August 10, 2009


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! :)

  1. Chelsea McGowan

    I love this story.
    I love this story because I’ve had to come to the same kind of realization. Not about water… I was born with fins. But I think we all have that Everest in our lives that we want to tackle, and we feel like failures when we don’t.
    And my dear, you’re absolutely right… it’s in continuing to climb that we earn the right to call ourselves Fearless.
    Can’t wait to see more from the wedding!

  2. Alison

    Thank you for this. I need this reminder sometimes and you walked right in with it at the perfect time. You have my admiration for sharing your story and for facing your fear. And I am SO with you on not missing Tom Hanks in a Speedo!

  3. Carrie Roseman

    Trying is the key and start to everything, including tackling those insurmountable monsters that have loomed in our consciousness and stand on the horizon of all we do. Try and succeed you may, try and fail you may, but not trying leaves you with nothing but regret. Thank you for sharing your story, Mary. You are one fearless woman!

  4. Thea

    You are gorgeous and the fearless bit-well it got me choked up and made me want to meet you even more than I do already:)

    You rock!

  5. Julia

    Awesome post… as always :) Do I spy redbull in that picture?!?

  6. MM

    LOL, yea!! We found it in la tienda de Majestic!! :)

  7. Gwendolyn Tundermann

    Yes, you guys ARE that cool in person! But no matter how cool you are and how successful your business you always let us all know that everyone has their challenges. Life has its ups and downs (and hey, what are the ups without ever feeling the downs anyway?). But you always inspire everyone to keep pursuing the best in themselves. So I’m sending hugs from afar! Just cuz I really feel like giving you guys hugs right now!! : )

  8. syreena B

    you guys are soOO supeR cool…can’t wait to see what comes fromt he coolness…

  9. Marissa Rodriguez

    What an awesome post! Seriously. I haven’t been able to read your blog in a while and I missed it! :) You guys look fabulous in that picture!

  10. Tira J

    What a great post. Thank you for the reminder that we need to keep on kicking and to keep living our lives to their fullest. Since I haven’t met you in person (yet), I will just have to rely on this picture to believe that you are that cool in person. Oh wait, this blog definitely does that for you automatically. :) Blessings on your week!

  11. Matt Weilgus

    Really beautiful post Mary! Loved it. Inspiring!

  12. Feuza

    wow- such how I am feeling today, drowning sinking feeling like everything is drowning around me..thanks Mary

  13. Michelle Johnson

    That was an amazing post. I have been using the word Fearless to describe my sweet 17, now 18 year old daughter who has been recently diagnosed with SLE Lupus. She is Fearless! She is strong and just keeps pushing on. To live is to live Fearless!

  14. caroline

    Fantastic post. This reminds me of our honeymoon when my husband almost drowned me.

    We decided to try Snuba-ing (similar to Scuba, but you don’t have your own tank). We’re checking out sea turtles, and he accidentally kicks my mask. Right off my face. I was so absolutely sure I was going to drown right there, because I couldn’t find up anymore.

    Thinking back on it though, if you’ve gotta go, Barbados is probably the place to do it :D

  15. Stef

    Mary, a fabulous post in so many ways. And you´re amazing for even getting in the pool with diving gear… you´re a braver woman than I! :)

  16. Linden

    Fantastic post! When I was little I was trying to show someone how I could jump off the diving board and didn’t have my swimmy on it took everyone a little while to realize I wasn’t coming back up very fast! My aunt jumped in clothes sunglasses and all and pulled me out… I took me forever to face my fear of getting in deep water and swimming. This post is so encouraging :)

    You guys are super fly!

  17. rachel darley

    this is EXACTLY the kind of thing I needed to read this week and i’ll be forwarding to friends who need it too. =)

  18. imthiaz houseman

    fantastic post! this is exactly what i needed to read.

  19. Dawn B

    what an awesome story! Make me realize that we all have fears, we just have to face them head on. I can’t type much more as I am blinded by the coolness of you two…I didn’t have my shades on while reading! You guys are just cool rock stars!

  20. Heather Corporan

    Man I definately needed that swimming, err, fearless lesson. Feels like we’re drowning now more than breathing, just gasping for air. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. Just another one of the hundreds of reasons I love reading your blog. Your words are ALWAYS so encouraging. And I can relate to your fears of swimming, as someone landed on my head around that same age as a child, shoving me to the bottom of a lake just as I was emerging to gasp for air. Suffice to say that I never learned to swim, but man can I do a mean doggy paddle ; ] When it boils down to it, it just matters that you are able to survive! Keep on keeping on : ]

  21. Jess Bachand

    Haha you guys are awesome, I love this picture. Glad to see you guys had some time for fun! And great post!

  22. Meredith

    awesome/fabulous=post.photographers.encouragement.couple.writer. keep it up!

    just what i needed to read/hear this week, most definitley a huge help & encouragement to me :)

  23. Michelle Sidles

    Love it. Every word. And the photo. :)

  24. billkeane

    haven’t stopped by in a while, but it was well worth it! as it happens, we’re on holiday with my youngest, 10 years old, who just completed her Open Water dive certification two days ago.

    You can do it!

    And it’s one of the best opportunities out there for really interacting with wildlife. Yesterday we encountered 15 sharks, several lionfish, and abundant coral life — not bad for two dives.

    So stay with it. There’s a whole new world to see, appreciate, and yes, capture through a lens!

  25. Ray

    Absolutely awesome entry! You have such a way with words. Thank you for sharing with us one of your, "fears." It’s nice when people are honest like that. Inspiring. One day you’ll be able to swim with a school of fish, and when that day happens, "I want to read about it!" =D

    Great shot of you and Justin in the elevator. You guys rock! ;o)

  26. Ray

    P.S. Your dress is too cute!! What color was it?

  27. Ray

    Okay one last comment: I’m JEALOUS of Justin’s camera with that SUPER LONG LENS! AWESOME! Sigh, I want a camera like that!!!!!

  28. MM

    @Ray: It was blue & white seersucker!! :)

  29. Amanda Bachand

    Yes, you guys ARE this awesome, and you’re even more awesome for facing your fear! Maybe you didn’t get as far as you liked, but you still faced it, which is wicked cool! Great post, great pic (of course).

  30. Janice Day

    I HIGHLY recommend the book ‘Fearless Living’ by Rhonda Britten. Anyone who watched the daytime reality show ‘Starting Over’ will recognize her name.

  31. Gray Photography - Zach & Jody

    What a great post. Miss you guys, and CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU IN NOVEMBER AT PARTNER CON!!!!!!!!

  32. Rachel

    You guys really are cool, so awesome! I love this post!

comments & responses

Add a Comment