Fear could be said to be the root of all evil. The cause, reason, excuse…but it is much more. Fear is at the root of damn near every personal demon that possesses me, from lethargy to procrastination. Fear, and the escape from it, is why I drank like I did.
On the other hand, fear is not all bad, it’s partly to blame for my decision to recover. It was the fear that I would wind up a perpetual loser that got me to try a better way of life, to boil everything down to one simple action: Do the next right thing at any given moment.
My girls taught me a lesson about conquering fear yesterday. They were at their diving lesson, my yards already put in and watching them. The tuck dive already progressing it was time for the girls, just 8 and 11 mind you, to learn to dive backwards off the board.
It started at the edge of the pool, simple enough; arms in the air, hands locked on over the other with the thumbs, look at the hands, arch the back and fall back off the ledge.
After that was mastered, it was to the board. The eldest went first and the initial attempt was fair enough. Then under-rotation led to a back-smacker and fear. That led to more fear, less rotation and full-on back flops. That progressed to utter paralysis. A complete inability to stand backwards on the board and look at her hands above her head. My heart ached for my daughter. To say I could feel her pain was an understatement. I lived through that pain for years and I know how it can keep me from enjoying life if allowed to fester.
I watched the coach try to coax her to fall off the board, only to freeze as her eyes rolled up to spot her hands… Paralysis. She would walk off the board to the steps and get down. As a kid, that’s where I threw in the towel. I’d go until fear got the best of me and I’d quit. It’s no way to live.
My daughter didn’t quit though. She’d walk a couple of lanes down from the board and practice falling off the edge… With just fifteen minutes left in the session, the coach started ramping up the effort, if my daughter went home, left to dwell on the fear rather than victory over it, that could lead to problems at her next class… I joined in. She kept freezing.
The 8-year-old heard us talking about flexibility and decided to show off. She laid down on her belly on the deck, pushed up with her arms, arched her back and curled her legs up until her feet rested flat on her head. Folks, you’d have to cut tendon and break a few bones to get me into that position, but it gave me an idea… I had the younger try the reverse off the board, explaining she’d be perfect for that dive with her flexibility. Their coach caught on immediately.
The little one’s first attempt was darn near perfect as she entered the water just shy of vertical.
When the elder saw the younger, the desired gears shifted in her head, I could literally see them click into place… And
Within three minutes, they were wearing out a path in the tile to the diving board. One after the other. Arms up, arch the back, watch the hands… Into the water.
Bella smiled and we all exchanged hi-fives. Inside of fifteen minutes, my daughter went from frozen with fear to “this is easier than I thought it would be”. Something I took years to do.
I can catch a life lesson on how to be a better dad, husband, boss and father from anyone, even an eight and eleven year-old.
Yesterday I caught one. It was not only about facing fear – though that was the broader part of it. My daughter expressed her fear, as she felt it, holding nothing back, not even the tears, she trusted her coach and mom and I with it, so that we could help her work through it, not around it.
Trusting someone else with my fears, unconditionally, and then taking their advice to get through it… Now that’s scary. And the simplest way to victory over them.