Saturday, October 22, 2011

Its been a very busy time ...

Work, work, work ...

It's all I seem to have time for these days. From employee health issues, to staying on top of paper work it has been a very busy couple of months for me. The upcoming holidays don't seem to be helping much either.

At one point I wondered if I would have time to stay on top of a blog. As I said in many of my early posts, I didn't know if I was up to it. It does require a certain amount of persistence. It has been over two months since my last post and I do apologize. I have decided to recommit myself to this blog and try to push through till the end of the year.

Stress management is more useful and not nearly as scary as one might think. When most people think of stress management they tend to get visions of yoga classes, or meditating. Something that is generally relaxing and peaceful. Not always true I have discovered.

This month, I, the man with an admitted fear of large bodies of water, went scuba diving. Not for very long mind you, but I went. I started off by holding on to the side of the boat of just holding my face under the surface to get used to breathing pure oxygen while trying not to panic. Just getting that far took me almost an hour of practice. I was ready to dive, or so I thought.

The instructor was very friendly and encouraging. He took me some fifty to sixty feet down a guide rope to the ocean floor. After more than a few panic attacks I was at the bottom, clinging to the guide rope for all I was worth. I would panic, and force myself to breath regularly about every 15 seconds. The instructor went back to the surface to get another member of the dive group and bring them down. I was alone at the bottom the ocean. It was spectacular.

The water was amazingly clear and I could see everything. The rocky cliff a few hundred feet away, the school of tropical fish swimming by, the giant sea turtle that had decided to swim circles around me, and even something that looked like an eel making its way across the ocean floor.

For what seemed like an eternity I was completely entranced by this strange and beautiful new world. In reality it was less than five minutes. I tried to look up and my mask came loose, water flooded my vision. I started to panic. Somehow I managed to remember the steps to clear the mask and I did. I started to calm down again.

I looked for the giant sea turtle again, but could not find it. Then, without warning, the respirator (the part that allows me to breath) came out of mouth. I frantically forced it back in to my mouth and tried clearing it as I had been instructed only an hour or so before. I swallowed what felt like a gallon or more sea water before I got it clear. But, the damage was done, and so was I.

I met the instructor about half way back up the rope and used the hand signal he had taught me to indicate my distress and and that I was going back up. He followed me up to ensure I was ok before handing me over to another instructor already on the boat and heading back down with the other members of the group.

Only one person (who shall remain nameless) also chickened out of the dive. The rest enjoyed nearly forty minutes along the ocean floor and even got to play with a friendly octopus. I was happy for them and glad they had a good time.

I have been deployed with the United States Army to both Iraq and Afghanistan. I have been shot at, mortared, had rockets and RPG's fired at me, and more. None of that scared me to anything close to the levels of fear I felt at the ocean floor. I was terrified. And I liked it.

The adrenaline rush was stronger than anything I have ever felt, ever. I am not sure when I will get the time or opportunity to do it again, but I will do it again. Hopefully very soon.

On a side note, one member of the group was an eight year old boy who successfully did his first solo dive and gained his solo diving certification. Yes, an eight year old boy was braver than me that day.

It wasn't until my next day at work that I realized how much stress I had let go of that day. I was in a much better mood than I had been in a very long time. As I feel that stress returning I think of that dive, and the ocean. I am wondering when and even "if" I will be returning to that magical place at the bottom of the ocean. That place of such intense beauty and fear.