Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thinking of Diving

The first time I dove, anywhere besides a pool, I nearly panicked. I was 35 feet down in perfect crystal clear water off the Turks and Caicos islands, when I realized I was all by myself. My sister was slowly coming down the anchor chain. My older sister and the instructor were still at the surface. I was all alone. And my only thought was...surface...surface...surface. Scuba divers are taught that the worst possible thing they can do is shoot to the surface (it's the fast track to the bends). But that was the only thing in my mind. It felt weird to be on the sandy bottom looking up. It didn't feel natural. I worried that I wasn't breathing. I took a deep breath and worried that I couldn't breathe. It didn't make sense. Then I did the strangest thing. I took my mask off.

It was my first instinct other than shooting to the surface. Instead I pulled my mask off and put it back on. I cleared it. I checked my pressure gauge. I checked my depth gauge. And then I knelt quietly in the sand and waited for the rest of my group. And I was fine after that. I used the routines that I'd been taught to steady my nerves. And once that initial moment was over I started to enjoy. I was diving in some of the prettiest water I'd ever seen. There was coral everywhere along with fish and sponges. I even saw a barracuda that first dive. I wasn't completely comfortable but I wasn't anxious. I loved that first dive and the ones after it. I still get nervous before every dive. I have a horrible fear of drowning. But I love the colors and the wildlife. I love the sound of bubbles rising. I love the feeling of weightlessness where nothing but my own breath (and my buddy's) is important.

The first fish I saw underwater

It's been a couple years since I last dove. I herniated a disc diving and haven't been since. But this past weekend I finished reading a fascinating history of diving and memoir and have been thinking about getting back in the water again. I'm no longer too nervous to dive and the experience is so worth the fear. There are underwater worlds to discover, and I know that I've been trained well enough that I can enjoy them safely. When the summer comes, I'll be back in the water, ready to dive.

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