As a little girl, I was scared to death. All the time. Of pretty much everything new or unfamiliar. I was the child who didn’t fight or take flight, but would simply freeze and smile trying not to look as terrified as I perpetually was. It is a miracle my little heart didn’t just explode it would often beat so fast. I remember taking swimming lessons at the local community college at the age of 5 or 6. First, there was the part of getting dressed in the ladies locker room all exposed with these other naked kids. Then, we were herded out into the pool room and told to sit on the side of the pool. Oh, the goosebumps on my cold little shaking arms! Every sound echoed and the pool was soooooooo BIG it might as well have been the ocean. We were sitting on the side of the shallow end and my eyes grew wide as I watched the older kids diving off the high dive fearlessly. “Just do what the teacher says, just do what the teacher says, just watch the other kids and act like them” was running through my mind at rapid speed like a CNN ticker tape of updates.
“Everyone in!” the instructor shouted in a sweet yet authoritative voice as she blew her whistle. I slid in like the other children and then clung onto the side wall for dear life. After blowing bubbles and back floating and being told repeatedly by the instructor that she would rescue me if I started to drown, I started to ease in. I realized I could always just back float if I felt like I was going to drown. I learned to tread water. Then I never worried about drowning again…until it was time to learn to jump off the diving board and then try to dive off the high dive.
Luckily, my fear of crying and having everyone laugh at me and think I’m a big weenie is (still) more powerful than my fear of….pretty much everything else. So, even though I shook so hard I thought I would fall off the ladder, I climbed every rung and put my little hands together and let myself fall head first off that diving board. I dove…well I belly-flopped. I swam for my life thinking I would never, ever reach the surface of the water and find air. But I made it. And I learned that belly-flops don’t actually hurt that bad. The 20 or so belly flops I did before doing a decent dive were worth it.
I fell in love with swimming, diving, all things water related. I held my strawberry-blonde little head high and told my mama “I don’t need any water wings because I can swim all by myself.” I’ve been winging it through my many moments of fear and sheer terror ever since. Some things I have experienced would terrify anyone, some seem so silly looking back.
Can I tell you a secret? I love to write, but I have resisted writing for a long time out of fear of belly flops. So here I am at the bottom of that diving board ladder…afraid to click “Publish” because I’m afraid people will laugh or (worse) just not care what I have to say? Will I occupy this moment and every other moment in my life thinking of all of these ideas but never actually writing any down? Or will I just belly flop into the pool and write so that one day at the very least my kids will have a neat collection of their mother’s writings to reflect on when I’m dead and gone? If you know my kids, you know they are going to need as much post-humous guidance as I can give them. This is my first blog so I guess I’m in the pool and I’ll just plan on dog-paddling around with my water wings on until I figure it out. But, of one thing I’m sure, whatever it is you or I or anyone is scared to do : JUMP IN! We won’t drown. We’ll wing it. Together.