(Part II, subset A)
When I have to talk on the fly, I always forget everything I want to say and streamline it down to just the most basic outline. Then I get irritated that I forgot some (probably not-so) important tidbit that added to my story. So to clear that up:
Even with my insane fear of natural bodies of water (or, rather, what’s under the surface that I can’t see), I continually try to make myself unafraid by going in. The first time in recent history was a pontoon boat trip I took with my family on Lake Monroe. The pontoon boat was so much fun, but it was July and so hot. I was surrounded by water; cool, cool water. I had to go in. But I couldn’t. But I had to. But I couldn’t. But I had to.
Finally, after hours of baking in the sun, I couldn’t take it any longer. I started by putting just my feet in, hoping that would be enough. It wasn’t. My whole family was splashing and having the best time. It couldn’t be so bad, could it? So, I mentally prepared myself and slid into the water, careful not to let my head go under — not because I’m afraid of water; I’ll swim in pools and go underwater like nobody’s business, but there’s something different about deep, deep water that has no foreseeable end and water critters who must be lurking in the depths ready to bite off my toes. The minute my body was submerged, I went into full-fledged panic mode. My instinct was to flail my legs and feet to scare away anything that might have been close to me. I started to hyperventilate. My vision tunneled until I could only focus on one thing: the ladder of the boat. I had to get out and I had to get out yesterday!
My husband and I have taken 3 cruises since 2009. We love to go on cruises. It really makes no sense. For weeks before and after the cruise, I have anxiety dreams that the ship breaks down in some way and I am swept into the ocean. Yet, I still love to go. I look for cruise deals on a minimum of a weekly basis. Right now I’m trying to figure out if we can afford to take a cruise for Christmas instead of giving traditional gifts. (Ever read the 5 Love Languages? Mine is quality time and consequently so is my husband’s. We would rather travel and spend our money on ways to be together — road trips and vacations — than on “stuff.” We’re trying to convince our son that’s the best way too. 😉 He still enjoys gifts very much). Anyway, the first cruise we took went to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We opted for a snorkeling trip in Cozumel. I didn’t know if I could make myself do it, but I wasn’t backing down. I had to give it a try. We started from a beach and a tour guide led us around water up to 12-15 feet in depth and then back onto the beach. It was pleasant. I didn’t see anything that looked like it was out to get me. I lived to tell the tale.
Our next cruise was in 2011 and we brought our son along. Since I overcame my fear previously, we decided to snorkel again. This time, the tour took us by catamaran roughly 2.5 football field lengths from the beach and the crew proceeded to coax us into the 30+ foot water. Umm, no. The closer it came to my turn, the more I could feel panic taking over. They wanted me to willingly walk myself down a ladder into the middle of the ocean! But I had come this far. I knew what to do. I could do it. I had to do it. I couldn’t turn back; I’d look foolish. And if there’s something I’m more fearful of than failing, it’s looking foolish in front of others (which relates to failing, I know. But you get the point). So in I went. Problem #2 (Problem #1 being the leaving the catamaran part): the instant my face went underwater, my goggles fogged up and I couldn’t see anything. Panic. So much panic. Regardless of the other people swimming and laughing, I knew — I just knew — something was waiting to eat me because I couldn’t see. Flailing feet. Hyperventilation. Couldn’t get out of the water fast enough. Sound familiar? Snorkel #2 was a bust for me.
I had to redeem myself. How could I go from a pleasant experience to the stuff of my personal nightmares in just one year? So the next day as we ported, we decided to snorkel once again, but this time on our own. We geared up and waded into some crystal clear water off of 7 mile beach in Grand Cayman. Gorgeous reefs, colorful fish, and I mostly controlled my fear. Mostly. Success at last. But fear overcome? Not a chance.
Fast-forward to the summer of 2012. We took an impromptu trip to Florida for a week. I made it my goal to do something every day that scared me. How else will I overcome my irrational fear of EVERYTHING? One day I went into the ocean up to my shoulders. This was murky Florida ocean, not the crystal clear Caribbean. Panic. Sheer terror. I only lasted for about 2 minutes until I practically walked on water to get out. Another day, we went para-sailing. I spent my 10 minutes in the air white-knuckled and praying for my time to be up and safely back in the boat (where the crew told “hilarious” stories of sharks bumping the boat and 8-foot sailfish arcing out of the water mere feet from where people had just dipped in).
What’s funny is I can pinpoint the exact moment I went from fearless to fearful in the water. When I was about 7 or 8, I began taking trips with my best friend and her family to their vacation trailer on the Ohio River. (That is not as redneck as it sounds.) We spent our days playing in the river, making bowls out of the thick clay at the edge of the water, swimming, jumping off docks, riding the waves created by passing barges and going out on her parent’s boat where I learned how to tube and crash into the middle of the river on hot, sunny days. After one such trip, I came home telling my mom everything that we did and she responded with, “Don’t you know there are fish bigger than you in that river?!” That tipped the scales for me. No more was the river a place of carefree fun. It was now a cesspool of things that would eat me alive, given the opportunity. My mom didn’t intentionally scare me, but the result was the same and has followed me into adulthood. I’m beginning to think there is nothing I can do to break this fear. But not for lack of trying. At least I can say that.
The fear I have of failure isn’t as specific as my fear of natural bodies of water. It’s kind of a general nagging that keeps me from trying new things, or changing things about myself. How could I possibly start an exercise plan? What if I fail? The burden of failure is a stronger one to bear than that of being unhappy with my weight. Skewed? Oh, sure. But is there anything about the things we fear that isn’t?
(Part II, subset B)
Thanks for bearing with me as I waded through all that. Perhaps it’s better to lay it out here than in class, anyway. There was enough heavy stuff being laid out without me adding my little anecdotes. So this begins the actual reason for this blog, which is a continuance of our final assignment.
People reacted exactly how I expected. Actually, scratch that. A little off of how I expected. I was surprised at the number of eyes downcast as I spoke. I don’t think I engage with the group often, a product of my introvertedness, so I’m not sure that I’ve ever glanced around the whole room while I’ve spoken before. Maybe it was because of the girl who was nose-to-nose with you as I began speaking, but It seemed I didn’t have everyone’s attention. When I’m trying to get attention without yelling to everyone to look at me, I try to be funny. I suppose that worked because my turn ended with general classroom laughter over my comment, “I guess that’s it. I just don’t want to fail.” It was an unintentional double meaning. Fail at life, fail the assignment. Failing is failing. But I expected polite interest and that’s what I received. Maybe a hair under polite since people didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the beginning of my presentation. I’m not upset by it. Just stating what I observed.
I had visions of coming in with a huge red F on my shirt, Scarlet Letter-style, to garner a different reaction than what I posted. But I dislike having that much attention drawn to me, so I nixed that idea. I suppose if I was looking for a different reaction than polite interest, I could have given that a whirl. Maybe.
As a side note, I’m torn about attending class next week. Some of the people that presented today pulled at my heartstrings. I felt myself wanting to give comfort or words of encouragement. But some were really disturbing in a way that is going to alter how I interact with the world for awhile. I don’t need more reasons to be afraid. I stopped watching the news when my husband was deployed in 2005 and I’ve never gone back to watching the news for a reason: people do horrible things to one another. I wish I could unsee the footage I saw on the “knockout” game. I can’t stomach people being so horrible to each other with little to no remorse and a mob-like mentality of ruthless “humor.” I’m just not sure I can take hearing about more fears along this line.