This is a personal post.
This is me 21 years ago, about a week after I got “mask squeeze” on my 37th birthday. I came across the photo recently when looking for a bio picture for a presentation. It was taken as a staff photo when I had the joy of teaching children with special needs.
I found myself staring at the photo, at younger me, and thinking of how much has been learned since then. I am sharing with you because . . . because why? Sure, there’s a lesson in physics here but that’s not it. There’s also maybe something of value in how the most important things in life sometimes don’t come easy. But more, it’s about what I have learned in these years, what I strive to put into the world, and why.
It won’t surprise you to know that you can’t be the same after you’ve been punched in the face by the Ocean. So here goes:
Mask squeeze happened on my twentieth dive when I did not know enough to realize how little I knew. It was my second birthday back in British Columbia after my many years of teaching in the Netherlands.
I was on a dive trip to some of the most challenging conditions on our coast. The accident happened during one of my first dives in a dry suit. I now know it was madness to be doing my first dives in a dry suit in such challenging conditions. But it was the result of some human chaos and unreliability whereby the suit was not ready when it was supposed to be. Thereby, I could not practice before the trip and get used to the change in buoyancy from my Dad’s old, thin wet suit.
On that 20th dive, when I rolled into the water off the boat, my fin slipped off my suit. My mask flooded. I did not realize I was holding my breath as I tried to grab the fin. I continued to descend whereby the pressure in my mask did not equalize. BOOM! The pressure of Mother Ocean pushed against my mask and blew out every capillary in my eyes.
From my dive log back then: “ Whatever it took, it was SO worth it. Astounding, astounding life. So grateful to my dive buddies who helped me and who decided the dive site should now be named Shiner Rock.” Yep, I have a little island unofficially named in my honour.
It was a powerful lesson in shaping me on this path . . . the vital importance of humility, respect, and knowing one’s place in the natural world.
Since then, I have metaphorically faced equivalent injuries, usually inflicted as a result of human ego and disconnect from understanding how our actions impact future generations.
The resulting process has been the same: learn, heal, surface, and repeat.
I will admit too that this photo makes me reflect on the few who say to me “You’re so lucky” or who have had the need to try to blow out my fire. I am so very lucky in many ways but, as much as I do not know the journeys of others, very few know my path. There have been difficult choices made and painful lessons learned. We’ve all had those.
I’ve written about having mask squeeze once before, after my 800th dive over seven years ago. There I reflected: “The Ocean is the source. The battle force. She is my inspiration. She is the beginning and she is the end. She is where I hide and where I am fully exposed. She has taught me my most valuable lessons and . . . . I know it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.”
I thank all who carry me forward – from my dive buddies to you who signal shared values and understanding. Please know how much direction you give.
Onward, fuelled by lessons learned and knowing what matters most. 💙
See this link for my previous blog about mask squeeze and lessons learned:
“My 800th Dive. From Shiner to Shining?” from January 2014.