This past week has felt somewhat like my last diving experience 20 years ago. My husband and I had learnt how to dive during our time down under while living in Australia. We took lessons, did our requisite deep dives in the cold waters of Sydney harbor, and then had some absolutely stunning dives on the Barrier Reef. The best being a weeklong sailing trip with friends around the Whitsunday Islands. We had our dive tanks on board and would hop into the water where we wished, swimming with the manta rays and parrotfish. Our last dive in Australia, though, was quite a different experience. A weekend getaway at Byron Bay, not the best weather, but we were determined to dive. This was going to be our first shark encounter, perhaps. In an area well known for sightings of Grey Nurse sharks. Just off the coast near some small rocky islands. The weather quite blustery, coming in fast, but the dive master assured us we could still dive. Admittedly I was anxious. Very anxious. Meeting a shark under the water was not quite my idea of fun. I had been happy to stick to the colourful coral and gentle fish, but then I was assured it would be safe, and fine. Well fine I was, for sure…! (you know what fine stands for, don’t you…? F_cked up, insecure, neurotic, emotional…yes, that one!) ….but I went along none the less. Under water the strength of the current was incredible strong. Pulling us very steadily toward the undersea cave where the shark had been seen in earlier that day. I was hanging back, not feeling very brave. Hanging on to the rocks at the top of the cave for dear life, watching my husband and the dive master swim on ahead. No shark in sight for me. They swore that they did see one. Eventually allowing the current to draw me down into the opening of the cave and out the other side. No lurking shadows anywhere. The swim back to the meeting point the most difficult part still. The current becoming stronger by the minute. It was almost like clawing myself back. I would have to wait for the swell to push me a few meters forward and then hang onto the rocky outcrops on the sea bed with all my strength, fingers straining, while the backwash threatened to pull me further backward still. This process, excruciatingly slow, seemed to go on for ever. Always the anxious over breather underwater, I soon enough had to give the buddy sign that my air was running out (the international “had enough” sign) and signal that I needed to surface. Well my buddy, husband, complied, even though he had more than enough air still in his tank. We came up too close still to the rocks, and far away from the boat, having to swim another 100meters through the choppy water before we could get out of the water and back on board. All the while I was not completely sure if there was really a shark or not, and all my energy had been used up with fighting the current. Well a week later a shark certainly was around. A great white to be exact. Exactly at the spot where we had been. Taking a honeymooner stopping on ascent alongside the anchor chain. My enduring memory of that day was of fear, anxiety, holding back, trying to not be swept into the cave with a possible shark in it, as well as regret at not having glimpsed the shark after all. At not having truly tested my fear. The memory staying with me of clawing my way back, hanging on and waiting while the current washed past, and then using the forward motion to gain a new handhold. Slowly and steadily as best I could working my way along.
So this week the memory of hanging on, while being buffeted by strong currents, has been re-evoked in me. Hanging on, hanging in, with all my strength. Waiting for the current to wash over me while I wait, sit, stay, be, and show up for every day as best I can. Weathering the daily storms of illness, emotions, exams, school, anxiety, work, and just meeting the storm of life as it shows up.
I had meant to write a completely different post today. But maybe it’s still all the same posting. One about motherhood, the nature of women, mentor ship, and how important the education of a mother is to the success of her children. Something born out time and again by research showing that the best way to improve the lot of a nation’s children is to ensure the mothers are educated. Our own census 2011 was published this last week showing how poorly we are doing in this regard. Particularly with our girls. So here I am ensuring every day my own children are well educated. They will tell you it’s been a stressful journey and that the expectations at times have been too high. Ours, as well as their own. For me I know that my own mother was top of her class, but due to the interruptions of World War 2 and little family support of her education she dropped out in her last year of school, no longer top of her class when school resumed after the war, and feeling “low morale” as she would have said. I also know that her own mother did not finish high school, also having been top of her class, quite an achievement for a young girl close to 100 years ago, even if it was only a small rural French village. But she was pregnant as a 17 year old and also did not finish school. Was married off instead. So as a rare event, in my maternal lineage, of a daughter to finish high school, let alone go to university, forgive me for feeling strongly about educating women. Feel strongly about following our dreams and how we often don’t…, but that will be the topic for another day.
At least women voted this week
At least our voices matter these days
Make them count
Swim more with sharks and meet the fear
Don’t be sidetracked by the imaginary sharks
More often it’s the current and backwash that demands our attention each and every day
This demands more daily courage than the occasional shark sighting