiction.

Every decision I made then was conceived in a lonely silo, hoping against hope that whatever gambles I took would pay off enough to keep them under the radar of his blurry consciousness so that I didn’t have to fight with him about it. It was exhausting and often joyless. It’s not as if I didn’t have as many dreams and aspirations then as I do today; it’s just that I had no no one alongside me to think I might even deserve to say them out loud much less pursue them.

What do the banks of your river look like?

Are they so eroded that your river is running over land and field, out of control and destroying all in its path? Are they so rocky and steep that it will take more time than you have left to wear them down to a place where you can create a change in the course of your river? Maybe they are so soft that everything must balance a shaky equilibrium to maintain the status quo. Perhaps they are tumbling into your river, mucking up the flow with their heavy debris.

None of that is ideal. That’s not the way to flow.

Who are your banks?

While this song is presumably about a romantic relationship, that’s not the only type that can play this part. I’ve had friends and family who’ve been my banks in the most extraordinary of ways during some of the darkest, hardest periods of my life.

I don’t care who plays this role for you, but I know one thing: we all need banks. We deserve the opportunity to move alongside someone and to have them move alongside us, to be buttressed in support to make our way forward in the best possible circumstances. If you don’t have that in your life, be on the search for someone who’s going to “hold you close but never hold you back.” And while you’re waiting, look around and be the banks of someone else’s river.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.

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