Diving Back In

In 2005, Nolan and I learned how to dive together. We were living on the southern tip of Miami less than a mile from the coast and just north of the Keys and my editor-turned-best friend mentioned it was something we should try.

From the beginning, I was nervous. I have an uncanny ability to brainstorm all the possible things that can go wrong in a situation almost immediately upon hearing about or thinking of an idea. It is a mix of talent (for those who like to have a devil’s advocate) and a curse. This instantly cued list will often make me fret about whether or not I should do something. I teeter on the fence trying to quantify if the experience outweighs the risk. But in the end, the adventurous side of me almost always wins out, simply because the fear of not doing something – of missing out on an experience – almost always trumps my fear of actually doing whatever it is I am thinking about doing in the first place.

And so with Nolan’s promise that I would have plenty of air, would not get lost undersea or bitten by a shark or stuck on the bottom of the ocean floor or overcome with the bends, and his reassurance that he would always triple check my equipment before we jumped off of the side of a boat, we signed up for the three-day certification course.

I proudly passed the course, including the big test where you kneel on the ocean floor and prove you can perform all the new skills learned like removing your regulator (the mouth piece connected to the oxygen tank that allows you to breathe), sharing oxygen with a friend, and removing your mask and replacing it (which believe it or not is a lot harder for people than the regulator because you have to remember not to breathe through your nose).

While I don’t remember much from the class, I distinctly remember our first few dives. I remember being nervous to jump from the boat with all of the heavy equipment on my back. I remember being tossed on the surface by the waves and then lowering into the serene blue water where all I could hear was my own breathing through the regulator as soft little bubbles rose to the surface. I remember clutching my husband’s hand (I was really afraid of getting separated from the group and lost at sea forever) as we swam along the reef. We were constantly pulling on each others arm furiously as we pointed out all of the amazing sea creatures that floated by us or up to us, unphased by our presence. There was a huge, friendly, gray grouper, schools of colorful fish and even a (non-biting), relatively small shark.

Back then I was more comfortable taking risks because I knew someone was there to catch me if I fell. Or hold me while I cried. Or simply be there when I dragged myself home. I got so used to this during those years of my early adulthood that this was the hardest part of losing Nolan. For the first time, it felt like I really had to be out on my own. It is like when you are leaning on someone on a rocky boat ride. If they move out of the way suddenly, you will fall hard because you are not prepared or poised to catch yourself. But if you are standing firmly on your own two feet and the boat rocks, you are prepared, with your arms outstretched to grab onto something or catch yourself from doing a face-plant on the fiberglass floor.

Now that I have been alone for quite some time, I don’t remember what it felt like having someone there. And I’m surprised at how comfortable this now feels. I guess deep down I always knew we would be ok. I knew at the end of the day I would keep us afloat and do everything in my power, no matter what it required, to take care of Logan and raise him as best as I could.

But I don’t know if I honestly ever thought I would be able to make us both so happy. Granted, there are still really rough days. Losing a father isn’t easy and neither is being a single, sole parent. And managing a career and parenting isn’t a walk in the park, either. It is a huge juggling act often done with too many balls in the air and on an unsteady surface. But I am slowly realizing that I am not nearly worried about falling anymore. I know now that if I fall, I will somehow someway be able to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep on going.

Earlier this year, my inlaws graciously asked Logan and I to accompany them on their annual trip to Aruba. One of my first thoughts about the trip was: Aruba is known as one of the best diving spots in the world. How can I visit Aruba and not go down under the surface? How can I go and only see half of the beautiful sites? I should really go diving again.

This was the water in Turks & Caicos...I an't wait to see what it's like in Aruba

This was the water in Turks & Caicos…I an’t wait to see what it’s like in Aruba

When I mentioned the trip to my best friend, Jon (the one who convinced us to get certified in the first place) he echoed my thoughts. He said I HAD to go diving. But I was nervous. I had not been diving in eight years and I remembered nothing from the course. Whose hand would I hold to ensure I didn’t get lost? Who would triple-check my equipment to make sure it was working properly and I wouldn’t be left suffocating or drowning on the ocean floor? Plus, I am a single-working mom, maybe I shouldn’t be selfishly wasting money on an expensive sport and an experience that Logan can’t be a part of yet.

When I visited Jon earlier this month in Florida, he had me signed up for a refresher diving course and two-shallow ocean dives. I was nervous the whole weekend leading up to the day, wondering how it would feel. Would my ears bother me like they did last time? Would I remember how to connect the BC vest and regulator to the tank? Could I do this alone? I deal with fear by simply forbidding myself to think about it. So I ignored the fact that we were going until we were heading down on the Overseas Highway into the Keys.

Overseas Highway - credit fineartamerica.com

Overseas Highway – credit fineartamerica.com

In the classroom, as the dive instructor showed pictures and maps and went over diving basics, I got excited again. As I suited up things began to come back. I breathed easy and steady with the regulator. I was comfortable with the equipment. I had no problems performing all the tests and skills in the pool on the first go-round and was surprised at how at ease I felt, my nervousness quickly receding. That afternoon on the boat, I didn’t get seasick. My jump into the water was easier than I remembered, my decline pretty comfortable. My ears did bother me a bit as I tried to equalize them as we dove deeper, but not too bad. I held my hands softly in front of my BC vest, using my fins to propel me slowly through the water. We were a small dive group and I kept a watchful eye on our guide. I would look around at the vast ocean and reef we were exploring, then back towards him swimming a few feet in front of me. (Wow, look at this reef. Wait, where’s the guide? A pretty school of fish! Where’s the guide? What’s that yellow and black spotted think slithering on the floor? Is that a sea snake?!? Wait, where’s the guide?)

And so, I did it. I went diving again. I didn’t get lost, mess up my equipment or run out of air. I felt pretty comfortable and confident. And I am so glad I did it (and that Jon pushed me to do it). Now, every time I talk to him he asks, “You’re going to dive in Aruba, right? You HAVE to dive in Aruba. Please promise me you will dive in Aruba.”

Yes, I am going to dive in Aruba. It will be the real test, seeing how I handle doing it alone, with no one I know. I’m still nervous but also excited. Maybe I just won’t think much about it until I climb back on a dive boat.