Its funny how the universe has a way of forging its own path, without regard sometimes for our whims. We like to think that our lives are in our control and we can, as if using lego pieces, link block by block the units we want to piece together. But the universe doesn’t really work like this, does it?
Just a week ago, in Guatemala I was swallowing my fear from 10 meters above water, staring at an eerily blue lake from atop a wooden platform. I jumped. I splashed. Everything was well and good. Now I am 8 meters below water and my stomach is telling me that fear isn’t my only problem down here….
Ever since we began planning our never ending journey, scuba diving has been a topic of discussion. When you are traveling to beautiful shores with translucent blue seas, cenotes with impossibly clear water, and the second largest great barrier reef system in the world, taking a dive down below should at least be considered! Jenni has been considering scuba certification in some of these fantastic locations, the combination of the great price and the wonderful sea life are too much to turn down. She would love for me to be certified along with her, but every time the conversation arises… my lips are mostly mum. Underwater dozens of feet? Isn’t that dangerous? Couldn’t I drown? I love the sights but the idea of being surrounded by pressurized water that could hold your demise at any moment is not a pleasant thought for me. I’ll tread lightly with the snorkelers, thank you.
Even snorkeling isn’t the easiest activity for me. I struggle with getting the hang of breathing with my mouth and keeping the mask clear. Having a mustache is actually a disadvantage and it is easier to leak water into your mask. Apparently, moustached persons can put some vaseline on their hairy lip to ease some of this problem, but alas, I do not generally carry vaseline. Once I finally got the hang of clearing my mask of water, scuba diving was looking more and more possible. The doubts were still bigger than the anticipation, however.
But as I am continually learning, the universe has a will of her own. After snorkeling around Belize and Mexico and having a grand time, we entered Cozumel to stay at a wonderful hostel run by Tina and Adolfo. Adolfo just happens to run a scuba dive business. Ahh, universe, always pushing the issue. Now that snorkeling isn’t challenging, the perfect opportunity to step it up a notch. Adolfo, of course, was all to happy to conspire with Jenni and the universe to get me under water. Gulp…Here. We. GO!
Adolfo has done thousands of successful dives and he was the calm and confident instructor I needed. He could sense my hesitancy the night before and handed me precisely what would calm this natural researcher’s nerves, a massive scuba diving guidebook. Information can never hurt, right? Right?!? Note to self- only read the guidebook if you can handle reading about serious ailments and accidents that may befall you. The descriptions of every major thing that could go wrong under water were somewhat sobering but I wasn’t about to back out now.
The hardest part of the scuba experience happened in the first ten minutes. Adolfo took us down about 12 feet and ran two “oh shit” tests on us; filling our mask with water and removing our regulators from our mouths. I didn’t like the thought of how some of these scenarios could play out, but I played back the mantra of the guidebook in my head…remain calm, remain calm, remain calm. Act with calm, confident intention. Don’t forget to be calm!! Before I knew it, I had passed with ease and Adolfo was leading us to the sea floor. That seemed easy…. almost too easy.
My first dive down felt like a middle school dance… awkward. There were multiple currents flowing underwater and thankfully we were riding down current. I found myself rising and sinking a foot or so with each inhale and exhale. I couldn’t find a good rhythm and I kept coming super close to the bottom. Thankfully, it was mostly a sand floor because I bumped into the bottom on more than a few occasions. I’m sure if fish could think like humans they would be smirking through their gills at the sight of me. Or they were freaking out at the sight of a stumbling, dreaded, medusa monster coming to destroy their aqua terrain. I prefer the first thought better.
Suddenly, my stomach alerted me that something was wrong. Was it fear? No, this was not fear. It was something else and it needed to get out! Unfortunately for me the movement of the current and the strange up and down flow of my buoyancy created what appeared to be the perfect conditions for motion sickness. I stared in wonderment at the aquatic life and simultaneously squirmed a little as my stomach churned. More and more did we flow downstream, and more and more did my stomach do unsynchronized underwater gymnastics. I finally accepted my fate, turned to my instructor, and gave him some unclear signals about my stomach not feeling well but he caught on pretty quickly. He sent me up to the surface where I promptly vomited. Yikes. NOT the experience I was expecting on a scuba diving trip. This was definitely not covered in the sections of the manual I read.
Afterwards, I asked what one does about vomiting if deep underwater. Adolfo said that regulators are good enough that you should keep your regulator in and blow chunks underwater, particularly when you are doing a deep dive and going to the surface in under a minute is not possible. Good to know, I’ll write that in the first page of the manual so the next beginner can be more ready than me.
As I left the beach with a still heavy air tank (didn’t I suck any air out!?), it was I who had a bit of a smirk on my face. No, the universe didn’t consult me on how this was to play out. But like it or not, the experience it provided put me on the other side of the fear equation, and life simply looks better on this side. A side with a bit of wisdom… and a readiness for the universe to show me the next challenge!