Karl Augustus Menninger
I don't like swimming. There I said it. It's crazy thought for some people. But, I cannot stand the feeling of putting my face into water. I can swim, if I have to, I don't make recreation out of it. And the ocean, it's a fairly foreign thing for me. Until I was an adult I'd only seen the ocean maybe a handful of times. My parents just didn't travel. And when we did go to the ocean, the only thing I ever heard from my mom was, "Don't go out too far- all of a sudden it drops off without warning and you'll be gone" or "You'll get sucked out by the current and drown" or "You'll get stung by a jelly fish." or "attacked by a shark." Come to think of it, I have no earthy idea why we went to ocean- if she really believed these things- what's the point? So, we'd sit and look it and get in up our knees.
When Jay and I decided to do a Caribbean cruise for our tenth wedding anniversary, I decided to do two things I'd never done before. Two things that would push me well out of my comfort zone. Kayaking and snorkeling in the ocean.
The kayaking was billed as a "leisurely" activity. Apparently they forgot to tell that to the buff, twenty year old, Brazillian athlete (with a bod you could bounce quarters off of...I'm sorry what was I saying...oh, yeah) who was the guide- he flew through that water like he was racing for olympic gold. It was hard to concentrate on paddling my ass off and looking at the amazing scenery (no, not him). We had one small shark sighting- well the fin of the shark. We pulled our paddles out of the water and floated for a few minutes and the shark went away. Our guide pulled a couple of live star fish out of the ocean for us to see; one them had been eating. Before we left, they gave us instructions on what to do if you tip over. Let's just say I don't think I'd been able to counterbalance Jay. I'm grateful we didn't tip.
The next day we went on our snorkel adventure. Which was light years beyond my comfort zone. Unlike the Brazilian god...um...I mean guide from the day before the group that took us out looked like a group of convicts or at the least they haven't been caught, yet.
After a bit on engineering in order to make my glasses and snorkel mask work, we were in business. Or they were in business and I was trying not to fall off the back of the boat and put on flippers and not have a heart attack. I'd sent Jay on out and he jumped off the side of the boat. Later, he admitted that he was far more scared than he'd thought he'd be when he hit that water. I see him watching me as I make my way down the ladder into the ocean. I try to put my face down in the water and I get to the point where my mouth goes under and I taste salt and I cannot make myself put my face in. I'm using all my energy not to hyperventilate.
Jay and I make our way to each other and I hold onto him and spit out the air tube. I tell him I'm freaking out. We paddle there for a minute or two while I try to compose myself. He puts his face down and comes up with "Oh my God!"
I'm curious and he tells me that there are fish all under us.
Son of a monkey...I have to do this. I put my face in and holy mother, it's like the Discovery channel under there! But I have to pull my head back up. I can taste water- and I keep hyperventilating. I'm not doing well. But, I put my head back down several more times- trying to move around and take it all in. After a few short times, I know I have to get this. I can't be out here and miss this.
I figure out that I'm programmed to hold my breath while going under water and even with the tube, I can't reconcile inhaling while under water.
So, I began by taking a big breath in and slowly letting it out through the tube while I'm under the water and "coming up" for air. After a while, I'm doing it. I'm finally doing it. I don't want to go back to the boat. It was incredible- the best thing I did while in the Bahamas. I'd do it again, in heartbeat.
Curiousity will conquer fear even more than bravery will