Thursday, January 26, 2012

MUST SWIM - Part Two

When I came back up I had a death grip on that line.  I don't ever remember feeling terror like that ever before in my life.

The look on H's face wasn't really a good one, I'd describe it as one of deep concern. I looked away from her and fixated on those floats.  With my death grip on the rope, I began to sort of pull my way forward.  I couldn't touch the bottom, my body kind of just hung as I constantly tried to feel for the pond bottom that simply wasn't there.  When I got to the floats, I think I began to cry because there were no handles, nothing.  It was a mass of muddy soaked hard slippery plastic.  Someone told me to let go of the rope, so I did, and just grabbed for the floats.  More panic because it was so slick, I couldn't get up.  Someone in my group told me to grab deeper ahead on the floats, I did.  They said get a leg up on the floats.  I did.  I was pulled and rolled up to the plastic dock of floats.  I looked behind me, hundreds were still jumping in, screaming about the cold, hollering, laughing, just doing it.

I was in the middle of the obstacle paralyzed with terror.

I had no concept of time anymore, but likely it was only seconds when I realized S was in the water in front of me; he came back for me.  I had only moments on the floats before I was back in the black water with S coaching me, supporting me, helping me.  Then, I was again back on the floats.  It was a blur, I was truly consumed by terror, there's things I probably said, things I probably did, that I just cannot recall.

Now, all that remained was the final third of the pond.  No ropes, no floats, nothing.  There was only dark, deep, freezing pond water. Any feelings of happy dancing iPod girl were long gone.  I was now water terror girl in the middle of an official panic attack.  In honest to goodness hero style, S was there.  He was in the water, talking me literally off the edge. He said "we're going to cross together."  He told me he wasn't leaving without me.

I was completely out of control, unsure of all I said, but I do know I never stopped talking.  I know I said I really don't think I can do it.  I think I said leave me there.  He said he was going to swim me across on his back.  He said that I could do it.  He was the face of complete calm in the middle of chaos all around him, not the least of which was me completely out of control.  And then it struck me I think more than anything that was the problem; control.  There was nothing in this situation within my control. I couldn't make the water shallow.  I couldn't go back.  I couldn't instantly overcome water terror, and I couldn't magically learn how to swim.  I looked at the best of the best, S, and knew he would make sure I would get to the far side, so I asked him how did he want me to hold on.  He told me what to do, so I did it.  We were back in the freezing black water which was deeper than I wished it was, and he was swimming.  I was crying.  I was apologizing.  I remember saying "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" about a million times as we were swimming.  He was under the water, I was not. He would come up for air, and then he was under the water again.  I really was sorry.  I was sorry that someone like him, the best of the best, had to waste his time for someone like me.  I was sorry that I was not up to the challenge.  I was sorry that I wasn't good enough, that I wasn't better. I mean all of that when I say it, and I still mean it. I think we should all do our best, and for me my best wasn't good enough.  I completely fell apart.

Epic fail on "don't be a weak link" goal setting. Epic fail.

When we got to the far side, everything was slick icy mud.  It was, for me, like trying to climb out of a vat of oil.  I don't really know what happened next.  I know that I began to realize I was out of the water and face planted on the other side of where I started.  I got up, crying like an infant.  I couldn't control my emotions, I was spent.  When I stood up, my legs were like rubber, and I had difficulty walking for no other reason than out of control emotions.  My friends were there cheering.  I don't know when it was, but I found S and I know I hugged him.  I really didn't want to let go.  I know I said thank you, and I know he looked at me at some point, and instead of making me feel even more like an idiot, ashamed and embarrassed, he congratulated me on being brave. Seriously?  What?  I said I was sorry.  He said stop it.  And, then at some point, he was gone.  He was back with his video stick camera, running ahead of all the rest of us crazy girls getting ahead so he would be at the next obstacle to video us.  I was on my feet moving away from the black water.  Away from the "MUST SWIM" sign.

I was back on the sandy trail, in the sun, I was sort of running, sort of stumbling with my friend M.  She who has the magical Airstream camper I called shotgun in.  It was M who told me to stop. She is a NP; another angel in the boot camp group who always somehow is there anytime any of us has a spill in boot camp, falls wrong and maybe breaks something, or is breathing not quite right after an anxiety attack in a pond of freezing black water.  I told her no, I was ok, I want to keep going.  So, she stayed with me as we moved back into a light run on the sand.

The sun felt amazing.  People were still passing us commenting, hollering, yelling and screaming how that black water was so freezing cold.  It didn't bother me, that ridiculously low water temperature.  Keys-girl, sun loving, palm tree worshipping, it-can-never-get-too-hot, girl didn't care and I didn't really grasp why did anyone care how cold the black water was because at least they could swim through it.  Actually, those thoughts are kind of stripped down sanitized for this blog, because what when through my head I cannot put here.

I remember I did a lot of audible cursing on that course.  I had my hair in a high pony tail so as I became muddier and muddier hair wouldn't slap and stick against my face.  That high ponytail repeatedly caught on low barbed wire while I was belly crawling through orange mud, which then would kind of jerk my head back as my body kept moving forward.  I remember at that obstacle clawing through the mud just screaming obscenities (sorry don't hate me) and then realizing S was right there smiling and laughing with his video/camera stuck to the end of that 3 foot pole, filming us one by one as we clawed through.  I saw that camera inches from my face.  I couldn't stop swearing.  Nothing clever or poignant coming out my mouth.  I wanted to say "don't try this at home kids" but instead far less inspiring pearls of wisdom flowed.

The obstacle I feared most, that wall, wasn't so bad after all.  Although it was higher than I thought it would be, and I was correct, there were no knots to help me, I jumped for the rope, leaned back, and began to climb. I was going to climb the wall because I knew the worst of anything was behind me.  As I climbed, I heard S say "lean a little further back Jen" so I did.  The last thing I remember on the wall was S hollering "that's it Jen!" when I leaned waaaaaay back and dug deep.  S was there coaching all of us over that wall, including me.  I got to the top, and sat there for a moment, just looking around.  People were everywhere.  On the ground.  On the wall.  On top of the wall.  Scrambling down the back of the wall.  Running away from the wall.  Running towards the wall.  I had my moment at the top, heaved completely over, grabbed something akin to a plank on the back of that wall, and began picking my way down.  As I got closer to the ground, I jumped and there I was. Done with the wall.  There was nothing that would be bad now, whatever else came my way, the worst was over.  I was sure of it.

Mere seconds passed when someone came rushing up to me and said "H is afraid of heights."  I looked up and there was my boot camp instructor straddling the top of the wall.  I never knew she was phobic of heights, and instantly waves of empathy washed over me.  I ran a few steps closer back to the wall, and joined the rest of our group, hollering encouragement.  She waved away our cheers, she needed us to be quiet, we were not helping her situation.  So, I shut up and stood there watching her as she watched us.  She picked her way over and down, then was back on the ground. She was ok and happy again.

She and I walked together away from the wall.  I told her that she probably had no idea how proud I am to know her, how proud I am of her. She said something that I don't remember, but it wasn't really what I wanted to hear, because I know I said to her to stop it.  I said don't ever forget that none of us would be there if it wasn't for her, that she is the reason we were there; she is the reason we can do what we did.  We were back on the sandy trail, and had a lot of obstacles left.  We, as a group, faced them together, laughing at times, cursing at times.

We finished together, various stages of sunburn, blood and bruising.  We partied the rest of the weekend, some in tents, some in that camper, but all together in victory.

For the record, if I'm ever confused enough to agree to any more of these crazy events, I'd bring a pool noodle no matter how foolish I may look.  I think kicking across a freezing pond with a bright pink pool noodle looks much less foolish than having a complete breakdown while surrounded by hundreds of other people.

Our friend S, he won a trophy for his time in the wave he ran for speed.  He was happy, everyone is proud of him, and shares his happiness.  For me, there's just not enough (vegan! organic!) coconut waffles in the world that I could make for S to show my gratitude.  The best of the best, indeed he is.

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