I woke up on high alert from another shark dream. I wonder what the sharks stand in for my unconscious. Could it be that all my fears and unfinished business have taken fish form and are hunting me?
When I watch video clips of myself swimming in the ocean I see all the problems with my stroke, but then I think to myself, "Holy crap you're way out there, you're vulnerable, you're part of the food chain, buddy." It can be easier in those moments to think of myself in the third person. Thoughts like: "That dude is swimming way offshore...I wonder what the hell he's doing?"
It is so hard to be in my own skin and accept the fact that I am in really deep water that is shared by lots of sea life, and not to be scared or armored or defended.
When I do give in to the fear, I try not to look directly down through my goggles, down there past the bubbles and clouds of plankton and jellyfish. I'm afraid of seeing dark shadows gliding beneath me. Even when it's just the shadow of my own escort boat, I freak out and brace for the bite, the shock.
I try manage the fear. I do swimming drills. I repeat to myself the mantra that I am safe and that I deserve to be alive and that I deserve to be healthy. But there is a part of me, a messed-up, battered 10% part of me--that feels like I deserve to get hurt, that I deserve to die out here, that I deserve to pay dearly for having the audacity to do this swim at all.
When I was in kindergarten, I loved seafood. I used to beg my Mom's mom to take me out for fried Haddock.
I don't eat seafood anymore. Because I don't want seafood to eat me.
That's right: when I am out there in the ocean miles from land, I don't want nearby fish to think I see them as food.
And I am hoping they will return the favor.