Stepping Off the High Dive

Things have sort of gone off the rails a bit for me this last week.  I was told relapse sounded a bit harsh and that was not how it was meant so I may modify that to relearning some recent lessons.  I am learning to be more self-aware and more compassionate to myself.  I am learning to pay attention to what is going on in my body and mind and to take care of myself.  This awareness coupled with a real curiosity and tempered with compassion is how I have tried t approach the past week or so when I have been feeling more anxious, angry at times and stressed.  It would have been easy to dismiss this as being caused by some external trigger, of which there have been more than a fair share in the past week, but I somehow knew that wasn’t the answer in this case.  This morning my curiosity about this led me to ask myself when I have felt like this before and to really search for answers.  That is when it occurred to me, I am that little kid standing on the high dive a thousand feet (it really felt like it was that high) above the swimming pool.

The high dive and water do not scare me anymore.  On the contrary, I love the water and water sports.  I have been across the Pacific twice, survived typhoons, learned to sail a small boat in the middle of a big storm, kayaked, tried stand up paddle boarding and spent countless swimming in pools, lakes and oceans.  When I was a kid though, I was afraid of the water.  Eventually I learned to swim and found that water was at the same time exciting and a very calming force in my life.  I was a  bit shaky at first in the water.  That’s to be expected when you try something new and I have never been a natural athlete.  As I got stronger I realized that in order to really conquer my fear of the water I would have to jump off the high dive.

My first attempt saw me inch out to the edge of that springy board and stand there looking down with nothing to hold on to.  Only one person at a time was allowed on the board, so this was something I was going to have to face alone.  I couldn’t bring myself to step off the board the first time up.  I had to climb back down the ladder.  The second time was the same.  I was scared to step off but frustrated with myself because I wanted to prove I could do it.  I definitely was not as compassionate with myself then as I am learning to be now.  On my third time up the ladder I was just as scared as the two other times, but I knew this was something I was going to have to do.  No one was forcing me, but something in me knew that I wouldn’t let myself not do this.  On that third try, standing at the end of the board again, looking down from that three thousand foot height (it did get higher each time, really!), I figured I may as well do it this time.

The thought of jumping off the board was pure madness.  Why would I go even higher just to fall that much further.  I did manage to take a step out into nothingness though.  I can’t honestly say what went through my mind as I fell to the water.  I am sure a kid my age shouldn’t have those words in his head, though.  Of course i survived, but I really did much more than survive.  I enjoyed it.  I couldn’t wait to go back up and jump this time.  Suddenly the three thousand feet had shrunk considerably.  Isn’t there a board higher than this one?  Why not? Can you build one for next summer?

I am standing at the edge of that diving board once again.  I have no interest in jumping, but I am trying to get up the nerve to step off.  While I am trying to be compassionate with myself, I realize that I will not be satisfied with myself until I take the step.  It is so scary to step off into nothingness with no assurance as to what the result will be or what kind of landing you will have. I don’t have a lot of support, but I know there are one or two people in my ring  Their support is great, but at the end of the day it is all up to me to take the step.  They aren’t allowed on the board with me.

The step I have tried to take a few times and backed away from is authenticity.  Being the authentic me.  I dabble in it.  I was shaky when I first started learning and practicing, but I am starting to get stronger.  It is nice to stay near the edge of this pool where I have something to grab on to if I struggle a little.  It is getting harder and harder to not take that step off the board and dive into full blown authenticity, though.  I can’t even imagine what that would mean for me.  Authenticity means vulnerability, that is for sure.  It feels just as scary and vulnerable as a little kid at the top of the four thousand foot high dive.  When I step into authenticity, if I do, I will be stepping into a world where I have no safety measures to grab hold of.  I will be floating in empty air, towards a deep pool that offers no more hand holds than the five thousand foot drop.

This step will be worth it when I decide to take it.  Learning to swim and conquering the six thousand foot high dive, opened up a new world to me.  I can’t imagine my life without the excitement and peace that water brings me.  I have no way of knowing what authenticity will bring my way.  I am willing to bet that there will be moments of excitement mixed with peace and tranquility, too.  Facing our fears, whether internal or external, takes courage. Stepping into nothingness takes courage.  The only constant I am guaranteed, the only thing I really have to grab onto, is myself.  I was reminded of that yesterday and it didn’t really sink in until just now.  I will take this step off the high dive.  Whether it is today or next week or next year, I will take the step and I will be proud of myself for being me.  I am proud of myself right now for climbing all those steps and standing at the edge of the board.

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