Everyone has something they’re afraid of in life. There are the normal fears like speaking in front of a crowd, spiders (aka 8-legged bastards), and heights. Then there are my fears, and, for the purpose of this blog I’m going to throw in, my aversions. I’ve concluded that mine are a little more strange than the average person’s because of the weird looks I get when I explain them to people. I don’t know why these things scare and bother me, but they do. And because of their strangeness people seem to enjoy pointing them out to me even more and trying to find ways to purposefully bring these things into my life.
So what are my strange fears and aversions? Well, I’m certainly not going to list them all here in one blog for fear you’d think I’m totally crazy. I feel it is safe to start with 3, each one having its own blog: physically being in water that isn’t in a pool or tub, deer, and Jell-O. Think I’m crazy yet? Just keep reading…
Let’s start with the whole water thing. Is it because I can’t swim? Nope. Did I have a near-drowning incident? Nope. Do I actually know why it is? Nope! That’s the strange part for me. This fear didn’t really develop until a little later in life. I love being out on the water, like in a boat. I love to swim in pools and float around on a raft. I’ve even gone out kayaking (which was great until a spider crawled up my leg and I about tipped over, which sent me into a panicked race to get back to shore). What truly freaks me out is being in the water and unable to see what is around me. I also get scared being too close to big objects or under objects in the water. The great unknown of what lurks below is terrifying to me. The thought of me running to something, even a weed makes my heart beat a little faster. Getting to close to a buoy makes me nervous because I know the chain it is attached to is also nearby. Strange, right?
Examples: #1: My family goes to a lake every summer. When I was little I used to ski and tube and swim and have a ton of fun in the lake. Somewhere in my late-teen years I no longer wanted to be in the water. When it was time for tubing I let my cousins go first until I came up with a plan. I pulled the tube up alongside the boat, stepped onto it, went for a ride while hanging on for dear life, then used the rope to pull myself back up to the boat, stood up, and stepped back in the boat. My uncle stared at me in disbelief that I had basically just gone tubing without getting wet. I was quite proud of myself.
Can you see the shear terror in my face?
#2: I spent a week in Florida along the Gulf coast with family. Some of us decided to go parasailing. I was so excited to try this, because, no water! I could soar above it and take in beautiful views and not even touch the water! Well…my ‘no water’ stance was not cared about by remaining family members on the boat. The driver asked them if he should dunk us to which my family happily said ‘yes’. Mmhmm. I was 500 feet behind the boat screaming bloody murder as I realized we were going down. I was sure I was falling to my death. I was pretty sure I saw shadows, shark-like shadows, in the water. I just knew I was going to get swallowed up by a shark or other large water creature right there. I was so busy screaming and cursing that I forgot to shut my mouth and ended up swallowing about a gallon of salt water before being brought ‘safely’ back to the boat.
This is how peaceful parasailing is supposed to be. After floating through the air for a few moments are brought back to the boat where you land on your feet, never having touched water.
#3: I was down in Grand Cayman as part of a business trip. One of the planned activities was swimming with sting rays. All I could think about going into this activity was certain panic and possible death. This was probably the worst of times when my major fears regarding water were lived out. We anchored down at a place lovingly called “Sting Ray Island”. Fantastic. As we anchored I started seeing the dark shadows. Ok, it was cool to be observing from the safe distance of the boat and seeing these creatures swim below in the near-clear water. But then, the plank was lowered, and it was time for my descent. I decided this was a pretty unique opportunity so I should take advantage of it. I gave myself a great pep talk (don’t scream, breathe, don’t scream, breathe, the alcohol will be served soon) and waited for everyone else to get off the boat. Exiting the boat was the first problem. It was a catamaran. There were some stairs that were lowered into the water, however, they descended below the boat, between the two catamarans. Great, I’ll be under the boat (no!) and near objects (ah!). I almost stopped there, but managed to push on. As I got close to the water I saw them. Three stingrays circling at the bottom of the ladder, waiting to feed on me. Eventually they swam off and I was able to quickly swim out from under the boat and around the corner to the sandbar. It didn’t take me long to regret my decision of leaving the safety of the boat. There were stingrays everywhere! Do you know the worst part about stingrays? They’re sneaky! More than once one of the creepy things would swim up behind me and then flap its wings across my leg as it went by me. I think I about stopped all activity in the ocean that day with my screams. I was a mess. The guide told me to settle down and nothing bad would happen. I visualized myself punching him in the face. I decided I was not brave and that overcoming my water fear was not happening that day (or probably ever). Even the helpful pep talk from the lady sitting next to me on the boat didn’t encourage me. (You can do this! I’ve had cancer and defeated it. If I can do that, then you can swim with stingrays). False. I cannot swim with stingrays. I managed to get back on the boat and decided taking pictures was a much safer option for me.
The shadows that lurked below
On the right you can see the ladder under the catamaran.
I realize that this fear is irrational, but so is hating a jar of olives and I saw a woman lose her mind on Maury once when someone carried a jar by her. I have tried several times to just get in the water and enjoy it. I was in Texas one time and a friend had a boogie board. Looked like fun. I gave it a shot and did alright. Then I stood up to walk back up to shore and a crab ran into the side of my leg. Nope. I was done. I attempted to water ski about 5 years ago. Even though I was in the middle of the lake and fighting to get my skis on, I was having to remind myself to breathe and relax, breathe and relax. I was so sure a fish was going to touch me, or that I was going to run into weeds. Not a big deal to most, a terrifying ordeal to me.
So, if you’re ever at the beach with me, don’t expect me to come swim. If we’re out on the lake and decide to anchor down to float for a bit don’t ask me to join. I’ve come to enjoy water…from a safe distance. You never know what may lurk below.