The Stuff We Humans Can Do When We Don’t Think That We Can’t

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At 4pm yesterday, I threw my laptop in a bag, along with a notebook and some pens, and jumped into the car. My eldest son who’s 12 was with me, we were heading into town for the 3rd day in a row of training for his PADI scuba diving license.

The bags under his eyes show he’s a little tired but he can’t stop talking all the way. He’s chirping like a little sparrow in the background, speaking of things I neither understand nor keep up with.

“When we get to this level mum, the pressure in the tank changes to “x” amount…”

“When you work with your buddy, we have to double check each other. That’s the only thing I really struggle with, it’s hard to lift the tanks.”

He’s fires at me questions he knows I cannot answer, delights in the fact he can correct me, inform me of the things I do not know.

We park outside the pool, and he streaks off, leaving me standing alone in the car park. I follow inside, feeling like I’m wearing a sign on my head announcing myself as the land dweller amongst a bowl of happy fish.

My boys, my two babes and my husband, are most at home amongst the salt and the sea. They’ll spend hours in the water whose temperature is not for the faint hearted. Our stretch of coast is a cold, open and beautiful part of the Pacific, where five people on the beach feels like a crowded day.

His love of diving began, I think, not 20 minutes from home in the flowing tendrils of a Kelp forest. I remember him arriving back, cheeks flushed, eyes much wider than the norm.

I asked him what he loved about it.

“It’s just so peaceful down there mum”, was what he replied.

One of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever heard.

I don’t have to understand the activity to understand the feeling. I know what it’s like to be called back to something, a pull that sits beyond the logical and the rational. It’s the feeling so many of us share when sharing movement, space, and energy with a horse.

I carry my bag up the steps to a dark mezzanine room that sits above the diving pool, some many meters deep. I can hear his voice in the background, chattering away to those around him, his heart and mind on equal ground with those around him despite the many decades of living that space between them. He is by years and years the youngest.

I hear the trainer give the instructions.

“Tonight, we are going to do a 200-meter continuous swim with your weight belt, a minute or so rest, and then treading water for another ten. An hour’s diving after that.

There’s no touching the bottom and no resting. I’ll let you know when you are done. We need to know that if something happens out there in the water you have the capacity to swim.”

My heart feels the tightening of concern. I text my husband. I am worried with the weights and the lack of stops that it might not be ok.

I go down to the water’s edge and speak to my boy.

“Are you feeling ok to do this?”

I can see he does not mirror my concern.

“Of course”, he replies, “I have to do it. It’s just part of it.”

Matter of fact.

The other divers around him smile. I attempt one of my own, secretly ready to jump in.

I watch him swim, up and down, up and down, the many lengths of the short pool. I feel like I’m watching the Olympics. My eyes start to cloud right over.

On the final length, they all cheer for him. The small body of my boy making his way back down the stretch of pool. He’s giggling at the end, cracking jokes, pulls up on the side in a way that’s pleased with himself. Then he bombs back in the pool and plays around.

Driving home, I tell him how proud of him I am. He said it was hard, but an important thing to do.

“I understand why they do all these tests”, he said, “and I agree with them. I don’t want to be treated any different. I want to show them I can do it just as good as them.”

I admire my child’s steely determination, his absolute self-trust that he can do it. A resolve that floats under the surface of his skin, surprising all the adults around him.

I post in my JoyRide Facebook group a little video of the swim.

A lovely member comment:

“Honestly, the stuff we humans can do when we don’t have the baggage of not being able to do the things.”

Exactly what I thought, I reply.

“Imagine what we’ll see when we dive out there in the ocean”, he enthuses to me at home.

“Imagine”, I reply, and give him a little hug.

❤️ Jane

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