it’s not what you think it is!
The snorkel mask was fogging up from my barely contained hysteria and hyperventilation as we swam around the corner to the cove that serves as the fabled home to a tiger shark. Local talk says she’s lived near our favorite snorkel spot for many years. Earlier this month Scott met her accidentally; well, he sighted her and then booked it back to the beach before a formal meeting could occur.
A few days earlier I sat like an enchanted fool listening to our South African friend, Dieter, share his plethora of shark stories. I decided I needed to overcome one of my strongest irrational fears and get a glimpse of my first shark. He told us how to “speak shark”- make yourself appear as large as possible (similar to meeting a bear or moose in my homeland) and if necessary, add a poke to get the point across that you don’t wish the relationship to evolve into something serious or physicalJ He’s actually done this many times and still has all his digits and limbs.
She wasn’t home. Swimming away with equal parts relief and disappointment (well, maybe more like 70/30), I realized that even without dropping off a plate of anchovy cookies and having a little neighborly chat, I accomplished something great; I overcame a fear that has long bullied me.
While swimming back to shore and soaking in the beauty of sophisticated schools of Moorish Idols, radiant yellow Tangs and brightly decorated Humuhumus, my thoughts wandered to a dear friend who recently entered the dating world after many years void of romance (this makes no sense to me or anyone else who knows her- any guy in his right mind should be begging for a date with her!) Being in the midwifery world, she didn’t have much opportunity to meet single men, so she researched and chose a reputable internet dating site. I coached her in Lamaze breathing as she filled out the profile. (When I realized the true pain of the moment, I concocted an amazing lemon and bourbon cocktail with fresh rosemary syrup- that got the process flowing quite nicely!) Over the next few months she entertained me with the details of promising profiles and together we grew hopeful over a couple candidates. She bravely put herself out there and met a few really nice guys, but not quite right for her. I was bummed when she told she was closing her account, but she buoyantly explained how proud she was for putting herself out there; she did not regret the experience. She said it helped her heal from some wounds she had been unaware of and she walked away a stronger, freer woman. The act of bravery was enough, man or no man. Shark or no shark.
My crazy little shark hunt taught me two things. First, there is power in testimony. As Dieter shared his experiences, I not only learned practical principals for dealing with my shark fears; I was also effortlessly infused with confidence and bravery- like a passive blood transfusion. My friend’s bravery to navigate the internet dating world and meet new people convicted me in some places where I have allowed myself to stagnate in “safety”. In church we call this “giving your testimony” and on the island we “talk story”- whatever you call it, being vulnerable and sharing with each other how Jesus carried us through the scary and hard times is life infusing.
Secondly, it isn’t always the outcome that determines the success of a venture. Many times the willingness to step out and face the fear or do the hard thing is the true accomplishment. In fact, hardly any of my grand plans or endeavors have turned out like I thought they would. To the outsider some of them may look like total flops, but I don’t regret a single challenge I took and failed, dream I built and handed off or friend I made and lost. After the pain, I found I had gained much more than I ever hoped for. Taking a risk and sometimes losing has developed courage, compassion, wisdom, experience, and quite surprisingly, freedom. This doesn’t discount the suffering involved, but similar to childbirth, the result so far outweighs the cost that I hardly remember that part (sometimes this takes a while lol.)
So with that little pep talk to myself, I’m stepping out and starting a new blog! Honestly, it’s almost as scary as bumping into a shark, but I feel a responsibility to share my story, in hopes it will infuse a pint of peace, courage, faith-whatever you are needing to be the brave and cherished child of God you already are.
PS- if you happen to know an amazing thirty- something man (or are one yourself) looking for a gorgeous, adventurous, humorous and compassionate Christian woman- I have a friend to introduce you to (after I approve, of course.) No sharks need apply.