Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tangled Birthday

Fear is Natural

When I was a kid, I was scared of swimming. Scared of the deep dark water, hell I was scared of not only drowning, but drowning in terribly exaggerated ways. All of the living things that were hiding in the water wanted to get me. I was National Geographic savvy; fish with teeth like tiger claws, only sharper and paralysis inducing jellyfish, not to mention giant sharks with a sweet tooth for fat kids.

Ohhhh no, hell no. A million times no! There's no way I was going in there. What if I was the reason scientists would find a new breed of man eating creature and I was the man?! Did those yellow bordered magazines skew my tender little grey brain into paranoia, when all they were trying to do was write an interesting story? You bet your snorkel they did. Suit me up in one of those old ambient pressure diving suits. You know, the ones with the iron diving helmets and the big rubber suits from the 1800's! Yeah, one of those! I saw myself getting into the pool at the YMCA wearing one of those. Now that was swimming! Armed with my trusty spear gun, no underseas menace could stand a chance!

The turning point, aquatically speaking, happened when my dad was tasked with teaching me not to die in the water. Not swimming classes, but how to at find my inner killer whale and lose the fear. So, we're standing at the edge of the water at a resort pool. My little fingers are shaking, my lip is quivering and I'm pretty sure I'm about fixin' to either pee on myself and then faint or do both simultaneously. We look into the dark late afternoon water and he proceeds to explain that there's nothing to fear. He'd be close by in case I needed him, but there was no mistaking that I was going in there alone. In my mind, there wasn't a beast that man couldn't deal with. His might arms could unhinge the jaws of any Krakken, burst through any mountain, or even improve the orbit of the Earth because I wanted shade. There's nothing he wouldn't do for me. Except explain the basics of swimming. He said, "Let's practice breathing. Draw in once. Draw in twice. Draw in three times." I drew in a deep breath and I felt his hand on my back and his foot on my butt as I was launched into the deep end of the pool.

As my 7 year old body flew into the water like a lead lawn ornament, my breath flew out of me like the shuttle into space. I tried to kick, but it didn't help, my fears had gotten the better of me. I opened my eyes underwater and saw things through my fuzzy and burning vision that wanted lunch. A large spotted purple blow fish, pale red-headed sea serpents and shadows of the biggest teeth I'd ever seen were all around me an closing in. My only hope was launching myself up through the surface to call for help. I felt my foot touch something. The bottom of the pool! I pushed with all of my might and shot through all of those deadly critters, practically coming out of the water all together just long enough to shout. "I can't..!" Just like that I went back down.

I heard the sound of a muffled cannon. Loud and dense. BOOOOOM. I was surrounded by bubbles and through the murkiness, an arm pulled my up by my trunks. That was the most welcomed wedgie of my short life. All of the demons of the deep slunk back in to the depths as the rays of the late afternoon sun danced on the surface ripples.

So there we were, my hero dad and myself hanging onto the edge of the pool. "You, okay?" I was coughing a little and my eyes were full of chlorine. I looked around to see all of the sea critters looking back at me. The chubby old lady in the spotted bathing suit, the pale red headed teenage kid and all of the others, all concerned by the survival lesson. I answered with a smile and a nervous laugh, "Yeah, I'll get better at this, right?" As we shared this moment under the tooth-shaped palm tree shade, he looked into my worried eyes and said, "You're better than when you first went in, right?"

Fear is natural, but if I don't at least try, I'll never be better than when I started. Just keep going and those fear transforms into confidence. This goes for anything. Meeting new people, doing new things. Anything. Try it and you'll develop a richness in character that you didn't have before. Make fear work for you, don't be a slave to it.

When Is It My Turn?

When the fish are away, seals get angry and furious. What to eat? What to do other than stare out waiting? Waiting. Thinking. Thinking at times, "I'm going to get the first fish I see and gobble it up. Then the next one and the next one! There's no stopping me!" Unless there are no fish, that stops you. Do seals pray for fish? Do they hope? Hope that the currents will bring them by? Do they go out looking for fish and potentially die in the process? There are things bigger, faster and hungrier out there with sharper teeth. What if I'm not good enough? What if there's another seal that's better than me? Fear is paralyzing, I know. Fear of failure. Of criticism. Fear that you’re not up to it. It’ll stop you mid-swim. It will melt your sand castle and your hopes and fragile dreams with it. It's probably safer to wait.

Wait for the opportunity? Wait for Ed McMinnow to come onto the rocks with a giant check for 1 million clams? Even better, wait for a fishing boat to wreck on the rocks and have free fish for weeks! A hurricane of halibut. A tsunami of salmon. A twister of trout! The heavens above parting as rays surround the hand of God while he scoops up handfuls of fish and lays them out on the rocks for all to feast on! Anything could happen! Something divine must happen! But it probably won't.

Don't wait. Don't look at others with envy. Don’t look at the other seals eating fish and say, “What about me?” Don't get angry and stay that way. Get angry and turn it into good. Make it work for you. Make it inspire you to do great "sealy" things! Make it happen. Trust in you. See yourself for who you've become and give value to that. Give yourself the value that you want the other seals to see. What you want the world to see. Trust in the fact that you're made of better stuff and your inner light will shine for the world to see.

There is an oppor-tuna-ty for you out there, my friendly seal. There is kindness in the scary oceans. There is a higher power looking down upon you wanting you to trust. Wanting you to push and make things happen. There is a bounty of fish for you out there, brother or sister seal and it's waiting for you to reach out and grab it! Never stop working toward it. Be smart and see the clarity of where you are and what it possible. If you can't alone, the oceans are filled with those who have and are willing to help.

Think for a moment that you don't deserve and you won't. Think that you can't and you never will. Think that it's possible and it shall become. Think about giving up and you're half way there. Know that you can and it will happen. No fish? Maybe not right now, but soon and plenty. Work toward it. Pray on it. Dream on it. Never stop working on it. When your time is right, my kind seal friend. When your time is right.

Dreams Come True!!

Never Trust an Eyeball Free Fish

I’ve always heard that eyes are the windows to the soul. Eyes can give great insight into who we are and sometimes, who we're dealing with. Some folks have the shutters locked up nice and tight. Others are cooking soup and the glass has all fogged up. Some are shattered and bitter, gloomy and jaded, big, bright, rose-colored, beady, stained, strained, frosted, blown, scratched, polarized, reflective, and my favorite….clear. Others still have a wandering window and you’re not entirely sure which one to look at.
It’s been my experience that, you really can't have a great conversation with a shark; it's really hard to read their eyes. One minute you're having a cold one, telling a few jokes, talking about the one that got away and then BAMMM they turn on you! Those big black eyes roll back white and then it's all teeth! Not picture-taking, "let's preserve this moment and laugh in a few years" teeth, but   "I'm going to pick little gristly and bits resembling you from my choppers later" ones! 

This same thing happens with some people I've met. I've had folks look me square in the face and without a moment's hesitation, lie. I'm taking caught red-handed lie. What makes this happen? When we're kids, we lie to get out of trouble, but hopefully our parents are there to break the habit. Not lying is part of growing up and being able to be trusted. The nuns who taught us in school said that God was looking at us and every time we lied, we were that much closer to hell. What?! I can go to hell because I ate a whole bag of marshmallows and then blamed it on the Bermuda Triangle?! I lied when Father George’s church wine miraculously turned to water. I lied when I ate all of the fund-raising chocolate bars that I was supposed to sell. Who trusts a fat kid with a suitcase filled with chocolate?! My folks are lucky that I didn’t end up sunning in Zihuatanejo hand in hand with my cocoa bride by my side. They got off easy paying the digested $25 bucks. Sometimes, I even lied about things other kids did so they wouldn't get in trouble! 

I learned early on that you watch the eyes, but don't get caught up in them. Studies have shown that if you gaze at someone’s eyes for more than 5 seconds, you’re either getting kissed or getting punched. Trust happens over time, not at one time. Fish will flounder and sharks will bite, it's in their nature. We are more self-aware than that. We can change our habits. We can also easily fall back into them. Please be vigilant.
Ever lie about something and you don't know why you did? Example:

Woman: Hey (your name here), long time no see! How are you?
Man: Yeah, it's been a long time, (her name here)! I'm great!

Even when he's lost his job or his relationship is in shambles or he is being stalked by his zombie ninja ex-girlfriend, yet he still answered, "I'm great!"
Is it that he’s wishing he’s that he was great or is it so the cheerful reunion doesn't turn into a pity party? Honestly, it's probably both. But think about this, what if by God or fate or serendipity, this is the one person who can help you and that's why they were placed on your path?

So what if the conversation had taken this turn:
Woman: Hey (your name here), long time no see! How are you?
Man: Yeah, it's been a long time, (her name here)! Honestly, things aren't going so well.
Woman: What's going on?
Man: Well, I got released a few weeks back after (ex's name here) left me annnddd I'm being stalked by my zombie ninja ex-girlfriend.
Woman: (thoughtfully) Oh.
Man: I don't mean to bum you out.
Woman: No, oh no, you're not. We have a position that just opened up at the firm, you'd be perfect for! You should talk to (incredibly epic woman's name here), she's looking to date when she's not hunting down zombies, ninjas and ex’s in her spare time.

So, the moral is: Never trust an eyeball free fish...Nope! Scratch that!!

I told my kids this: Be honest, with yourself, wash your windows frequently, you'll get trusted more and you'll have better people come into your life and the whole thing will make you happier, wiser and more satisfied with a life well lived. 
Oh and as a side note: Never drink with sharks!


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