Own Your Fear
Only water as far as the eye can see.
The huge ship sways softly with the gentle flow of the waves of the Pacific. Although this vessel seems the size of several city blocks, even this imposing volume is a ripple in the endless water everywhere we look.
These city blocks of steel and energy and lives would be swallowed up without so much as a belch from just one of the seven seas. Yet I’m just a little blip of a person holding onto the railing.
With a single muscle movement in my legs, I could be over the edge and into the water. If I survived that fall, within seconds I might be sucked under the ship and ripped to bite-size fish food in the next few seconds. If I made it around the propellers, I would very quickly be behind the ship in a bubble bath of white bubbles illuminated for a few more seconds by the lights of the back of the ship.
In less than a minute, I would be drifting alone behind the ship and with every single second, it would be further and further away from me. No matter how hard I kicked and paddled, I would be out of breath and out of screaming range for anyone to hear me.
And then I wait.
If I have my wits about me, which is doubtful, I would remain calm and lie on my back and float, conserving my energy for what might be a long wait–if not the longest wait of all. Surely, someone saw me and alerted the crew. How often might this happen? What is the procedure? I doubt they can turn that huge block of steel around or that it would even make any sense. Do they drop a dingy off of the side with someone in it to come look for me?
Meanwhile, back in the middle of nowhere, I realize that I have seen way too many shark movies and even so-called-educational documentaries about sharks. How about dolphins? They’re sweet and so very intelligent, maybe they’ll come to my rescue and I hold onto that large fin and with their speed and persistence, they whisk me back to the side of the ship where someone throws me a life preserver and I’m hoisted above to grabbing arms and dry towels and lots and lots of people talking all at once.
It was a soft splash and I’m alone in the absolute silence of water and air. Only the occasional ripple of wave next to me or the air coming in and out of my mouth. As all light from the ship is soon long gone, the only lights in the sky are the stars and the great moon. I manage to calm my body as there is no point in thrashing about and calm seems less inviting to hungry predators lurking below. Or perhaps not a single living thing realizes that I float above, silently and quietly, awaiting a tiny dingy or a huge chomp of three rows of sharp triangle teeth or something yet to be imagined. Floating to shore? Maybe it’s not that far and if I could rest enough to sleep, that would calm my breathing and the time would stand still in my slumber and when I awoke it’s light and I’m pulled in by a wave and tumbled onto the sand of my new favorite beach.
* * *
Does it help to address our greatest fears? Even unimaginable ones that come and go in a flash, but somehow can also linger, threatening our daytime with short nightmares? You read about people who rise to the occasion and who say that they were not the type of person who would have survived, but something in them took over and they decided, whether consciously or not, that they were going to survive. You look at them in wonder, with awe and hope that you too would be one of those people who can overcome whatever obstacles come their way when the time comes.
Do we then only know when that time comes? When do we know? Is there a specific moment or is it more of a process? Is it conscious or unconscious? Does it help to prepare? Or is it just in us and we’ll become whatever we were meant to become?
If this is of any consolation, it helps me even writing about it here. So can I safely say that confronting our fears, in whatever way we choose, does help? Even a little? Even if what we learn is that we’d be so scared we’d probably pass out? But maybe not. Maybe.
I tighten my grip on the railing and I smile at the shimmer of the moon on the water as I confront my fears head on and realize that I own the fear and it does not own me.