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What Would I Do?

In the search for self discovery and enlightenment, I have often found it helpful to ponder “What Would I do?” or WWID?  That is to say, what would I do if I wasn’t afraid?  What would I do if I wasn’t worried about money?  What would I do if I could turn down the self critical voices in my head?  What would I do if I was truly following my purpose and passion?

One of my passions is scuba diving.  I have felt closest to true peace and serenity when under the water as a visitor and spectator to that other world.  Once, off the coast of Maui, near Molokini, I was hovering at 30ft below the surface at the end of a dive.  It’s a process referred to as a decompression stop, slowly ascending to the surface after a deep dive, in this case 140 ft., and pausing at various intervals to assist with the off-gassing that needs to occur to prevent decompression sickness.  I needed to stay at this stop for 6 minutes, and I was disappointed at first because there were no other drivers in sight and no fish or coral to look at either.  It was eerily quiet and I wasn’t sure where the boat was, which can be a bit frightening.  In this case, I wasn’t too scared, and the deep breaths required by my regulator and the compressed air helped me to feel calm and focused.  I stopped to look around.  I could see nothing but blue.  I began to twirl in place to see what was behind me, and I saw rays of Hawaiian sunshine filtering through the blue down to where I was hovering.  The sun had created a shimmering series of bands in the water that took my breath away and filled my soul with their beauty.  I simultaneously wanted to share it and knew it was something I could hold as my own forever.  It still fills me up to picture it in my head.

So, scuba diving is pretty important to me.  Yet, I had an experience once that nearly caused me to never dive again.  I have never really liked night dives.  They feel to me like diving with your mask filled with black paint, and I find them pretty disorienting.  Many of my diving friends enjoy them because only certain creatures come out at night, and the colors in the underwater world are so much more vivid at night when your high powered spot light hits them.

Still, night dives are challenging dives and require skill and planning.  A night dive off a coast with a strong current, where divers are linked together with ropes and floating flags is extremely challenging.  I had trepidations about the dive, and it turns out they were well seeded.  My dive buddy and I got separated from our group, and in the pitch black, had no hope of finding them.  Our only choice was to surface and look for the group leader’s flag floating directly above where they would be diving 30 feet below.

While attempting to surface, my dive buddy experienced and issue with his regulator (you know, that thing you breath from), and he panicked and grabbed mine from my mouth.  Each regulator has a back-up mouth piece for just this type of occasion, and we buddy breathed all the way to the surface.  After surfacing, we encountered the current, which is always much stronger at the surface than below, and we quickly were being whisked farther and farther away from the boat, despite swimming at full strength.

I screamed.  I yelled for help.  The boat heard and came to us.  It still required every ounce of strength and sanity I had left to swim the ten feet to the boat and climb up the stairs.  I lay on the deck of the boat for 15 minutes before I could move.  It was the single most frightening experience I had up to that point in my life.

I wanted to go home, but the trip we were on included another day of diving starting the next morning.  We were scheduled to go lobster hunting, something I had always wanted to do.  Yet, the only thing I was clear on in that moment was that I was never going to dive again. I skipped the dive group dinner.  I went straight to my hotel room and tried to manage my trauma level.  After a while, I slept.  I dreamt of drowning.  I dreamt that the current carried me away to Cuba.  I dreamt panicky images of being 50 feet under water in the pitch dark with no idea which way was up, and instead of swimming to the surface, I was swimming deeper and deeper in to the blackness.  I woke up panicked and shaken.

I was afraid.  I thought about the next day.  And, from some magical place of clarity, I recalled a passage from the book, “Who Moved My Cheese”.  What would you do if you weren’t afraid?  Interesting.  What would I do?  I’d dive.  I’d hunt lobsters.  I’d soak in the sunshine on the boat ride on the way to the dive site.  I’d sing Jimmy Buffet songs along with my dive group as we prepared to dive.  I’d marvel at the world that exists under the sea.  I’d dive.

So, I dove.  I got on the boat.  I endured the many questions from divers who had witnessed my complete meltdown the night before.  I dove.  I found lobsters.  I snagged a big one.  The biggest of the day, actually.  I sang out loud about blowing out flip flops and a lost shaker of salt.

Most importantly, I asked myself, what would I do?  Staying true to my passions has often been difficult.  Persevering when faced with fear, or those internal critics, have been my toughest challenges.  It has also gifted me the most precious memories, and faith to trust myself.

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