Thursday, March 17, 2016

Help, I'm Drowning Again


I was reminded of this particular post recently when my wife and I decided to take our first Caribbean cruise.

"We experience moments absolutely free from worry. These brief respites are called panic." - Cullen Hightower

Not many years ago, something unexpected happened beyond the planning I had done. It was an event in which your fear gets brought directly to you and has to be faced without fully realizing it was going to happen.

Facing your personal fear when all along you have been trying to avoid it.

My personal fear is one in which I am drowning. The fear of falling into the water, being submerged and never coming back up. It might seem silly to even admit this at my age, but I can not swim. I can not float on the water nor tread water to save my own life. It is a fear which can be overwhelming at times and stems from an incident when I was only seven or eight years old.

As I tell the story, though my brothers would disagree, is we were all at the local pool. I had just started learning to swim albeit not very well. So my parents confined me to the shallow end and my brothers were to keep an eye on me. Again, my brothers were to keep an eye on me.

As I was bouncing about in the pool having a good time, two unknown kids came along through the water. One was swimming near the surface, the other was low in the water. In one quick movement they caused me to fall into the water and there held me down.

It seemed as though I were under water for ten minutes but in all reality was only ten seconds I suppose. Yet it scared the living daylights out of me and became my biggest life long fear. The joke in my family became that I could no longer take a bath for fear of drowning.

Trying to overcome those personal fears.

Over the years I have tried with little success to truly overcome this fear. I can take a bath thank you, but bodies of water, boats still make me nervous. Most times I try to avoid placing myself in situations which could cause me to confront the fear. So to my surprise, this particular weekend challenged me on this front.

My wife and I were at an overnight camping trip for instructors of the C3 Journey program. As we sat around the fire, the conversation turned to a planned kayak on the Chattahoochie River the next morning.

My plan was to actually head back home and do some work around the house. With utmost certainty this was my planned avoidance of the water, but my wife was with me and encouraged me to go down the river.

So on the spur of the moment, it was a decision on my part to say yes. What could go wrong I told myself but inside I was feeling the fear build. So off we went the next day for what everyone was calling a fun afternoon of kayaking; something I had never done before.

No time for fear at this stage, no time to think.

A quick lesson from the outfitter and into the water we went. And as unplanned as it could be, a short distance down the river I tipped over in shallow water and thought "oh geez, here we go." I continued my trek with the others down the river, maneuvering as best I could. I felt better the further we moved down the river and it seemed the fear began to subside.

That is until half way through our journey. Not far ahead of us lay a Class 2 water rapid. Many would consider this nothing, but to an inexperienced paddler and one fearful of water, it might as well have been a Class 6 in my mind.

- As I neared, two fellow kayaks had gotten hung up about ten feet past the drop.
- I was heading straight for them and no other way around.
- I told myself just drop into it and muscle your way to the right and around them.

There is an old saying, "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men" from a novel by John Steinbeck which was never more appropriate. Head first into the first two kayaks and the rushing water spun my boat around and then upside down.

The interesting thing in these (to me) terrifying moments I was first looking around for a panic button right there underneath the water. And secondly, I immediately began grabbing for whatever was nearby as I was caught upside down in my kayak. Lucky for me while unlucky for my friend is that his loose t-shirt was nearby to which I grabbed hold of.

What happens after those fearful moments?

Surprisingly I did not pull him under and soon enough became untangled and regained my upright stature in the turbulent water. All three feet of water that is! In a sudden instant, the panic was replaced by embarrassment as I tried to regain composure. And trying to find my kayak and paddle...rule one, never lose your kayak and paddle.

The rest of the journey was filled with a few more exciting moments but nothing which made me confront my fear of drowning more then the incident just described. I call it the "Damn Rock Rapid Incident."

- I would like to tell you a miracle occurred that day and my fear is completely gone.
- I would like to tell you it is that simple.
- But it isn't, there is still work to do in overcoming fear.

What I can tell you is we need to confront our fears more often.

The only way we ever get over our fears is to face them, over and over again. To avoid and run from the fear will only embolden that fear. We give fear strength over our lives by avoiding it.

By facing the fear, we take away that strength.

Keep facing your fears and eventually we overtake them. I should have learned that long ago, but this kayak trip was my first step. You can also take a step forward and get in the face of your fears. Seek out ways to confront the fear and eventually you will find the fear running from you.

I may have nearly panicked myself into drowning, but I have also panicked my fear into one day leaving me.

Stay inspired my friends!

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