I peered into the inky black water below me and I started having trouble breathing; the air I inhaled strained to fill the heavy fabric of my lungs. I couldn’t see the bottom, I couldn’t see anything. I stood there with my toes at the edge and my stomach clenching looking into the literal unknown. As I stood there, I swear thought phantasms rose up out of the murky water to taunt me “How deep will I sink into the water when I jump in? What if I sink too deep and I can’t swim back to the surface in time? What if I get tangled in the algae weeds and I can’t break free? What if I drown?”
Yes, in that moment standing on the edge of a diving board on a floating dock in Lake Washington I was perhaps being a bit dramatic. And I have no idea where this fear came from. I’d spent my childhood jumping into lakes in New England and swimming in pools in the southwest. But here I was in my late 30’s standing on the edge of a diving board; hovering over the moment before I would leap, knowing once I did there would be no going back. Once I was in the air, I couldn’t just change my mind, there would be no do-overs. In those moments I realized this fear wasn’t just about the lake and the opaque water below me; this was about my life, this was about my growth. This was about my next evolutionary leap as an actualized human being. This literal jump into the unknown was about all of the metaphorical leaps I knew I was going to have to take to fully be who I am.
I knew the moment would come when I would jump.
I knew the moment would come when I would feel my feet falling through the air and then sliding into the cool water in spite of all of the fear and unknown screaming before me. Surrounded by water, I kicked to the surface toward the sweet moment my face pushed through the water’s surface into air and then, my first inhale…
So now, when I look at the professional and metaphysical jumps in life I see before me I wonder, why do I hold myself back? Every time I move to jump, I come up against this smooth dark barrier of fear and I shrink back.
Not all of us were encouraged to shine and share our gifts as we were growing up. Some of us were torn apart and scattered. Some of us had to regrow parts of ourselves in order to become whole again. Some of us learned very young to hide and be unseen simply so we could survive long enough to even get to a point where we could potentially shine if we could un-learn the very behavior that saved us when we were so young. The fear of being seen is truly the fear of harm; the fear of death.
I see how this need to hide has influenced the decisions I’ve made, how I’ve moved in public, and how it has ruled my world. Avoiding eye contact and chance interactions in public. Dressing nicely; but, plainly. Hiding my body; trying to not be too attractive. Hunching my shoulders to hide my heart. Now, pressed up close, I can see this barrier has been constructed out of all of the subconscious rules, stories, and limitations I’ve created and accepted for myself.
For so long I thought I was a broken bird when the truth is, I’m really a butterfly. I want to flutter my wings in the cool air and discover what I’m really capable of.
My spiritual journey has brought me here to this point of metamorphosis. I’m an adult now with full power and agency. Now, I know I have a choice. Do I choose growth or stagnation? Do I choose to face my fears or allow them to keep me prisoner and watch myself erode away slowly with each passing year? Once during a women’s sweat lodge, I was told my fears make sense because as a caterpillar it was my job to hide from predators and survive. She said I did a good job so I could become the butterfly.
Now it is time to let go of all that no longer serves me.
This barrier of fear is strong and it is frightening. It is as strong and scary as I can make it. But I made it; so, I will un-make it.
I know the moment will come when I will break through and get my first glimpse of what is beyond.