How to save yourself from drowning

First, create a pocket of air you can carry with you: a world that is your own.

It can be a temporary world, created by occasion -- your bedroom slowly filling with sunlight, the den cluttered with a hundred thousand carefully collected things, a good book you keep reading only until page 72, the evening meal of healthy fish soup you are stirring in a stainless steel pot -- but it is a world that is your own and it is not broken and, most importantly, it doesn't want to kill you.

When you need to step out, carry this world with you. Restrict when needed; open only in safe and familiar places, and even then, think twice.

In your favorite restaurant, fix it upon the comfort of the familiar flavors of the pizza and pasta on your plate. If the servers are kind, invite them in. Tip generously, if you are so inclined.

Craft it around your table in your most frequently visited coffee shop, including maybe the chair you put your bag on when the place isn't too crowded. Take pleasure in your cup of coffee. If it's a good day, get that piece of chocolate cake.

Expand it at the local mall, with the one million and one strangers who are practically your neighbors -- some of them people you could someday love -- but maybe not beyond its glass doors. Who knows what is happening outside. Remember what happened once by the fountain outside?

On the road -- on buses and trains, during cab or car rides -- keep your world as small as you need it to be. If you have no one to talk to, practice saying your thank-yous. For instance, thank you for the safe trip home, thank you that I can still come a home.  

Of course, all this will not keep you from drowning. But when the waters start to engulf you, breathe to the last drop your personal oxygen, drawn from a world that was completely your own: one which was not cruel and unjust and was filled by you with beauty and kindness and small joys and big loves.

This is what will save you.