Hank: Mom, watch this!
(He grins and dunks a jar underwater. Water splashes up on his face, and I laugh.)
Hank: Why did you laugh?
Me: Because you looked so happy, it made me feel happy.
Hank: Oh. You caught it?
Me: I caught your happy?
Me: I did.
Oh, I’m sorry. Is this air tank turning you on? As an open water–certified, international woman of mystery I find people have trouble controlling themselves when my fins are in play.
And if the mere sight of me in Heidi braids gets you hot and bothered, meet Lesta, the world’s dreamiest Dive Master:
I know, right? Lesta, the Internet is ogling you. Do something Dive Master-y.
Yeah. That’s working for us.
As I’ve mentioned, deciding to get certified was spur of the moment. Over the years, I’ve found there’s never enough time to do the things on your Life List if you don’t just shoe horn them in. So when an opportunity arises to check something off, I try to say yes, even if it seems inconvenient at first. (Like, say, you need to arrange child care for a week, buy an international plane ticket, and take several hours of classes in the next eight days, but you’re also hosting a conference two weeks after your return. For example.)
The week before my flight, I studied for my written test.
Then I did a little time in the pool at Bamboo Reef in San Francisco.
When I arrived on the island, I had a universal referral form that let me complete my open water certification there, so Lesta took me and Geri-Ayn out diving where I ran some skill drills.
I practiced putting my equipment together.
I learned how to take my fins off in the water without knocking my teeth against the boat ladder.
And I filled my scuba mask with water over, and over, and over again until the inside of my nose was aflame, and my eyes stung with brine, and I could taste tin in my mouth from the panic. Then instead of lunging for the surface and screaming that Lesta was trying to drown me, I blew the water out of my mask, breathed deeply, and refrained from attacking him while adrenaline coursed through my veins.
Aside from mask clears, scuba diving is one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever done. People at the resort kept asking me what I saw on my dives, and the question still confuses me. I saw the ocean! From underneath! And I was breathing!
The thought of it still makes me feel little.
If you’re ever diving in St. Lucia, I can’t recommend Lesta’s services more highly. He works at Ti Kaye resort and you don’t have to stay there to dive with them, so just give a call and they’ll help you.
More of my posts on Scuba diving:
I’m not sure how I got here.
As a kid, I refused any activity that could hurt me. I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was nine. I refused to leave the steps of our backyard pool until my big sister essentially insisted that I learn to swim before she’d let me out of the water. At the time I was convinced that she didn’t grasp the concept of drowning. Why couldn’t I just go read on the patio? No one ever died of reading. This might also be true of kickball, but even as an adult I remain dubious.
The first time I tried snorkeling, I hated it. Nothing like inhaling salt water unexpectedly while 300 fish crowd around your face mask and your legs are shredded by coral! Hey sharks, I hear you can smell a drop of blood in the water from a zillion miles away! Come and get it while I’m blinded by these tropical fish!
The second time I snorkeled, I was on the Great Barrier Reef, where I hated snorkeling for eight hours straight. When I turned thirty, I went to Belize and thought I’d finally gotten the hang of it. It was amazing, until our guide unexpectedly chummed the water for sharks. That was one of the first times I decided my overactive risk-o-meter wasn’t useful anymore. As I watched everyone leave the boat for a front-row view of the feeding frenzy, I realized it was time to jump.
The more I do these things, the more I realize I just have to shut my eyes and jump. We’re afraid of the unknown, and once it becomes rote it isn’t scary anymore. The process of turning fear into comfort is all about familiarity. This is true of adventures, of travel, and of each other.
Tomorrow, let’s talk about scuba diving. I think you should try it.
After nearly 24-hours of travel, I’m back. It was an incredible trip. A few small differences between St. Lucia and home:
- The spiced rum has actual spices in it.
- There are small cotton flags with handprints and stars on the telephone poles. They’re advertising for local political parties.
- The kids wear school uniforms, and all the girls have matching blue ribbon in their hair.
- It can be tough to keep the birds away from your food while you’re eating.
- The bananas on the trees have blue bags around them to protect them from insects and birds. Bananas are the major export and the trees here are threatened with a fungus that’s affecting banana production worldwide.
- The spiders are bigger. They especially seem that way when you open the drapes of your hotel room and find one on the wall.
- There are hand-painted ads for Coca-Cola on every block. On the fruit stands, the trucks, the sides of buildings.
- The grocery store aisles have predictably strange beverages, and beer is sold on the same shelves as liquor (also sold by the single bottle).
- Instead of squirrels, they have mongooses.
- The ketchup is made of bananas. It’s sweeter and richer than tomato ketchup.
- They’ll bottle coconut water for you at the fruit market.
- Young men call each other “daddy.” My girlfriend and I immediately adopt this habit with one another when we do anything laudatory, “Yeaaaah, Dadeee!” Cue high fives.
I have a new post up at Lifescoop: Get Happy: Online Resources for Improving Your Life.
Planning around my Life List has led to some pretty dramatic changes in my life, but it has also led me to all kinds of simple ways to improve things each day. If you’d like to make a small shift toward awesome, here are a few sites I recommend that can help you on your way. Read more…
Things of which I have been afraid in the last few days:
Water filling my snorkel mask, and I drown.
Water somehow getting into my air tank, and then I drown.
Old-timey sailor sea-zombies pulling me to a watery grave.
I resurface too quickly and my lungs explode like a pair of mating puffer fish on a line.
Awestruck moments in the last few days:
I can breathe underwater.
Everything is so blue.
CHOOO-KAAAHH… CHOOO-KAAHH… This is what Darth Vader sounds like when he breathes under the motherf***ing water.
This is just like a flying dream.
I am a bionic turbo-mutant (half woman! half machine!) who defies the laws of physics with my awesome breathing powers!!
No one can reach me by phone.
So far, I’ve only practiced in the pool, but right now I’m on a flight to St. Lucia where I’m getting my Open Water Dive Certification for my birthday. I decided to get certified and take the trip about seven days ago, when a girlfriend said, “Do you want to go diving with me in St. Lucia?” And then I said, “Yes.”
For the record, I am also afraid of zombie sharks.
Congratulations to Jeannie! She wants to, “Have a studio of my own, with good light, and a door.”
Jeannie, you’re officially a person who wins things. Congratulations! Look for an email from me in your inbox.
And now a few more of my favorites from your Life List comments:
Heather: “Learn how to make my own undies. Really.”
Cassie: “I want to create a book of all my go-to recipes to pass along to my daughter when she leaves for college.”
Amy: “Defy the odds and walk again.”
JJZach: “Help save a farm.”
Sarah: “I’m removing the word “hate” from my vocabulary.”
Here’s to that. And then there’s Jen’s recounting of an item accomplished:
“My entire life, I’ve been promising myself I’d to go Holland and see the places my grandparents grew up. I finally did it, and took my baby boy along. My grandmother cried when she saw pictures of her great grandson in front of the house she was born in.”
Good job, team. Thanks to everyone who entered.