High Dive

The first time I jumped off the high-dive in the deep end at the city pool, it was a big deal. This small-town, summer rite of passage separated the scaredy cat babies from the confident kids, and I was definitely a scaredy cat. My family didn’t get a membership to the community pool until I was in junior high, so I was a late bloomer when it came to comparing myself with all of my friends and their swimming abilities. They had spent many summers perfecting dives, while I spent that first summer just trying to work up my nerve.

I have no idea how high it really was (12 feet, maybe? It’s long since been taken down.), but it seemed like it was a million feet tall with a flimsy bouncing board that was a quarter of a mile long. I knew that there could be no turning back if I started to climb up its metal stairs. A line of people way cooler than me were always waiting to jump, and it would be so embarrassing to have them watch me climb back down if I was unable to follow through.

The commitment of both of my feet leaving the ground meant that I would be forced to keep climbing all the way to the top and then make my way across the springboard to jump off the end. I remember the feeling when the muscles in my legs turned to jello, shaking the extra bouncy board as I carefully walked to the edge. My hands were shaking, my mouth was dry and I really think anyone could have seen my heart beating through my chest.

But I was there and had no choice. I closed my eyes and somehow stepped, not jumped, off the end falling down into the deep water where relief and the rush of the adrenaline crash filled my body.

I still think about that high dive when I have to do something I am scared of. When my knees feel wobbly and my stomach flips, I remember leaving the solid ground and taking my first step up the ladder, knowing that I eventually found the resolve to finish the job. I learned something about comfort zones and confidence that summer that I had no idea I would still use today.   

My husband, Ben, and I took our oldest son to Disney World a couple of weeks ago. Ben gets motion sickness when he is a passenger in the car, so I knew I would be the one to have to ride the rides with our son. I don’t enjoy carnival rides, but Jack does. And once we told him we were going to the most magical place on Earth, there would be no backing out. I would have to find a way to get in the line, get on the herky-jerky loop de loops and grin and bear it.

Daddy calling for a timeout during the Alien Swirling Saucers ride in Toy Story Land at Disney World.

Turns out, I spent most of every one of our rides comforting Jack, who was totally overwhelmed with the immersive experiences that Disney is so good at. The lights and sounds were overstimulating and the stomach catching drops and quick turns were over the top for him. Ride after ride, I would tell him that it would probably be loud and fast, but he would decide to do it anyway and spend his time with his head buried in my arms while I talked him through all of the things happening around us to try to demystify the intensity and clam his “bad tummy.”

The trip to Disney was the first big stop for us in Summer 2022. The next is our daughter, Ellie’s, scheduled heart surgery in the third week of June.  My husband and the kids have spent the past year making a list of things they want to do this summer – trampoline park, nerf guns, science museums, pool, splash pads, playgrounds, camping, rock climbing and so much more – all things that can keep us busy during the break, but I am having a hard time seeing any of these things happening. I am too stressed and focused on getting us ALL through this next, big thing.

On the plane ride back from Orlando, I thought about how once we got home, sand would start to fall through the hourglass moving us closer and closer to the unknown. Like climbing the ladder rungs on the high dive or strapping into a seat at Space Mountain, my hands are shaking, my stomach feels funny and everything in my body is screaming “don’t.”

But, I don’t get a choice. I have to go on this ride because I am already committed. I have to find a way to steady my legs and keep putting one foot in front of the other, when all I really want to do is back up, climb down the ladder and escape.

I keep trying to look ahead and get prepared for what could be coming, all the while knowing that I will never, ever be ready. I have never looked less forward to anything in my entire life, but I cannot wait for surgery day to be over. I want to feel some relief and put the fear behind me so I know what to look forward to next on that long list of the kids’ summer plans.

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