My split-second.

I went diving for the first time ever in the cold Irish waters, it was a very secluded spot, very quiet, very calm, and not very deep. The perfect spot for a nervous beginner such as myself. It took forever to weigh me down, because I am a floater, but eventually we got me down to the bottom of the bay. It took me a while to get into it but once I figured out how to not die – spoiler: keep breathing – I was fine. After about 7 minutes, I realized, this is what eternal bliss must feel like, being in a foreign world, hearing yourself breath, hearing yourself think, watching for the smallest of movements, being amazed at all the small darting eyes that are watching you and recognizing that even if it may seem like there is nothing to see, there is a million things to discover. I never wanted to leave, I just wanted to stay and explore and keep going. Time stood still and I loved it. After about 30 minutes we returned though, because the water is cold, and although you may not know it while doing it, it’s freaking exhausting.

As part of my training, there are a few technical exercises I have to do, in case I ever find myself in a precarious situation, I’d know how to act. Before we ascended, we stopped, and my instructor had asked me to drop my regulator. So, I did and then I retrieved it and as I retrieved it and put it back in my mouth I swallowed about a gallon of icy cold salt-water, because for a split-second I forgot my training. See, when you drop your regulator in the water, and you retrieve it to start breathing again, you need to empty it of the water that inevitably had entered the mouthpiece. I didn’t clear that water, I just put it in my mouth and attempted to breath… That split-second I was a second closer to death, there is no doubt about it. I felt my heart fill with terror, and I was certain that I was about to die. I didn’t see my live flash before me, I didn’t feel like I missed an opportunity to do the things that I had never done, I felt no regret, all I felt was a sense of “so, this is how I’m going to die”. Once I recovered (which in all earnestness, I still haven’t), we ascended, and I found myself back in the boat.

Fast forward a few days. I find myself in the gym, where I try to show my face about twice a week (with varying results – like seriously, as often as I’m there, you’d think I’d be skinny as a stick, but then again, I also like my guilty pleasure foods, so no real surprise that I got some chunk in my trunk…). Anyways, so I’ve been building up my strength, bench pressing an obscene amount of weight (I guess that depends on who you ask), doing all kinds of interesting exercises, throwing and thrusting, lifting and dropping, and whatever other jargon you use in a gym. And somehow, my trainer finds new ways of torturing me every darn time I come in. She suspends a red very sturdy looking rubber band about 2 and a half meters above ground (I’ll give you a second to google how many feet that is… – or in case you don’t want to google that, it’s like a very tall person and a half). Then she shows me how to get my knee into the band and use that as leverage to propel me upwards to do 8 pull-ups. She made it look so easy, I got this, I think to myself.

So, I do exactly as my trainer showed me, put my knee into the band, and I can feel the resistance, making me think, the pull-ups are going to be a breeze. The other leg is currently placed on a small platform, I push myself away with that leg and my arms are making an L-shape, which makes me feel like I am the strongest person alive. As per instructions, I am trying to slowly lower myself down, and as I am very mindfully trying to be in control, I can feel my arms giving out. My arms are now fully extended, I can feel the muscles in my arms shaking as I am holding on for dear life (not once was I in danger, it’s not that kind of gym!). I am trying my very guttural best to pull myself up again, trying to get my arms back to an L-shape, I am holding on for what must have been minutes (it wasn’t – it was more like a fraction of a split-second – not even a split-second). And it dawns on me, I don’t got this.

After that realization had sunk in, I tried to find my footing again and once standing on both of my feet, I looked at the band as if that was supposed to have all the answers. To say I was dumbfounded is an understatement. I don’t give up easily, so I tried it again – and again – and again. And I’d like to tell you that eventually I succeeded in doing one singular pull-up, but the truth is, I didn’t. I’d like to tell you that the second time that I held on for longer than the first time, and that the third time I was half-way pulling me up, and that the fourth time, I was even closer… but that would be three consecutive lies, right there. I failed so hard it was almost comical. Each time, I was hanging on for maybe a split second, but each time felt like forever.

All these few split seconds resulted in massive soreness in my upper body, to the point where typing hurts. The point is, all these horrible split-seconds we experience are really just that, split-seconds. And no matter how horrible, you will walk away maybe a bit more frightened, a bit more careful, a bit stronger, a bit more fire in your belly than you were before the split-second occurred. A different person may be inclined to shy away from these difficult situations, may be inclined to never dive again, may be inclined to not ever attempt to get to that one single pull-up ever, but that’s not me. I am of the nature where failing at something makes me want to try until I got it. I know that next time I am underwater and drop my regulator, I will make sure to clear the regulator before I start breathing in full breaths. Next time I see the red sturdy rubber band suspended from mid-air, I will try again and again and again, until maybe one day I am able to physically lift myself up (metaphorically, I’d like to argue I am already there?!).

Life is not easy, too often too many horrible split-seconds happen one after another, but then there are also those moments when time stands still, and you are just experiencing pure bliss. When you are granted a minute of quiet in your own mind, a moment when life just feels invigorating. So, next time you’re suffering through one of these split-seconds, try to hold on to all the gazillion other split-seconds in your life when all is right in the world.

My happy place
Irish waters in West Cork, Baltimore: my happy place

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