“The ocean is a beautiful world
which we can’t possess
but that we’re lucky enough
to borrow on occasion.”
Whenever I meet someone for the first time, I’ll invariably divulge two things in the course of conversation. One is that I’ve been a scuba diver for 8 years and I LOVE IT.
The second is that being a scuba diver makes me extremely uncomfortable when I think about it.
I, who have always been a poster child for claustrophobia, motion sickness and slimy creature freak-outs, am now so invested in diving I’ll lug 50 pounds of equipment across the planet if there’s a reef involved.
And yet, my brain persists in saying, “No. Don’t do that.”
It usually hits me when I step onto a dive boat. There’s always a checklist in my mind of bad, bad and more BAD, and there I am readying gear and chatting with the other divers while drowning out my rapid fire reasoning for staying on the boat.
My most recent break with reality occurred mere weeks before our once in a lifetime dive trip to Wakatobi, Indonesia – the spectacular details of which will be blogged about soon…
If you can believe it, I actually got angry about having to GO there.
So blatant were the dire consequences of Indonesian diving that I totally skipped over the usual high probability of a plane crash (8 total flights including a prop) and went straight to my own tragic version of “diver down”:
- What if my air tank explodes?
- Will I get dizzy during a dive?
- Is there a big green thing residing in the coral that wants to make a meal out of me?
- Will I succumb at depth because I decide not to shave my armpits one morning?
Certified divers are trained for emergent situations. We’re taught, “never hold your breath” and “problems at depth must be solved at depth” and “don’t wear that diveskin – you’ll frighten all the fish away.”
Because I’ve completed training of the highest nonprofessional level, and I dive conservatively, I maintain faith that my chances of having a catastrophic event are greatly minimized. I leave myself very few gray areas to challenge this. I dive with a buddy, safety check all my gear, plan the dive and dive the plan, and make sure my armpits are free of strays. I also tend to stay off the reef but in close proximity to my buddy while checking my depth gauge and air supply to the point of being Rain Man.
I also don’t shake a finger, stick, or camera at the marine life. However, because my primary dive buddy likes to take underwater macro pictures, it is my duty to keep my buddy in my sight at all times even if he has absolutely NO idea where I AM. I also furiously ponder all possible rescue scenarios when that octopus yanks off his mask and chomps through his air hose.*** After which, of course, I shall succumb at depth due to a septic combination of traumatic shock and unshaved legs.
*** Disclaimer: Octopi typically don’t grab or chomp on anything. Unless you really do poke it with a stick, a startled octopus will more likely shy away or ink the water. An inking octopus really does looks like a Sharpie exploding underwater. Or rather, a Sharpie with eight tentacles exploding underwater.
By most definitions, I’m a safe diver… possibly a boring diver. This isn’t to say that a safe, boring diver is immune to danger. Underlying medical conditions and equipment malfunctions can pop up at anytime – and trust me, I will consider all of these just in the few seconds it takes to defog my mask.
And now I’ve just read that scuba should be considered an extreme sport for anyone over 50. This both concerns and perplexes me. I never had a taste for base jumping or formula one racing, so I find it wildly odd that as I close in on 50, I’m about to be truly engaging in dangerous activity. Living on the edge, if you will.
So, where is my BRAIN in all of this?
Oh, it’s freaking out.
It’s also dwelling on how edgy my life already is. Midlife has its own edge which I’m trying to skirt the best way I know how.
Age is much like gravity. The bigger the number, the more grounded one is expected to be. The youngsters look on 50 as devoid of movement and extreme flights of fancy. Diving defies that.
I’m a diver – an almost 50 year old diver.
And that’s pretty damn cool.
So what I will do is breathe out, dip under the waves and open my eyes to a world without age or gravity. I’ll continue to poke a stick at fear until it inks me and swims away.
I’m going to remember that one morning in Indonesia when I broke through the surface of an azure sea, sank 40 feet into the cradling arms of a coral wonderland and floated effortlessly above a cuttlefish displaying his various shades of crimson to a group of gawking divers
I will remember how I caught myself in that amazement and realized that my thinking about diving could not compare to the dive itself.
And that is what I hope to impress upon anyone who has given diving a bit of thought, only to run away like a child shown to the dentist’s chair.
Don’t think. Just dive.
Oh, and that quote at the top of this page? It’s not really anonymous.
My husband wrote that…
…just after the octopus let go of his mask.