This is kind of a personal purge here.  If you can’t deal with it, that problem is more your issue than mine.

As a few of you know, I’d signed up for a SCUBA certification class after seeing a special for the class on Living Social.  The deal was for ANDI certification through Deep Blue SCUBA.  There’s been talk of my family taking a group trip to either Australia or Europe in the next year or two.  Given how much I enjoyed my Discover SCUBA excursion on the Hawaiian cruise last year, the thought of being able to dive at the Great Barrier Reef was exciting enough to compel me to buy the deal and take the class.

And ever since then it’s felt like the class was cursed for me.  The instructors and business have been fine, exceptional in fact.  I can’t recommend the people at Deep Blue enough.  They know their shit and explain it well.  They try to focus your attention in the classroom segments on the pertinent topics that will have real impact on your experience underwater and their instructors have good, diverse experience that they’re happy to share.

But after my classroom sections were done, I couldn’t seem to make the time for the pool and lake sessions work.  Originally we had them all scheduled in the same week.  Then because of answers I checked on the medical clearances form, they needed me to get my doctor to sign off on my entering a SCUBA program (liability I’d assume).  So I had to push my pool and lake sessions back a week.  Did the physical, everything checked out, all set for the water.

And the water came, but not in the way I’d hoped.  Pool session rained out.  Rescheduling was tough because the next sessions open were during the quarter end period at work and I couldn’t count on making it work.  So we pushed back to pool today, lake next Saturday & Sunday.  And then I found out I’m having to take a week from tomorrow.  If you’ve gone diving, all recommendations are that you shouldn’t fly for at least 24 hours after your last dive.  So now the lake sessions get pushed back another two weeks, but I can at least do the pool.

So I get to the pool and after the long period of getting everyone set up with their equipment we get in the water.  And the instructor, a very nice woman named Jen, lets us know that the first thing we’re going to do is tread water in the deep end of the pool for 10 minutes straight.  Can’t touch the bottom, can’t touch the wall.  We can swim, we can float, we just can’t let our heads submerge below the water for the 10 minutes in addition to not getting assistance from the floor or bottom of the pool.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the water.  Since the Hawaii trip to be precise.  But I figure this is no problem.  I can do this.  So we’re out there, me and 5 other people.  We’re treading, a couple people are floating on their backs, some talking to Jen.  And I notice before long my arms and especially my legs are getting really, really tired and heavy.  No problem, right?  Just turn and try to back float for a while to give myself a break.  Except my legs are really heavy in the water so it’s hard for me to stay above water on my back and I try to move back to treading a little more slowly.

And before long, I find myself slipping in the water and some gets into my mouth and I choke/cough and next thing I know I’ve got one hand on the side of the pool holding me up.  I take a few seconds regain my bearings and try to get back out in the water but my calves and thighs feel like bars of lead and can barely move.  Before long I’m back on the side or moving to the shallower part of the pool where my toes just touch enough to let me right myself and then I try to move back out to the deep end.

And the intervals where I need a rest are shorter and shorter until I give up and I’m just hanging on the side of the pool and everyone else is doing fine.  I think I bailed at the 5-6 minute mark but really, I have no idea.  When the ten minutes are finally up, Jen has the others get on the step at the deep end to get ready for the next session which will involve a swim.

And then she comes over to me hanging onto the edge and discreetly lets me know that if I can’t do the 10-minute tread/float there’s no way she can pass me for the pool session.  The only absolutes are that and the swim, which are two laps from one end of the pool to the other (maybe 40 feet or so each way).  She’s very sorry, and I’m free to try and come back and pass the pool session another time until I can get it.  But right now, no dice.

In my head I’m thinking, “Well, there’s no need to whisper it like someone died. I mean, it’s obvious you’ve got to be able to swim to pass a SCUBA class and I know how to swim, I’m just not in shape with it.”  And I’m also remembering that they’ve told stories about people who have signed up for a SCUBA certification that didn’t know how to swim, a fact that absolutely astonishes me for the lack of self-awareness nee stupidity involved in making that particular life decision.

So I ask if I can just sit and watch for a bit while I try and digest this piece of information.  She’s cool with it.  I watch them do the swim portion, which I think would be a piece of cake if my legs weren’t blocks of sore lead at the moment.  I watch them do an initial swim about the perimeter in the pool sans snorkel, faces in the water like a snorkel expedition.  They can come up to breath but have to get their faces right back in the water.

And the fact that I’m not participating is as much an indicator that I didn’t make the cut as anything.  I eventually offer my borrowed snorkel to one of the other participants who’ve gotten a lesser snorkel (yes, there are gradations on these things. You’d be surprised the diversity.).  And I go and change into my street clothes and quietly leave the yard to go back to my car.

And I can feel the burning across the back of my neck and ears, the sign that I’m feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable in the extreme.  I can feel myself all the old mental bugaboos that I’ve been fighting for god knows how many years now.  Every fear and anxiety just comes back to the fore.  Not good enough.  Out of shape. Old. Lazy.

Failure.

That last one is the big one.  And I recognize in the moment that I’m being way too hard on myself.  It would not be unlike my going into the half-marathon relay I did back in January and trying to do it cold, without any training or practice and then beating myself up for not getting a time under an hour.  It’s ridiculous, irrational, unrealistic.

And yet it’s still there.  That feeling like I’m letting someone down.  Even though this is something that really only impacts me, and isn’t in any way an impugning of my personal character or ability.  I know, or at least feel very strongly that I CAN do this in time.  I know a couple of people with access to a deep enough pool that I can practice and maybe get to the point where I can do the 10-minutes in no time, I’m sure of it.

But I’m sitting here at Flying Saucer with a beer in front of me, my right ear in slight discomfort/pain from water trapped that simply will not seem to come out no matter what I do.  I’ve been here for at least an hour.  And it’s only now as I’ve gotten to this point of writing all this out that I’ve gotten past the urge/need to weep at least a little and beat myself up over this.  For wasting money, time, who knows what.

And that’s a big part of this particular part of my psychosis I think.  Only realizing the things that I want out of life way too late.  Realizing I DO want kids when most of the women my age are well past that point or have been there, done that and don’t want to revisit the experience.  Realizing I could maybe do all right as a writer about movies when the relevance of film as a cultural touchstone may well be long past due.  (And believe me, reading the piece at the link here made me really depressed this week for how much of it I find to be true.)  Trying to be physically active with running/SCUBA/Whatever when I’m too old to get started with this shit.

Christ, that’s a lot of pressure to put upon myself.

I expect it comes as a surprise to absolutely no one who’s spent any serious amount of time either in some kind of psychotherapy or personal introspection that these demons still weigh so heavily upon me.  I know these things don’t get vanquished overnight. Even after three plus years of group therapy I’m only in the last year really making any kind of breakthroughs in understanding just what my issues are and why they control me so much.  It’s a start, but it feels like I should be further along, I should be BETTER by now.

And I recognize writing those words that that attitude is itself a manifestation of the problem.  The amount of pressure I put upon myself, the expectations I have for myself are so unrealistic, so disproportionate to anything even close to resembling reality. At this point, I have to consider it progress that I haven’t gone out and searched eBay for a hair shirt to go along with my self-flagellation.

Although I do find it amusing that trying to do so right now brings up copies of REM’s album Green in response.

What will it take to let myself be me?  When will I finally allow myself to be human for a fucking change?  When can I finally stop trying to be perfect, my dad or whatever conflation of the two ideas I’ve created in my head over these last 30 plus years?

Because I’m goddamn tired of it.  I put this out here not to get answers from anyone as much as to try and hold myself accountable for the things I can control and just remind myself that it’s ok.  I don’t know that I believe it, but I know I have to say it more than a few times before I can accept it.

2 Comments - you say something?


  • 13 October 201212:25 am Eugene

    Nothing I want to add really other than remind you that you’re not the only person that has these types of feelings. We all have them.

  • 13 May 201310:52 pm Jen

    Come back and try again! 🙂
    And again, and again, and again if needs be! Your success is waiting for you, right at the corner of forgiving and loving yourself just as you are, and being willing to admit that some shit is hard but not letting that stop you!
    You can do it!
    And yes, I am the Jen that taught the class. 🙂


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