I’m standing on a diving board in my wet bathing suit.
My grandfather has his gray professional work slacks on, a thin black belt, pale blue shirt tucked in, tie recently removed and two open buttons at his neck.
He’s rolled up his sleeves to mid-forearm and holds a wavy gold-colored glass with a paper towel wrapped around it full of iced coffee.
“Okay, try again.”
I look down at the blue rough-surfaced diving board and my bare feet, my eyes blood shot from so much chlorine all afternoon.
My sister’s and I were all swimming in the backyard pool, screaming and throwing an orange and white beach ball at anyone who jumped off the diving board. The jumper was always trying to somehow sit on the ball on the way down into the water and force the whole thing way under, so it exploded out of the pool into the hot Oklahoma sky like a rocket.
But when my grandpa came home, we got quiet.
It was serious diving drill time.
He’d watch us and coach.
Today was a little different. He said it was high time my sister and I, the two older girls, learned to do a flip.
“You’re gonna step-step-step just like your dives, raise your leg up high and come down pushing hard with your whole weight right at the exact end of the board, arms up, reach, tuck your knees in and roll.”
My sister, 18 months younger, was already climbing the silver ladder steps out of the pool and waiting for me to go.
I stepped fast, did my jump down at the end of the board.
And once again did a jack-knife dive head first into the water. Just like my sister had done a second ago before me.
Just like I had done the other fifteen times off the end of the board with my grandpa staring me down waiting for the flip.
“I can’t do this.”
“Sure you can. You two aren’t even trying it. So what if you flop, at least you’ll have tried!”
I was climbing the step ladder out now, and my sister was standing on the diving board looking like she was concentrating hard.
We felt like we had been there for hours.
Grandpa was not budging. He was standing there like a soldier. Can’t he go back inside? Jeez, leave us alone!
Who needs flips for crying out loud? Why now? Why us?
And then my sister ran, with fists tightly wound into balls, down the diving board.
Up, up she went….and she rolled into a ball and landed feet in the water first.
She came up shouting, both arms raised in the sky.
“I did it! I did it! I did it!”
And then all in an instant of awareness and movement, without thinking about it anymore, I got into position myself, a huge surge of energy running through me.
Step-step-step down the board, jump, curl into a ball and flip right over. Feet first into the water.
I did it too.
Coming up to the surface I was elated.
I looked at my grandpa. “Good,” he said. “Now practice that.”
And we did. Over and over again.
But I never forgot that day.
Would I have done the flip all by myself? It seemed like without my sister doing it first (my YOUNGER sister, by the way, who was NOT supposed to do things before me, growl) I would never have risked what seemed so frightening, and so unnecessary in the big scheme of things.
I would have been happy doing a simple dive, probably.
But perhaps through the powerful surge of competition, or through someone similar to me showing me what was possible, or through continually trying–hesitating and holding back–and then for some unknown reason, flinging it all to the wind and jumping….
….I felt total and complete joy in that moment.
Who would you be without the belief that you’ll fail, or it will really hurt and you’ll do a belly flop, or you’ll land on your back with a huge smack?
Who would you be if you didn’t think about the future anymore, even the future that will happen in literally 5 seconds after you jump?
“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” ~ author George Addair
And if you need encouragement, ask.
Much love, Grace