Last week Laszlo and I snuck away to finish our diving certifications in the open waters of the Caribbean. This adventure was on Laszlo’s bucket list and I’ll admit that although I was along for the ride, this time I was way in over my head.
No amount of pool training could have prepared me for the abyss of the sea, the tethered self-talk that would be required 40m below the surface. We had an intensive schedule of two dives a day for six days and every morning I put on my big-girl pants, geared up and boated out to the dive site, the only woman and least experienced diver in a crew of 13.
One by one, we fell backward off the boat and into the blue, strapped on our gear, checked valves, regulators and computers and gave sign that we were ready to head under. Bobbing up and down in the water, watching the other divers disappear below the surface, my heart began to race, I couldn’t catch my breath, my anxiety grew, I started to think I couldn’t do it. I was feeding my fear with fearful thoughts and it was growing stronger.
As Laszlo gave his thumbs down and descended below the surface I had to decide: I either get out of the water or I gain control of that speeding train of thoughts inside my head. I focused in on what I wanted - to get below the surface. Like a life raft, I latched onto my breath. It was the only true thing and the only thing I could think of.
Everything else fell away.
Down I went.
Be here now.
Be here now.
I met up with myself in those moments. I was my own kindest friend, my deepest confidant, my powerful inner knowing that as much as I am learning about scuba diving, I am learning about myself. Keep going. You’re doing great. Deep breaths.
I heard every heart beat, charted every breath, felt every piece of fire coral that burned me when I flailed. I let it all overwhelm me, challenge me, blow my mind wide open. This was me expanding.
Every task I completed was a carving out the path, a new precedent, a new model of what I was capable of. I spoke to myself gently, reminded myself I could learn the math, understand the science, and focus the body. I cheered for myself as I went from task to task, learning new things I had never understood on land, let alone in the three dimensional world of underwater navigation.
By the twelfth dive I was the first one in and asking about where we could dive next! Who was this person?! Was this the same woman who almost hyperventilated her way to quitting just six days before? Was this what fear looked like when it was ignored - transformed into excitement and wonder?
I’m not the same as I was a week ago. I’m a better, less fearful version of me. I didn’t know about the magnificence of the ocean floor or what would come out of me in the getting there. Now back home at my desk my mind wanders through all the new possibilities before us. Now I know (or rather, I remember) that on the other side of fear is a whole new frontier - the spirit.
Photos by Laszlo Dukat