06
Dec
08

Circling With the Sharks

sharks1From time to time when I take a shower, something triggers a thought of a great white shark and I am paralyzed – truly paralyzed – with fear.  This fear is something I have carried since I was a small child.  It kept me from learning to swim, from hanging out at the lake with my friends, and from spending summers diving into our local river.  It kept me from swimming pools, water slides, and has provided some interesting ocean memories.  At Sea World, my friends thought it would help if I visited the shark aquarium.  I passed out and spent the afternoon at the medic station.  No Shamu for me.

This has followed me into adulthood, on a trip to Mexico, and into my downstairs bathroom that I painted a beautiful blue and therefore, avoid.  I think it’s the bathroom that pushed me over the edge.  It’s gorgeous, copied from a Pottery Barn catalog, and I really love it.  Being unable to use it because of a childish fear seemed a little ridiculous.  Well, according to my husband, it was way ridiculous.  Shark Week came on the Discovery Channel and he thought it would be healthy if I watched it.  Not so healthy when he had to stay in the bathroom to keep me occupied while I showered (totally G rated, it just sounded bad).

So I considered my blue bathroom.  And Shark Week.  And I wondered how in the world I could be this frightened at this point in my life. 

I caught myself.

I became suspicious that this fear had disappeared a long time ago; I was just holding onto it like an old letter jacket.  A piece of what I was then.  This was a piece of my identity that really didn’t matter any more, except to me.  Fearing great fish defined me, but only in my own imagination. 

So, we visited an aquarium.  I tested my theory and was dismayed to find that it must have been correct because walking through a school of swimming sharks was surprisingly easy.  Beautiful, in fact, and somewhat surreal.  Of course, this was after my screams drew a crowd when I caught a foot on the conveyor belt and thought I was being hauled off as dinner – baby steps.

What else do we wear around like old letter jackets?  Things that don’t matter at all to life today, but define our perception.  In my first post I taked about all those feelings I carried for George and Lou.  I’m pretty sure they were swimming with the sharks in my shower, defining me in most unflattering terms.  Letting go of my fears and my loves had a lot less to do with the sharks than it had to do with letting go of a me that has been gone for a very long time.  Youth’s promise is so majestic.  It is built on the reckless hope that rests so precariously on romance.  All the recklessness is tempered by apprehension.  That promise is powerful.  That promise honed by recklessness and apprehension is intoxicating.  As such, it is so hard to let go but if we hang on, the sharks are circling and eventually they just may close in.

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