“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
― Jim Morrison
The things that scared me have often surprised me as much as they’ve nearly paralyzed me.
Learning to scuba dive was one of those times.
I loved to swim. I felt I was a good swimmer. My form was probably questionable but I never doubted my overall strength.
Learning how to scuba dive taught me a lot about myself. All was well until we put all our gear on and went under water for the first time.
When the time came to put my head underwater and take that first breath through our regulator–I panicked.
I could not get it through my head I really could breathe underwater. I had to get a handle on my fear and get it under control. Michael and I had made plans to go to Maui. Diving was a big part of it. In fact, we scheduled everything around me doing my final check out dive in there.
I was struggling and my fear was escalating. Honestly, I have no idea how I was able to pass all my pool testing and advance to the point where I qualified for the final open water exam. As we traveled to Maui, I prayed I’d be able to complete this final test. For me, it was a test in every possible way.
When we arrived in Maui we went to the dive shop and signed up for a couple of dives. My checkout dive would be done during our first dive. I met the dive master, John, who would be doing my open water exam. I was honest, telling him I was pretty nervous about making my first dive in the ocean. John listened to my concerns, shared some of his personal stories which helped put me at ease. By the time we left I was feeling much more ready and a little more self-confident.
That first dive was early the next morning. We were both ready to get this dive under our belts so we arrived bright and early. As I gathered all my gear and began to set up for my dive, I looked around for John. Michael was watching me carefully knowing I was nervous. When he noticed John was not around, he went to get an update. The captain of the boat told us John had a family emergency so he would not be there. My heart sank. My nerves kicked into high gear. The new dive master would be over soon to meet us, the captain said. We just needed to hold tight.
As I watched the crew load the boat, I heard someone call my name. I turned to find a woman about my height holding out her hand. I am sure my mouth had fallen open as she introduced herself to me. There, standing in front of me, was a person who looked EXACTLY like my ninth grade swimming instructor, Miss Katzer.
Miss Katzer was quite a character–to say the very least. She was a drill sergeant–a wiry woman with a head full of wild dishwater blonde hair who rarely talked in a normal tone of voice. Everything was screamed out. She expected you to listen–no talking–NO GUM CHEWING. If she saw you chewing gum, she’d pull out the coffee can she always seemed to have at her fingertips and yell for you to spit it out into the can.
Miss Katzer was also known for an injury she had which resulted in her losing toes on one of her feet–a feature she pointed out often as she warned us about the dangers of water skiing.
Why is any of this important?
This dive master who would be doing my check out dive looked so much like Miss Katzer I immediately looked down at her feet to see if she was missing toes. Even though her feet were intact, I was immediately at ease. I knew I would be able to complete my dive–and I did. We completed that day of diving and did several other dives while we were there.
When we returned home and went back to work, I discovered my outlook on many of the problems I’d had at work had changed. My level of anxiety was markedly decreased. What made me nervous just a couple of weeks ago no longer had any power over me. Conquering this mega fear created a landslide of changes in the rest of my life. I knew without a doubt I no longer had anything to fear.
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
― John Wayne
God bless us all as we head out to our weekend.
“You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”
― Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven