Pushing through the comfort zone

I had a long day today. From 3am local time I was busy with work and Skype meetings. By the time I finished around 11am, the people in the bungalow across the way were just getting up. I guess they are a little better at vacation than I am 😉

I left at 11 to head up to Playa Porto Mari for my dive lesson. The roads here are mostly unmarked with lane markings so every trip out is a lesson in patience, hypervigilance and closing your eyes and hoping for the best. Not exactly stress free. I have become really good at navigating around here, which helps and occasionally I pull European driver moves which is more aggressive than island style driving. I was also a little amped up from all the meetings and slightly nervous about my dive lesson.

After a serious half hour of going over safety information, equipment and what we would practice underwater, it was time to suit up. Holy smoke, talk about a lot of gear. I suppose some people can pull off scuba gear with a fashionable sense of style but I felt like a very clumsy, overbalanced sausage. I memorized all the directions and it was time to go in. No pool, straight into the ocean. Once I got into water more than chest deep, I sort of got a little tense. Actually, I was tense before that, I just wasn’t acknowledging it…

I am a good swimmer, I like to snorkel yet diving was sort of big barrier. The idea that I would deliberately sink to the bottom and let go of my breathing apparatus to practice finding it again was more vulnerability than I was ready for. It took a good four tries to let myself sink. Not because of faulty instruction or equipment but because I couldn’t make myself that vulnerable. I mean, deliberately deflating everything so you go to the bottom and aren’t really all that sure that you will be able to breathe. What if something goes wrong?? It was also at this moment that I finally acknowledged to myself that I was actually afraid to dive and this was a pretty massive invasion of my comfort zone. For anyone who knows me, the difficulty I have with being vulnerable is no surprise 😉

When I finally got to the bottom, I wasn’t doing that well. I was struggling to remember to keep breathing, clearing my ears and just being calm. Luckily, I had an instructor who has clearly seen more than one Nervous Nellie and she figured out that a good way to distract me was to point at all the fish nearby. It worked, while my eyes were popping out in wonder, I stopped fighting the feeling of not being in control and managed to regulate myself. It got alot easier from there.

It was amazing! Swimming amongst all of the coral, we saw an enormous moray eel, an incredible spotted eagle ray and a sea turtle. Not to mention all the other fish. I saw a puffer fish that was more than a foot long. It was beyond description, it is a whole different experience than snorkeling. I was in LOVE! I really wish I had my underwater camera. You’ll have to take my word for it that it was not to be missed.

We dove for an hour, until we had half a tank left and then it was time to go back. When I surfaced, I didn’t have enough words to describe it. My instructor was really happy since seeing the turtle and the ray are definitely outliers. She told me we were going to go diving more often. 🙂 Getting back out of the water with all the gear and getting it all off was definitely a workout. And as we were soaking the gear, that’s when I told her I had been afraid to dive so today was a big deal for me. I figure that’s probably something better not to tell at the beginning!

After diving, I sat in a chair under a palm tree in one of the few spots of shade, absorbing what I had seen until I was joined by a Columbian journalist and his college age son. We had a very interesting conversation about snorkeling, politics and travel. It was funny because I was perfectly content in my lonesome and all of a sudden comes a pretty heavy conversation for the beach. Eventually, I had my spot to myself again and I stayed to watch the sunset, which was really beautiful. That’s the picture at the top of the page.

This afternoon, I finally felt like I was on some sort of vacation. I know, it took forever to get to this point and tomorrow I am leaving. I still have one more cool experience, swimming with the dolphins tomorrow morning at 8am. I have set my alarm for 6 so I don’t miss it.

Something else I have learned on this trip. People at the beach don’t care what they look like, that seems kind of different from the US. Or maybe I don’t have much US beach experience. Here people just don’t care, which is kind of refreshing. I found myself letting go a little as well. I am by no means ready to go topless but I stopped having bathing suit anxiety – which is a nice gift to give yourself. I wish it hadn’t taken 42 years to get to that point but I am here now.

While I haven’t accomplished as much recharging as I would have liked on this vacation, I have learned some things. That’s always a bonus. And I think I am definitely going to go for SCUBA certification in the future. And next time I go on vacation, I will make sure I can disconnect properly 😉

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