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Rated: E · Essay · Inspirational · #956654
An unusual method for overcoming a fear of water. Use it, for YOUR fear.
Overcoming Fear
One Gulp at a Time

I’ll never forget the day as a teenager — nonchalant, I splashed, walking deeper and deeper into the pool. Before I realized how far I had gone it was too late; I was submerged above my head, lost my balance, couldn’t breathe, lungs filled with water — I panicked, grabbing for something, anything — but there was nothing, and too many people to notice. The next thing I knew someone was pounding life back into me. That did it. I wouldn’t go back into a pool for twenty years.

I was embarrassed because I couldn’t go into the water — but mainly because of the fear itself. Fear, I felt it a weakness. Dreams of swimming frightened me; I saw myself hurling through a vast ocean like a wild cannon as if to discover the Aegean Islands. I’d read Learn to Golf without golfing — why then couldn’t I learn to swim without swimming? I didn’t try. I was lucky to immerse in twelve inches of bathwater.

During those years the fear of water bothered me like a rash of poison ivy. I vowed my children would learn to swim, that they would be able to save themselves, and others, if they had to, and they did.

Yet, I still had the rash, the nagging fear. Fear, alone, disturbed me as much as its reason. I always believed President Roosevelt’s admonition, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” I knew he made sense and I wanted so badly to overcome this burden.

Behind every accomplishment I made throughout my life, I dealt with fear and faced it bravely. I overcame my fear of crowds by coordinating trade shows, I overcame my fear of losing my loved ones by having faith, no longer did I hide my enthusiasm of how I felt for fear of what others think. But my fear of flying was the saving grace. It was the key to curing the rash.

If I hadn’t learned to fly an airplane I may have given up, knowing I would spend the rest of my life with this embarrassing, ridiculous, self-imposed affliction. Somewhere in my cerebellum, an important lesson had been stored. It was simply waiting for the right time to emerge.

Soloing an airplane sounds mystifying. It isn’t. The process is slow, and the magic word is ‘repetition.’ Each time I took off and landed, the instructor noted my logbook with the words ‘Familiarization.’ Tilt! It took so many years for me to realize that was the key; a shred of information waiting, like a spawning salmon, for me to finally find. I knew this was not the solution, it was the key.

When I retired, it was time. Build a pool, yes. Overcome the fear.

Looking into the vast, eight-foot cauldron I wondered, how am I going to do this? If I lose my balance I’m doomed. Then it occurred to me — rent Scuba gear. Picture an old (well, not thatold) woman hauling an oxygen tank, wearing flippers, and facemask trying desperately not to scratch the brand-new surface of the pool and 'kool deck'. I couldn’t drown, could I? Not with oxygen. Drowning was the fear, wasn’t it?

Alone, and feeling foolish as hell, I made my way into the pool, deeper and deeper, lugging the contraption. This is it, I’m under seven-foot of water, knowing this will banish the life-long fear; I shall simply take off like a dolphin at Sea World.

Wrong! What I discovered, my arms flailing — the fear is stronger. Nothing has changed. The magnificent epiphany of this exercise in futility was — it isn’t water I fear — it’s the way the body floats, the absence of control. Trudging the bottom of the pool I realized it’s not a fear of drowning after all. That’s where Familiarization of flying comes in.

Armed with this knowledge, I crept from the pool, and placed the equipment out of sight; heaven forbid my husband, or anyone, should see it, they would know for certain I was looney. Returning to the water, wearing a scuba mask, standing in three-foot of water, slowly, and with great anxiety I took a huge gulp of air. I propelled myself under the water to the opposite side of the pool. A one-year old could do it, but I didn’t stop. Up, gulping air again, I flung myself across the pool, again, and again, each time moving slightly deeper into the water.

The daily monotonous ceremony, over the next few months, was beginning to work. Now, able to go into five feet of water and sit down, I knew the rash was cured. Voila! It was all I wanted to do — conquer the fear. Eventually I made it into the deep end. Nothing gave me more pleasure than propelling from one end of the pool to the other.

I thought I was afraid of the water. It took a long time to learn Buoyancy created the fear. I spent my life being in control. Underwater, I had to give up that notion; a lesson in itself. It took a long time for such a simple discovery. It wasn’t easy. What is, on your first try? It may take a month, or a week; it took me a year. But I did it, one gulp at a time.

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