…but I get up again!

I can’t breathe through my right nostril and I feel like I’ve been punched in the face.  Moreover, I suspect I have hyper-extended both my knees.  I’m horribly embarrassed to admit this, particularly in light of my last post (Never too late…), in which I waxed enthusiastic about my return to diving and gymnastics.  Ah, poor fool.

My nose is stuffy because I’d forgotten I have some sort of chlorine allergy that makes my sinuses close tightly for the first few weeks back in a pool.  I can deal with that, but the knee thing?  That’s got me worried.  I was doing what is, for me, a basic dive – just a front flip – to prepare myself for a harder dive.  I did the first one and felt something funny in my knee when I landed. “But I’m on a low board and there’s no reason for my knees to hurt,” I thought and proceeded to do 3 more, each with increasing pain.

I finished the practice with no problem, even accomplished a major goal for myself (more on that in a bit), but when I got home, I realized something wasn’t right.  I had trouble getting from the car to the door.  As yesterday wore on, my knees became more painful and walking, less of an option.  I’m much better today, but it’s a stark reminder: this is a young person’s (or, at least, a very fit person’s) sport.  Perhaps I “dove in at the deep end” too fast.  As has often been the case with me, I tried to get where I was going too soon, without proper preparation.

The lesson, I think, is that it’s important to lay the groundwork and be willing to exert much effort to accomplish a goal.  One ought not to expect immediate success, even if it seems there for the taking.

That said, perhaps what I set out to do by returning to diving has been accomplished.

I got knocked down…

When I was competing in high school and college, one dive was my nemesis: the reverse.  To perform a reverse, one walks forward toward the end of the board, jumps and does a back dive in the direction of the board.  When I first started diving (around 13-years-old), I did a reverse flip and landed standing back on the board.  Afterwards, I had a mental block: whenever I imagined the dive, I forever saw myself hitting the board, in the manner of Greg Louganis at the ’88 Olympics.

Since what we visualize, we realize – I was sure this would eventually happen to me.  (A reminder of how important it is to control the thoughts in our minds.)

At practices, I would stand on the board forever, refusing to go, exasperating coaches and teammates, not to mention myself.  This psychological block nearly got me thrown off my high school team and  had much to do with why I didn’t finish my college career.

As I mentioned in my previous post, this had conscious and subconscious ramifications.  For fifteen years, I’ve had a recurring dream about correcting this fault.  Consciously, I’ve always felt I let myself down.  I allowed an irrational fear to dominate me and make me less than what I could have been.  I didn’t like this about myself, but fortunately, as with all character flaws, I could change it.

To feel fear is fine… to be controlled by fear is not

The first time I noticed that my attitude was different was when my childhood friend Leighanne and I took a trapeze lesson in New York.  Some of you might remember the Sex and the City episode in which Carrie tries to do a catch?  Well, I was inspired.  I was determined to do a catch; but to do so required facing my fear of heights.  To get to the trapeze, I had to climb up a small ladder about 20 feet.  I was wearing a safety harness, so I wasn’t really worried, but still, it was unsettling.  Then, I had to lean out off the small platform to grab the trapeze, while someone held the harness.  Again, I knew I was safe, but it didn’t stop me feeling frightened.

The difference was I wasn’t going to let that fear stop me from trying the catch.  My determination to achieve my goal far outweighed the fear I felt.  And caught, I was…

I was caught at the NYC Trapeze School

Despite this small achievement, diving still dominated my dreams; so I guess my subconscious wasn’t convinced of my ability to push past my fear.

And rightfully so, it has only just occurred to me how many places in my life I still feel limited.  I’m naturally a shy person and have avoided what could be fun events for fear of socializing with strangers.  I have been too embarrassed to post my writing on various public forums.  I have been unable to make sales calls for fear of being told no.  Instead of viewing the world as a friendly, helpful place, I’m constantly afraid of imposing myself where I’m not wanted… breaking some unspoken rule.  But actually, it’s probably something even more deep-seeded.

Rather than keeping perspective – remembering that my experience of the world is of my own making (so who cares if some stranger on a discussion forum doesn’t want to read my work?), I allow myself to indulge fear of the unknown, of change, of success, of rejection.

… but I get up again

So Monday night, when I stood on the board, facing down my enemy, I found my thoughts strangely wandering about – wondering if I was afraid.  Then, I decided to stop thinking and just go.  And there it was, like an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile: a bit awkward at first, but then just slips into a familiar routine.  My reverse dive.

Having looked for the demon and discovered it doesn’t even exist, perhaps, at last, I can move on.  Move on and apply the lesson to other parts of my life.

Our experience of the world really is ours for the making.  It can be warm and receptive, supportive and exciting.  Or it can be cold and lonely, frightening and hard.  It depends on how we choose to view it.  To what beliefs do we give credibility?  How do we imagine ourselves?  Fundamentally, do we have self-confidence, or do we only pretend to the world we believe we can succeed.  We will never fool ourselves.  And we have to know, as truth deep inside, what we can accomplish before we can accomplish it.

We are limited only by our understanding of ourselves and the scope of our imaginations.  In other words, we need not be limited at all.

Published in: on April 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I was one of those high school teammates and I wasn’t annoyed. We all have our challenges to break through and I was happy to be there while your faced yours, if for nothing other than moral support. Congratulations on facing this one down finally.

    • Wow, Jordan… that really means a lot to me! Thank you so much!

  2. Reverse dives – that is so cool. Pix please. I had no idea you were such an athlete.
    The trapeze alone takes serious guts.

    • I tried to include a scanned picture, but couldn’t upload it… will try again, Maria! 🙂 Trapeze was an absolute blast! Funniest thing was going to watch a show and discovering one of my friends from high school was the star!

      • The photo of the trapeze is small, but it looks terrifying- and fun. How did you manage to swing by your ankles ?

  3. Meghan – I loved your essay. I can SO picture the stalled reverse dive attempts and paralyzing fear. (I once tried an inward dive and hit my chin on the board. Of course, never tried it again.) And totally relate to the fear blocks and how powerful such thoughts – which are not real — can be. Kudos to you for putting it out there in your writing – please keep it up!! Anne

    • Thanks so much, Anne! Thrilled that you’re reading it – really appreciate it!

  4. Meghan, You’ve already done more than the average person! You are showing everyone that there are really no limits to what one can do with determination and imagination! And you have both. There is nothing like facing, then overcoming your fears. Thanks for this great post. I’m inspired now, to face a couple of my own!

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