Fear is an emotional response to a real or imagined danger
This is one of those posts that I've been thinking about for a couple weeks but wasn't quite sure how to go about writing about it. Then last night, it was like a giant hand reached down from heaven and slapped me, HARD (really that wasn't necessary), and made me realize that it was time for action.
Three weeks ago I was in the Dominican Republic with a friend to celebrate our birthdays which are about a month apart. It was a big one for both of us (no, I am STILL not ready to say it). She didn't want to be anywhere near her home town on her birthday because she didn't really want ANYONE calling attention to it. And I'll say it...smart girl.
Anyway, while we were there, the opportunity presented itself for us to go SCUBA diving. Now, a small amount of back history on that. We both became Padi certified in the late 80s after we graduated from college. We took classes and our certification involved us walking in to the water in Monterey Bay from the shore (which I think is important). We dove several more times in the same location, always walking in from shore.
In 1989, I decided to go to Australia. Actually I decided in 1988 but it took me that long to plan it. I went on my own (a HUGE step for me) and spent 5 glorious weeks (one in New Zealand and 4 in Australia) doing and seeing exactly what I wanted without having to answer to anyone. Part of my trip included a 10 day diving expedition on a 100 foot live aboard Catamaran, the SuperSport, which at that time was new standard for live aboard diving. On one of the first dives of the expedition, I had an "unfortunate experience". Probably due to my anxiety of diving from a boat, which I had never done before vs walking in from shore. I suspect I was overly anxious and was breathing heavily, thus using my oxygen at a faster rate. When I looked at my dive gauge, I was in the red AND at 80ft depth. So, I motioned to the divemaster the dilemma and we ascended as required with safety stops. When I got to the surface, still with air (although WAY low), I spit out my regulator and grabbed my snorkel and did the unthinkable. I took a giant lung full of 80+ degree seawater. A dinghy was dispatched and I was picked up and I spent the ride back to the boat hung over the side trying to rid myself of all that seawater. There was a Dr on board, who listened to my lungs and said that he could hear a bit of water still there so a message was sent to shore to send a seaplane to get me. Then 12 hours passed. And I was fine. And there was no more rattling. And the seaplane was still coming. And 12 more hours passed. At this point I started asking if I could just stay aboard and not dive. I was told no. Then 12 more hours passed and I was getting pissed. I was physically fine and I was NOT looking forward not just to the cost of the sea plane (if and when it decided to come out and get me) but the additional cost that staying in Cairns an added cost I hadn't budgeted for as I had PAID in advance for the 10 days on the live aboard and my flight didn't leave for another 8 days. I finally did talk the captain (after 36 hours, no health issues and NO sea plane in sight) into allowing me to stay onboard for the duration of the trip. I snorkeled, I rowed, I came back with the BEST tan of my life. I was disappointed about not diving again but resigned.
Fast forward 2 years. I'm in Jamaica with my would be husband and we have the opportunity to dive. He does his pool certification and we go out on a small boat. And as I'm descending, that same anxiety hits me. And I panic. The divemaster ended up working with me in the descend and once I was at the bottom, I was fine. No other issues occurred.
Now, put fast forward into hyper speed to 2013. My friend asked me if I wanted to dive. I KNEW the issues I had faced and KNEW that I needed to work through them. But LORD was I ever fearful. We went through a pool refresher course and I knew immediately that I was going to have issues, but I got through those and we set our dive date for the next morning. I secretly hoped that the surf, which had been pretty rough up until then, would prevent us from going out but as luck would have it, it didn't (another sign?). I told the divemaster of my fear/anxiety and he promised to work with me, so off we went. And sure enough, as we were hanging onto the anchor line preparing to descend, panic hit and I was sure I couldn't do it. He "walked" me down foot by foot until I was kneeling on the bottom of the ocean in about 30 ft of water. Once there, I was good. No, I was great. I saw things I never expected to see: a moray eel, a rock fish, an octopus, spiny shrimp, and more. It was AWESOME and I am so glad I faced that fear. The question is, if I attempt to SCUBA dive again, will I face the same fear? THAT I don't know.
This is all related because when I came back from the DR, my first Sunday back started a new series at church: Fearless: Why Are We Afraid? SERIOUSLY? (tell me that He doesn't give signs) And while the pastors at our service related their fear of skydiving, I could TOTALLY relate.
So, my actual birthday is on Friday. (Believe it or not, this all DOES relate). And now I get why my friend didn't want to be in town for hers. I've never had to worry about being the center of attention for my birthday because it's never been an issue coming on the heels of Chrisapalooza (stay tuned, more coming on that in later posts). And if I wasn't in town, it wouldn't be an issue...the day, like every Ides of March, would just quietly fade away into the past. But I am in town. And I am somewhat fearful that the day will be "remembered". Not only am I not used to being at the center of attention, this isn't a year in which I particularly want to celebrate. Ten years ago, I could look in the mirror and not see the blatant manifestation of time marching on, but now, 10 years later, HOLY CRAP, it's like time is wearing golf spikes...and pounding down those divets with gusto. I see the deep ridges in my forehead where I am prone to raise my eyebrows at my kids, coupled with the ridge over my left eye which is very likely a result of the same maneuver. I see the deep wrinkles around my eyes when I smile, indicating that, yes, sunglasses ARE a good thing and I should have taken better care to wear them when I was younger. Learn Grasshopper...learn from my mistakes.
My point is that in the past I could somewhat fool myself into thinking I wasn't REALLY that old because I didn't (think I) looked it. Now I do, although I don't really feel it. And that is probably vanity speaking. I wish I could say that the arrival of the first literature from AARP was disheartening but I somehow got on THAT list 10 years ago so that was nothing new. I have also been thinking about aging in terms of where I am. I have a great husband with whom I have spent 20 glorious (even if also long drawn out soul shattering )years. I have 4 healthy, smart (although some choose not to always exercise their grey matter) beautiful children. I have a house I love. I also have a BS in Applied Mathematics from Purdue University, with 10 years experience in the world of Information Technology who can't get a job because I've been home, being a SAHM, which was the best choice for us at the time but I don't think my kids fully comprehend the sacrifice that was for me. All they grasp is that they don't have the latest jeans, phone or car. My retirement account between unexpected expenses and the market crashing has taken quite a hit, but there is still SOMETHING there, which I guess I can count that amongst my many blessings.
But fifty is hard. There. I said it. Maybe it's because the actual number can be expressed in so many ways. Half a century. Yeah. That's my "favorite". Or 5 decades. Not quite as painful, but still. Closer to retirement than you are to the legal drinking age. I like that one. But, I think it's the inevitable "over the hill" jokes that mock that which you are incapable of controlling that probably have me the most fearful. Partly because there's some truth to them. Partly because there's always someone who feels the need to validate that which you are trying to deny.
Which brings me back to the Fearless series from church. I think I need to concentrate on a verse from the first service in the series: Psalm 56:3-4
Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.
In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
The Good Book always seems to have the right answers.