Frozen and unable to move. Have you ever felt like this? What do you think of when you think of fear. I am not taking about shaking in your boots type, Dracula jumping at you from the big screen fear. This is the subtle one. The one you don’t know or admit to having. It is very dangerous because it will crop up at the most inopportune times.
I loved the water, loved the beach, but I never learned how to swim. Southern California girl who rode to the beach on her bike with her best friend weekly, could NOT swim a stroke.
We took swimming in high school gym class, it was mandatory. Along with the concerns a black girl has for her hair(although mine didn’t look that great back then anyway), I hated the class in general. I did not like changing in the open locker room and I did not like sports. Thus that was partially why I was not in shape. I was overweight and you had to wear these school issue suits; the thin fit girls had sleek-black-recently- purchase-almost cute- one pieced suits, while we fat girls(and at that time there were not many) had these turquoise-burlap-elastic stressed/stretched-out dinosaurs-with semi-skirted bottoms, also one-pieced. Imagining ugly, is only scratching the surface. So if you did not know you were “fat” the color coding was there. After a semester of training I did manage to pass the class with the help of this tiny little blonde named Meliss (not Melissa either). I was a freshman and had no idea who Meliss was and found myself shocked to discover she was a student aid. Good thing you are virtually weightless in water, otherwise I would have been ranked far outside of Meliss’ weight-class. I was not comfortable in the water, so years later and after I had children, I enrolled in a class at the local college I attended. It was a six week course, I got through two the first time in tried taking the class and three weeks on the second effort.
My oldest son was taking swimming lessons at age six, I did not want him to suffer my fate of being a non swimmer, he did great. One day as we waited for class to conclude his brother(less than two at the time) broke free from me, ran straight for and jumped fearlessly into the pool. He, of course, was fine he was actually dog paddling like a pro and laughing with complete joy. The fact that he was surrounded by so many staffers ready and able to “save ” him, well a non-swimmer mother could not ask for a better spot to be put “on the spot”. It was there, at that moment I realized I was afraid of the water. Years of proclaiming love for the beach , the ocean, pools, water… ; I was petrified when my child jumped into that perfectly blue, perfectly ph-balanced, perfectly supervised pool, because I WAS AFRAID OF WATER… how could I save him. That was sobering, but it allowed me to face a fact. Even though I tried to accomplish the feat of swimming, unaware of my actual state of mind, I could not because something inside of me was holding me back. I still cannot swim, but I now know it is fear that stops me.
That subtle-quiet-just-below-the-surface fear. The type that kept you from going away to college, because you didn’t want to leave the familiar surroundings of home. The type that won’t allow you on the dance floor, because you worry that people will pay such close attention to the fact you don’t have rhythm. The type that makes you hesitate when you are offered an opportunity to do something that you say you love and feel you are good at, but are terrified you will fail so you do nothing. What you do instead is give up the water, you miss your chance at the experience of being educated both formally and socially, you bypass a chance at just having some fun at the party, or you let go of a dream.
Don’t let it happen; the thing that you think you are afraid of, that which you imagine is far worse than it actually is, if you come face to face with it. Face your fear and move forward.