As I stood staring at the water rippling on the shoreline, I felt impatient. I wanted to enjoy pre-game connecting time with the Oyster Cove Cheering Squad (a.k.a. my neighbors), and I wanted to get this plunge over with. Finally, when everyone who was willing to freeze their cheeks off arrived, we made our way down to the water’s edge.
“So, what are the rules to this plunge?” Mike, my neighbor asked.
Rules? Of course, there were no rules, but if there were, it would seem like total immersion would be a requirement, and so I made my declaration. Having played with cold water therapy several times a couple of years back, I had a plan in mind for this plunge. I would walk in slowly, get to just above hip level, sink down for 30 seconds, go under water, and then get out.
Getting Into The Zone
As soon as my foot hit that freezing cold water, I got into my zone, slowly making my way to the depth necessary for my script to work. One foot, then the next, I said to myself as I felt the pins of needles threatening to slice through my courage. Then, I looked to my right and saw Mike galloping in. With the water just above his knees, he plunged in. Cathy, my new sister (this was a bonding experience like none other y’all!), quickly followed suit.
Just keep walking, I thought to myself, still trying to settle into this experience.
Fear Made Me Do It
Noticing I had not gone under yet, Mike and Cathy started making their way to me. Suddenly terrified that I might fail this experiment, I dove in. Then, desperate to get out of this state of immediate and intense shock, I shook my arms rapidly. The sooner I could get the water off my arms, the quicker I could forget that even happened.
Then Mike, the consummate glutton for punishment, decides we need to have that experience again. He dives in, Cathy follows, and once again, I summon the inner resources to ensure my ability to say, “I did it! Twice!” The only problem was that that wasn’t the experience I had signed up for. After completing a marathon for (unbeknownst to me at the time) fanfare, and being miserable in the process, I vowed to let each chosen challenge have greater meaning. I had wanted to be with the cold, and befriend it, in much the same way that I’m striving to befriend my fears in life.
Give Yourself A Redo
If I can sit with the discomfort of the cold water, without running toward warmth the minute I feel the pins and needles, then maybe I can do that with my fears too. And maybe my fears could use some of my willingness to be with them. Maybe it’s my resistance to my fears, and to the cold water, that hurts the most, I thought in the days leading up to this experience.
Minutes after getting out of the water, with towels and heavy coats lovingly wrapped around me, I felt gypped. Too wrapped up in comparing my courage to theirs, and entirely too distracted by my fears, I abandoned myself. Feeling deeply disappointed, I needed to get back in that water and do it on my terms, but I didn’t know how.
Then, Cathy made mention of not being able to pee because the water was too cold. Apparently, she, like me, was holding her bladder, waiting for salt water to purify her excretions. Perfect, I thought, a reason to get back in!
“Want to get back in? I’ll go with you. You can pee?” I asked.
Get Back In The Game YOU Want To Play
Tossing her towel to her husband, she was ready. Handing my jackets and towel back to Cheryl, another blessed neighbor, we headed back in. Slowly, this time. “Did you pee yet?” I kept asking, as I made my way toward the sandbar in the distance. As we approached the sandbar, roughly 50 yards from the shoreline, Cathy asked, “Are we done now? Do you think this is okay?”
“Are you scared, Cathy?” I asked, “You can turn around anytime. I’m going to keep going.”
She didn’t turn around, though. She stayed with me, and as soon as the water rose above my hips, I sank down, wrapped my arms around my torso, and took a few deep breaths. When I looked over at Cathy, I noticed that she was fully in the experience with me. Thirty-seconds later, we stood up and made our way back to our friends, warm jackets, and a deeper connection within ourselves.
Pride Emanates From Courage
I was proud.
It didn’t matter that no one took a single picture or video of this plunge, as they had with the first. The fanfare wasn’t there. The second plunge wasn’t as exciting for the rest of our neighbors, but it was for me. Having a chance to watch my body go from feeling the intensity of pins and needles to a light pressure in my stillness, I knew I could transfer this experience over to the moments when fears grabs ahold of my brain and tells me…
No one will show up.
You’re going to live into your potential.
What’s the point?
They’re going to see that you don’t know what you’re doing.
What Voice Are You Listening To?
That voice, much the same as the sensation of pins and needles, are just trying to keep me safe. Here’s the deal though… 99.999999% of the time, these mental and physical reactions to discomfort don’t keep me safe. They keep me stuck and afraid of my own light. And that’s just not acceptable anymore.
Of course, the unacceptability of these fears doesn’t mean they are going to go away. It means that as I continue to take steps in the direction of my deepest desires, I will enter slowly and intentionally instead of shockingly. I will allow the discomfort of fears to teach me about me and my humanness, complete with emotions, defensiveness, and a deep willingness to live the life my creator has in store for me.
Will you join me in this commitment? Are you willing to wade in slowly and feel the discomforts brought when you dare to do the things that matter to you?
Here’s to your greatness,
Misti Burmeister helps companies and leaders motivate and inspire excellence. For nearly 20 years, she has facilitated communication that results in trust, increasing engagement and productivity across generations. Make sure your communication is coming across the way you intend, visit https://www.MistiBurmeister.com