Some people face their fears by charging through them. Others face fear after thinking and even over-thinking a bit. I’m not sure if one method is better than the other, but I subscribe to the latter method.
Last week while walking down the beach I saw a lady trying to drag her toddler into the ocean. The little girl was screaming frantically. I’m sure from her view the small waves looked like tsunamis. Seeing her experiencing such fear brought back a memory from my childhood.
Both of my parents had a fear of the water. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing them in a pool. They wanted me to feel confident in the water so they signed up my six-year-old self for two weeks of swimming lessons at a local community park.
To this day mom still tells the story. In fact, she provided a delightful retelling of it last week. Sigh.
During the first week of lessons I refused to get into the pool. My fear was twofold: I was afraid of the water AND the instructor, who was the largest man I had ever seen. He was built like a mountain and again, I was a six-year-old kid.
Mom was exasperated and told the instructor she wasn’t going to bring me back. This wonderful, wise man told her to keep coming back and let me sit at the side of the pool. He had a hunch I would conquer my fear on my own terms and in my own time. He was right.
During the second week of lessons I participated with the rest of the class. I guess I just became willing to try, or unwilling to keep sitting it out. I took swimming lessons in subsequent years. Our family joined a swim club and I spent my summers splashing, swimming and having a ball.
I have a healthy respect for the water, but I have no fear. This has served me well in triathlon; I’ve never panicked during the swim. I’ve even “chicked” my share of guys. Never mind that they blow past me on the bike.
I know people who learned to swim by being thrown into the deep end of the pool and that may have been fine for them. But this cautious, older-child who’s been introverted since birth is grateful for an instructor who was willing to teach with patience.