One more time I came choking and sputtering to the top. I stripped off my mask and gasped for breath, as I swung at the air. Chlorine water stung my eyes and burned in my nose, as sunlight blinked back into focus and the sound of kids splashing on the surface flooded my ears. I pushed my wet, matted hair up out of my eyes and off my forehead, and I sighed silently… to nobody. And just like that the deep, sickening feeling of failure sank a little lower in my stomach and I bit my lip hard to keep from crying. But it was no use, because now it was the tears stinging my eyes and I blinked them away in rapid fire succession quick before anyone else could see.
It’s a word that’s been on my mind a lot lately, as I’ve been thinking about what it means to live a Fearless life. A life without fear.
So that’s how I came to be in that pool. With a tank strapped across my back and the red imprint of a scuba mask emblazened across my face. The whole world smelled of plastic and factory rubber and shoot sacs. And I gulped at the sky for breath as I tried to remind myself that I was back above water now, where I had all the air I could ever need. But somebody try telling that to my racing heart.
It beat faster and faster until it had wound itself up into such a spinning turbine of fear that it alone could shift the currents of time. And just like that, I was four years old again.
Clinging for dear life to the end of a log in a lake where we’d all gone swimming, I kicked my long gangly legs against the water and pushed my head my higher. Willing it to stay above water. Cold, muddy lake water rushed in and out of my ears and everything was a roar. It was just about then that one of my older cousins climbed on top of the log to see if he could balance. And as he did the weight of his body pushed the log, and me me along with it, under the water. I kicked harder against the water, pushing myself toward the sunlight raining in from above. And time after time I would come choking and sputtering to the top. But it was no use because every time I would get my head above water, he would shift his weight for balance and I would be pushed under again. All I could do was cling to the side… and wait.
It was good couple of minutes before everyone figured out what was going on, and I was quickly fished out of the water and wrapped in an oversize beach towel with Myrtle Beach, S.C. and a sunset emblazened across it. I had come very near to drowning. Lake water stung my eyes and burned in my nose, as sunlight blinked back into focus and the sound of my family splashing on the surface flooded my ears. I pushed my wet, matted hair up out of my eyes and off my forehead, and I cried silently. Now it was the tears stinging my eyes, and I blinked them away in rapid fire succession before anyone could see.
That’s what got me in that pool. With a tank across my back and a mask across my face. The pursuit of a Fearless life. A life without fear. Facing down my deepest fears. Looking them in the eye and slapping them around a little. Head first. Fearless.
We were just supposed to do a quick lesson in the pool and then it was off to the open water for the dive of our lives. Justin was going to hold my hand. We were going to glide through the water swimming with sharks and dolphins. The music would swell as we splashed into the sunset. It was going to be just like Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah in Splash. But y’know…without the 80’s wardrobe.
But one more time, I came choking and sputtering to the top. Swallowing enough chlorine water with me to drain the entire pool. Every time I would go under, I was right back in that lake. Four years old. Panicked. Unable to catch my breath. Kicking toward the sunlight like my life depended on it. Because in my mind, it did.
And with each attempt, and each subsequent failure, my hopes and dreams of a blog post all about how I had stared down my fears and come out the other side all the better for it grew dimmer and dimmer. I wasn’t going on that boat. I wasn’t going to glide through the water and dance with schools of fish. Tom Hanks wouldn’t be there in a Speedo (ok, maybe that last part isn’t so bad). As I pulled my self out of the pool and replaced flippers with flip flops, I kissed my husband good bye and raced all the way back here to the room. Tears stung my eyes, and I blinked in rapid fire succession behind oversized sunglasses so that no one would see.
Every single part of me, every fiber of my being, just wanted to fling myself on the bed and have a good cry. But somewhere between the pool and the key card reader at our door, something changed. And I found a calm…. a peace with the failure I had found today. Because here’s what I’ve decided.
Fearless doesn’t mean literally living a life with no fear. An absolute absence of fear. Because we’re all afraid from time to time. And it also doesn’t mean facing down those fears and always winning. Because then you would have nothing to be afraid of. Being fearless means being afraid, knowing that if you try you just might fall on your face and fail harder than you’ve ever failed before….and trying anyway.
Because somewhere deep down you know that if you can find it in yourself to try hard enough and long enough, one of these times you’re bound to win. And one of these times you’re going to get everything you ever wanted.
That right there…that’s Fearless.
I know a lot of people out there are having a really hard time right now. You’re kicking against the current and swimming as hard as you can, and just willing yourself to keep your head above water. All you can hear is a roar and all you can do is gasp for breath. But listen to me now. Keep kicking. Keep swimming. Keep breathing. And if it makes you feel better to shed a few tears along the way, then go ahead and cry. But keep trying. Because one of these times, you are going to win. You’re going to take that chance knowing that you might just fall on your face, and instead you’re going to look up and find that you have everything that you ever wanted.
Be Fearless. How about we ALL be fearless. Together.
And in honor of living the Fearless life and always playing with our game faces on, here’s a shot of Justin & I on Saturday as we headed down in the elevator to shoot Stef & Dave’s incredible wedding. Game ON!!!
(**PS: yes we ARE actually this cool in person, so if you ever run into us out on the street make sure you wear your oversized sunglasses. Because this kind of cool can be blinding if you look directly at it! :)