There's a quote attributed to Bill Cosby, something along the lines of, "You have to want it more than you're afraid of it."
This quote applies to most things I do in my life that are any more adventurous than, say, sitting outside and reading a book. That's pretty much my comfort zone. Especially if I'm sitting the shade and there aren't any bees at all.
You'll note that the above description doesn't involve A) activity or B) other people. Because I don't feel that I'm very good with people or with doing things. Thinking things, reading things, writing things, yes. Doing things with the moving around and the coordinating body parts and actions? Not so much.
But Lori, you may say, you do lots of stuff. It's true. Things I've done in the past year (aside from reading, writing, and thinking) include skiing, hiking, tubing, horseback riding, SCUBA diving, caving, camping, moving to a new state, joining a running group, and sailing. To varying degrees, I have been afraid of all of these things.
Which may not seem completely unreasonable. Take SCUBA diving, for instance. You can actually be seriously injured or even die while SCUBA diving. And yet, my fear had nothing to do with either of these possibilities. My fear was of failing. Specifically, of failing in front of people.
I can never, ever remember which button on the hose thingy inflates my vest and which one lets the air out. This is a valid concern. Except I can't make myself care more that knowing the difference could save my life than I did that the instructor yesterday yelled at me for pushing the wrong one.
Still, I succeeded at SCUBA, at least far enough to get my open water certification. (Though let's not tell the fine folks at PADI that I was only able to assemble my gear yesterday thanks to an online tutorial I pulled up on my phone.) And I learned to ski thanks to a super-patient instructor and didn't fall off my horse thanks to a death grip on the saddle horn. And eventually, every time I move, I get through the fear enough to make some new friends. Because loneliness is a fate worse than social awkwardness.
But I failed at sailing. Oh, how I failed at sailing, and in front of Raj and everyone. And now I'm about to tell all of you, for reasons that remain unclear to me. Except someone commented here once about how the only bad things bloggers ever write about are slapstick comedy moments and that's something I'm definitely guilty of doing. But there is no funny here.
Raj signed us up for the class. We needed to pass two sailing classes to be able to rent sailboats from the marina on base. Raj already knows how to sail, so while I was nervous, I figured it would be fine. I'd be with him and he could help me. Then the class started with the instructor telling us we'd be in one-person boats. And since most of sailing is easy, we'd just be practicing the hard stuff. This would be the most challenging and stressful sailing we'd ever do.
By the time we got to the boats, I was sick from anxiety. No part of me wanted to do this. But I told myself that it would be fine. Put on your big girl pants. Get through it.
We started immediately with sailing back and forth around two buoys so we'd have to make 180° turns, thus putting ourselves at risk of getting stuck into the wind ("in irons") or capsizing going the opposite direction. There were five of us, plus an instructor in a powerboat. We'd get too close and I'd worry about crashing into someone. I'd get going too fast, panic, and then get myself stuck. Every time I turned, I'd forget that I was supposed to hang onto the tiller and drop the sail line, do the opposite, and then spin out of control. The instructor had to shout since he was so far away, with the result that I felt like I was being yelled at. He'd yell that I needed to go in one direction, but it was what I was already trying to do and just didn't know how. Or he'd tell me to do something and I'd have no idea what he meant. I was in a constant state of panic and shaking and all I wanted in the whole world was to stop sailing.
I told myself to get it together. Don't be a quitter. Just get through it. I don't know how long we'd been sailing by the time Raj came up close to me and smiled. I shook my head, hard. I'd been near tears for a while, but they really threatened then and finally, I yelled, "I WANT TO STOP."
Raj said he'd go tell the instructor, but I ended up near him first and told him I was done. It took some convincing, but finally he pointed out some beach chairs and told me to sail toward them. He went off to help the group and I tried to sail toward the chairs and got stuck. He'd come back, tell me that I was stuck (thanks) then try to tell me how to get out of it ("Go left!" "I DON'T KNOW HOW.") I'd get going, he'd leave, I'd get stuck, and so on.
When I finally got to shore, I pulled my boat up on the sand, walked to the picnic table where our stuff was, and let loose with the ugly cry that I'd been holding in. Raj came up and hugged me and offered to take me home. I told him he should finish the class. There were lounge chairs and it was nice out. They had another hour to go and it was kind of pleasant sitting in the sun, except for all the guilt and shame.
When I told Raj later that I was sorry, he asked, "For what?"
"I fell apart," I said.
Obviously, this is not an experience I hope to replicate. But I also want, more than ever, to not let fear of failing in front of people to keep me from trying things. Maybe it's just a matter of better choosing what to try. Things that don't involve too much speed, for instance, so that when I forget what to do, I have time to regroup. And, if possible, where I don't get yelled at very much.
Raj took the second sailing class without me and can now rent boats. So we can go out together on a bigger sailboat and he can teach me to sail in his calm Raj way. I think it'll be fun and only a little bit scary. Like most of the best parts of life usually are.