The water was cool, clear, and refreshing. My husband stood in it a hundred meters away, and I could see the water was no more than waist high. Yet I trembled.
Just before 8am on 5 February, I prepared myself for snorkeling.
My socks and shoes sat on a rock just offshore, but my feet and ankles were covered in sand and water. I tried to be brave, but I was fooling no one. I stepped onto dry land three times before I was happy to stay in the water of the shallow pool.
The plan had been simple. Get me out to an isolated part of the Isle of Pines so that I could snorkel to see fish and coral. I had a pool noodle to place under my arms, the fins to keep me moving, and the snorkel mask to help me breathe and see underwater.
I know the basics of swimming. Kick to stay afloat and breathe in patterns to keep focused. But since I was an adult when I started my infrequent swim lessons, I have an unnatural fear of water. I understand that the likelihood of drowning in water that I can stand in is ridiculous. However, my mind can’t focus on anything except how frightening the water is. I’ve made steps towards getting more confident, but for the most part, I avoid any body of water unless I just kick my feet in it from a stable surface.
My husband, a really patient man when he wants to be, reminded me over and again. He would not let me go. His hand would hold mine the entire way, but he just wanted me to see how beautiful it all was under that water. He led me to waist high water and coaxed me in further. Putting my face in the water was the biggest test, and I panicked. My mask didn’t quite fit and water poured into my eyes and nose and mouth. It took at least three tries to get it right. Then another 2 times before I realised that I could breathe just fine in it.
We pushed off and swam, hand-in-hand, with the noodle keeping me afloat. I kicked and settled on a breathing rhythm.
And then the magic happened.
The underwater camera my stepdaughter brought doesn’t do it justice…
I saw fish in colours of yellow and orange, blue and yellow, green and black, and every other variety I’ve never known possible. Coral stretched out in shades of purple, blue, orange, grey and red. A school of fish circled around me, and a gorgeous blue and black fish swam through my fingers, barely touching my skin.
I was in heaven.
It didn’t last. Water got in my snorkel mask, and I gasped and spluttered for breath. But I didn’t panic. I felt safe enough. Hubby slowed down and stopped, making sure I was fine. Once the water was out of the mask, I was happy to go again.
Fifteen minutes was my capacity. I couldn’t go to a deep end, though. Every time I did, I would start getting water in my mask. We figured it out that it was from my kicking, and when I raised my head to breath, it would get in the tube that way, as well. Once water was in there, I had to stop to get it out before I could breath properly again.
I know. Amateur hour.
But… I conquered a fear on my trip.
Sure. It was an unnatural fear.
Sure. It doesn’t seem like much for other people. Especially people that know how to swim.
But for me. It’s huge.
I spent the majority of my cruise worried about this one experience. That I would chicken out. I had the gear and my bathing suit ready, but my mind was not.
It took a lot of effort from my husband to get me out there, and he admitted to being annoyed that I didn’t trust him more. I wish it was easier to explain that even knowing I had no chance of drowning, I still had that mental roadblock. Plus…
I also worried about what others think of a lame middle-aged woman who doesn’t know how to swim and has to be coddled around to even get in the water. So getting to the rock before everyone else was key.
After the fifteen minutes was up, I returned to my little piece of rock and was content to just kick my feet into the pool while hubby and stepdaughter circled the island.
I may never get to a point where I can swim in deep water, but I’m really just happy to say that I got to swim with the fishies. 😀
(All photos were taken by myself and my husband. Please credit if you use.)