When I was a little girl my sister and I would go to the local community pool every summer. It was always very crowded, especially on the weekends. (Back then, people dropped off children at public places without worrying about them being kidnapped.)
My sister had run off with her friends and I swam around by myself for a while, just observing the numerous people around me. So many people inside and and outside the water all having fun in their own way. Laughter and squeals of delight all around me. The lifeguards were mostly teenage boys flirting with girls, and blowing their whistles ever so often, but not really watching everyone. That would have been impossible.
It was on this day that I decided to attempt to do a back dive into the water. Nobody would be watching me. If I messed up, nobody would care. If I injured myself, enough people were around to save me. (I’m guessing I was seven or eight years old.)
I stood on the side of the wall by the deep end with my feet scooted all the way up; heels hanging over the edge. My heart racing and and palms sweating. I spent quite a long time estimating how far out (backward) I would have to so jump as to not hit my head on the wall either going in or after having swam backward toward the wall.
I checked the motions of my muscles and did the backwards dive in my mind over and over and over and over and over again, until I felt confident enough that I could do it for real. I took a deep breath, threw my hands up high in the air, bent my knees, came up to my toes, jumped up, flung myself back….and SPLASH! I felt my body propelling through the water and my limbs doing exactly what they were supposed to do. I reach the wall and came up for breath. I was so exhilarated. What a rush! I spent the rest of the day (and that summer) doing back dives off the wall.
Jump to several years forward. I am 14 years old and staying for a couple of weeks at my aunt and uncles house in the mountains. These are people whom I dearly love and always have a great time with. Well, they have a private pool nearby that we go swimming at one beautiful afternoon. There were only a few people this day. I really wanted to do a back dive but I had some mental blocks.
It had been several years since I had attempted to do one. I wasn’t certain that my relatives could medically save me should I bust my head open and begin to drown. Even if they called 911, I wasn’t certain the ambulance could get to the top of the mountain and find us in time. But…I decided to try to attempt it anyway. I stood with my heels to the edge of the concrete by the deep end. The water to my back. Blind to the pool behind me. All I could see in front of me was acres of trees going downhill and a clear blue sky overhead. The sun was in my eyes and I was squinting as I felt my heart racing again at the possibility of the great back dive.
I began to go over the dive in my mind. The same way I did as a child. Long I stood, rehearsing it over and over and over again…until impatience broke my meditation. Not my impatience, but my uncle’s. He called out to me to ask me what I was doing. I explained that I was trying to work up the nerve to do a back dive. Okay, back to my meditation, but now I’m acutely aware that I am being watched so the pressure builds and I begin to get nervous again. About the time I get my nerves out of the way and begin my mental practice…I get interrupted again.
“Oh come on! Jump already! It’s not that hard!” Again from my uncle, amused at how long this is taking me, followed by my aunt (with her cute Alabama accent) saying something like, “Now honey, let her take her time. She’s doing just fine. She can take as long as she needs.”
Well, I really don’t know how much time passed, but I went through the same ritual again and got interrupted yet a third time. My uncle said, “How hard can a back dive be? Look. I’ll show you it’s easy.” He jumped out of his lounge chair, ran up to the wall, and stood beside me with his heels to the wall and back to the water.
Uncle said, “Now I haven’t done a back dive in 20 years–and I’m an old man and you’re still a kid–and I bet you I can still do a back dive at my age.” I think my aunt was shaking her head at him. Well, after only standing there for a few seconds, he jumped right up and did a back dive just as pretty as you please. (Then he did several more with sheer joy.)
Now, of course, he REALLY expected me to jump. The challenge was ON! But I suddenly lost all confidence from the extra pressure and anxiety I was now dealing with. Instead of seeing my self doing a perfect dive, I was now seriously weighing the odds of making it to the hospital. I kept seeing my head split open and blood gushing out as I sank like a rock to the bottom of the water. I completely lost my nerve.
Uncle and I had a lengthy, but polite, verbal altercation with him pressuring me to jump, trying to reassure me that I would be okay to everything I threw at him that could go wrong. He was astonished at me–and not in a good way. He simply could not understand why I couldn’t dive back into the water right under me. It seemed simple enough to him. Thankfully, Aunt came to my defense to let me off the hook, and we ended the day like any other.
I left the pool feeling deflated, humiliated, and like a big failure.
That story has always stuck with me and haunted me on the nights when I like to stay awake torturing myself with all of the embarrassing episodes that have ever happened to me. I always asked myself, why didn’t I just take the plunge? I knew I could do it. I had done it hundreds of times before. Why not on that day in front of people who supported me? The answer came to me in a flash as I was lying in bed. And that’s why I’m writing about it now. There is a lesson in this…and it is NOT about never giving up or always take the plunge. Blah, blah, blah.
Nope. The answer that came to me in the middle of the night was that I did the absolute right thing by not jumping! From what I know now about how the mind works, had I followed through with it in the state I was in I would have certainly split my head open and drown–because that was the program that kept running over and over and over again in my mind. Your mind does what you tell it to do (usually in images). I listened to my ‘gut’ telling me I was not ready to jump under these conditions. Thank goodness!
I know now that had I actually had the time to run the mental image over enough times to feel confident, without too much pressure or anxiety, I would have been able to have jumped successfully–but that simply was not the time or place. And that’s okay.
You become what you think. I was thinking that I was about to die and I certainly did not want to become that! Now, in my adult life, I think good thoughts about how I want my life to look and paths simply open up under my feet because of it. Some people think this is a spiritual law of the universe, like Karma, which it may be, but I know for sure that the mind starts to look for anyway it can help (or harm) you depending on how you program it. Neurologically speaking, one would do well to upload the good data (positive thoughts) and delete the viruses (negative thoughts).
And from now on, whenever I think of that day, instead of feeling embarrassed for my younger self, I will send myself gratitude for making the right decision!