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When I was a first grader and would try to dive off the diving board, I would start at the way back. I would put my arms in the diving position (together over my head), and I would run the 7 feet forward and jump into the water (hands up the whole time.)
Sometimes when I entered the water it was dive-like with my head going first. Sometimes it was belly-flop-like, but that was my way of doing it. I didn’t care what it looked like; I was accomplishing something.
My brother occasionally mocked me, but really, he kind of had to with how I was approaching it. I didn’t care, though, because I only wanted to be able to say that I could dive, and even if I didn’t do it perfectly, I wanted to say I had.
Somewhere along the line, I eventually decided not to do things that made me look silly. From there, I decided not to do things that could potentially, if done incorrectly, make me look silly. The next step was deciding not to do things that more than likely wouldn’t make me look silly but that still carried the potential for it to happen. Things like walking, for example. (Because, um, earthquakes. I never knew if they might knock me off balance… in South Dakota. If I’ve learned one thing from Sharknado, it’s that anything can happen.)
This new way of looking at life meant that I created a lot of fear in myself. In my mind, I was protecting myself from potentially having a bad day or a bad experience. Or from the worst thing of all: people looking at me. People thinking I was different. People knowing I existed.
Can you imagine the horror?
I don’t know when I stopped participating in my life. I know that there were moments where friends pulled me out of it to make me try new things, and I am very lucky they did, or I would have no experiences to share with my kids whatsoever. Even still, on many days I was sick to my stomach through school and work. I never ate breakfast because I was concerned that my nerves would make me throw it up. The backfire was that my stomach growled loudly, and that was a bad deal, too.
You can’t be invisible if your stomach is quaking with hunger pangs.[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Page 2″ ]
I know by the end of high school I was so tired of worrying that eventually I began the process of getting help to remember what it was like to dive into life. To remember what mattered and what didn’t.
In my life now, I think about the past very little. I have found my ways to deal with anxiety, and I make an ass out of myself regularly. It feels like therapy to be silly and to put myself out there in ways that I couldn’t imagine before.
I dance with my daughters like an idiot, I make up songs, I do faces to make them smile, and I’m not so scared of being seen messing up or not being perfect to people. I like my girls looking at me and smiling because I can’t do a cartwheel anymore. Or giggling at how bad at karaoke I am. (I mean good. Did I say I was bad?)
I want my girls never to try to hide themselves or retreat from life because something bad “may” happen (but probably won’t) like I did. I want to teach them skills to deal if something bad happens. I will model what that’s like for them, and I will enjoy every second of it.
Because it doesn’t matter what you look like when you dive in. What matters is that you do it.[/nextpage]