Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Facing Fear and Finding Nemo - Part 1

"Always do what you are afraid to do."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In 2006 I went on the second tropical vacation of my life to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.  I had big expectations, which included snorkeling for the first time so I could see all the characters of Finding Nemo in real life.  Except Bruce the shark.  I had no interest in seeing him up close.

The snorkel excursion was booked and I was pumped.  Each couple took speed boats out to the middle of the ocean to meet a larger catamaran.  Once on board, we were given a brief overview and snorkel gear was passed out.  I was so excited to see the magnificent colors below the water's surface I barely paid attention, threw on my gear like I was Jacques Cousteau, and jumped right in the open water.

The expectation I dreamt up quickly gave way to reality.  My fins felt like lead weights.  I was convinced water was seeping in my mask, flooding my nose and the salt burning my eyes.  I struggled to consciously breathe out of my mouth while bobbing up and down in the waves.  I tried putting my head in the water to see what everyone else was so calmly admiring.  The muffled silence of being underwater sounded like deafening terror to me. 

The enormity of the ocean made me feel so small and so powerless.  I panicked.  I riped off my mask so I could breathe and quickly swam toward the boat to cling to the ladder.  Somehow I kicked off my fins so I could scramble back on board. 
On the boat, my heart was going a mile a minute and my breathing frantic.  My husband, boyfriend at the time, tried to calm me down from the verge of tears.  I've never felt so defeated and out of control in my life.  Not to mention frustrated that I was sitting on the boat paralyzed by fear while everyone else was in the water enjoying themselves.

A number of reasons contributed to my snorkeling aversion.  I never really was a strong swimmer.  The mask made me feel claustrophobic.  Also, I'm not fond of being in a body of water where other things are swimming with me.  That's their home, not mine.  They don't want me in it.  But most of all, I handed over control to my fear instead of keeping it for myself.

With my upcoming vacation to Turks & Caicos quickly approaching, I was determined to accomplish that forgotten goal.  I put it in writing, the opportunity presented itself, and there was a limited timeline to complete it.  I shared my ambition with a few people near and dear to me to make myself accountable, in addition to the piece of notebook paper it was written on.  There was no chickening out.  Five years had gone by from my disastrous first attempt at snorkeling and it was time to turn a new page.

This is already a bit long-winded so I broke it into two parts.  Check back tomorrow for the conclusion.  And, yes, this does pertain to health and fitness.

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