I stood there. Looking down. A pool of water beneath me. FAR beneath me. It was the end of summer and I was standing on the high dive at our community swimming pool. It was my last chance to do this…to keep the promise that I had made to my children all summer.
Mom will go off the high dive.
She will climb the tall ladder. Walk the wobbly plank. And jump. Gulp.
This might not seem like that big of a deal to you. I get that. I mean, I had spent the entire summer watching people of all ages jump off of that towering platform into the unforgiving waters below. But here’s the thing. I’m afraid of heights. And when I say that I’m afraid of them, what I really mean is that anything beyond a second story sends me into complete panic. I get nauseous. Everything starts spinning. I may or may not have once been seen crawling my way down the stairs from the nosebleed section in a concert arena. Needless to say, I don't do lofty.
You might be wondering, then, how in the world I got myself into the pickle of promising such a formidable leap to my precious, ever patient children. The answer is simple.
Parenthood calls you to do things that you never thought you would ever, ever do.
I wouldn’t have jumped for my husband (most likely) or a friend or even a bet or dare. But, I had to jump for my kids…to set an example for them about overcoming your fears.
“Who are you kidding?” I said to myself on Memorial Day Weekend. “They know you’re afraid of heights. You’re jumping, Jen. You’re jumping off the high dive this summer.”
So there I was on the final day that the pool was open for the season. The last possible hour before the lifeguards would blow their whistles and begin to pack up chairs and put them away for safe keeping until next year. To make matters worse, it wasn’t a particularly warm day. It had rained most of the week. The air and water temps were quickly dropping and felt about as warm the leftover freeze pops that were selling for half price at the concession stand.
I had watched the minutes of the clock tic away all afternoon. The song, “The Final Countdown,” was the obvious choice for the ongoing soundtrack in my mind. My kids, bless their hearts, were done nagging. They had given up hope, I would imagine, that this was ever going to happen. Finally, I mustered up the courage and walked over to the dive pool while everyone else was swimming. I just stood there looking at the towering contraption that brought so much amusement to so many this summer. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?
Then, something happened. I looked across the pool and saw my daughter. She was treading water and just staring at me. She had this look in her eyes that said it all… “You’re not going to do it. It’s too scary for you.”
Well, anyone who is a mama knows that that was all it took. I mean, how can I expect my kids to do hard and terrifying things if I won’t do it myself?
I started to climb the ladder.
The entire experience was absolutely dreadful. I gripped the side rails with my sweaty palms. The ladder rungs felt cold and slippery. Legs shaking, I began to climb to the top. With my daughter’s eyes on me, I decided that this was not the time to hesitate. “Get up there quickly before you chicken out. She CANNOT see you climbing back down the ladder after only having gone half way up,” I shouted in my mind.
As the last rung approached, I began to look out over the top of the diving board. And can I just say? The view was magnificent. Suddenly, lush, green tree tops and neighborhood homes came into view. Inspired by the beautiful scenery, I took a deep breath and placed both feet firmly on the board. What happened next was the worst mistake I could have made. I looked down.
Suddenly, things didn’t look so great anymore. The nausea began. My knees felt wobbly. “Dear heavens,” I thought. “The lifeguard is going to need to call a medevac to rescue me.”
And that’s when I heard it. A voice that has always been so sweet to my ears. My daughter, yelling from the pool…”Just do it, Mom!” Scanning the pool of bobbing bodies, I saw her. She raised her hand up out of the water and gave me a thumbs up. A lump formed in my throat. There was no going back now.
As fast as my little legs would carry me, I walked right out to the end of the bending board that was the only thing between me and a terrifying free fall. Without hesitation, I screamed a squeal of terror, and descended into the icy waters below. Before I even came to the surface, I could hear them. My friends and family were all cheering for me. I swam to the ladder and climbed out amidst the applause. My sweet friend was standing there waiting for me. We talk a lot about being courageous, she and I. She just stood there and said exactly what I needed to hear….
“I just loved it. You were so brave.”
“You were so brave.” Can I just say how much I needed to hear those words? Not just because of the near death experience of the high dive, but because of life in general. I would never describe myself as a brave person. But that day I was. And it felt incredible.
I realized, on that final day of swimming pool fun, that approaching the high dive is usually how I approach things in life. Rather than facing something difficult with complete confidence that I can take a leap of faith and rise to the top, I procrastinate. I let my feelings take over. I tell myself that I can’t do it. Brave is not who I am. This just isn’t for me. It’s too hard.
But on that chilly, September night, I realized that not only can I can be braver than I thought, but I can look forward to the outcome of doing brave things.
My only regret about that day is that someone didn’t record it, because if someone would have, I would wake up every morning and watch that video clip. I would say to myself..”Jen, it’s not that scary. Take a leap and see what happens.”
Oh yea…and that high dive waiting for me at the pool? I have a good feeling that it might be seeing me again next summer.
This piece was originally published on Brave Guinevere.