Worry about nothing
I am floating in the warm waters of the Bali Sea off the island of Pulau Menjangon. Its waters envelop me like the warmest and best of hugs — the kind that don’t let go. It holds me in its liquid space, one that I cannot escape yet in which I am completely free.
It is a perfect day. I have been to the Hindu Monkey Temple, Pura Pulaki, where I have watched a dignified silver macaque (a simian high priest?) slowly ascend the steps and enter the inner sanctuary, where I could not go. I have watched an immature pair of scoundrels steal the offerings at the entrance shrine, besting the tiny, temple-garbed human boy whose job it was to shoo them away with a broom. He’ll get them next time.
I have found Nemo. I have literally found him in his anemone, and I am oddly grateful to a corporate media machine for giving me a creative moniker to jokingly saddle a little clownfish and his aquatic haven. I have marveled at the seemingly infinite colors and variety of the coral reef and the life it fosters and feeds. It is a wonder that I am right now a part of that, intrusive as I am in my huge clumsy sexy black flippers, clownish yellow snorkel mask and tube. Being here feeds a part of me that needs feeding. Maybe the part that says, Be Here. Now. Wonder. Be happy. Be grateful.
I am floating next to the drop-off. I dare to swim into it, playing a little game of chicken with myself. On my left is a ledge, a literal underwater cliff that is the light, sun-filtered shallow between the happy, life-abundant reef where Nemo lives and the surface. On my right is a deep, dark forever. Visibility drops suddenly. There is nothing but dark water — cold and foreboding. I hold my already held breath (a strange sensation). I think of sharks. Come on. You would, too.
I think of sharks because of Kathleen, one of my traveling companions. She is afraid of sharks and won’t go to the drop-off. Although she admits that when she imagines these vicious sharks that petrify her, they are cartoon sharks. Yes, from “Finding Nemo” (which are actually not all that threatening really, if they are still on the wagon). But she still won’t come out here.
Cartoon shark, minnow or Care Bear/unicorn/ angel of god — if I saw the form of anything emerge from the black, I would definitely pee my pants. Good thing it’s the ocean. I hover there in the abyss — the cold, boundless, monochromatic unknown on one side and the light, safe, colorful comfortable on the other. A thought appears.
Kathleen is afraid of sharks, Max is afraid of burning, Monica is afraid of not getting all her work done. I wonder what I should be afraid of.
In the background of my psycho (I mean psyche), my Crazy chimes in. “I know there is stuff out there I should be afraid of… I’ve seen ‘Planet Earth’ Ocean Deep …”
Then, the Deep speaks. It is louder and more crystalline than any of the voices in my head — ever. It is calm, definitive in its wisdom. I know without a doubt that this voice is not my Crazy.
“Worry About Nothing.”
No explanation. No preamble. No parable for me to puzzle and decipher. Just an answer to my question. Worry about nothing. Is it the voice of the Deep? Of Vishnu, the preserver, god of the sea? My subconscious? Jesus Christ Superstar? Had I channeled Bobby McFerrin?
It didn’t matter. I got the message. Under an ocean’s weight of water, feeling the increasing cold of the vastness and still holding my breath, I was calm. I was a shark free zone. I continued into the unknown. Further. Deeper. Unafraid.
In the subsequent Nows, when the panic begins to rise, I return there. On the airplane over the same deep when turbulence hit. When I can’t find one of my boys and the Crazy starts to scream that a dragon must be eating them right now. When I sign the final papers that say I will never have the same relationship again with someone I have loved for more than half of my life. The panic rises, binding my chest as if I was holding my last breath in that yellow snorkel tube.
I float again, in the existential contrast of the real-life drop-off. And I don’t worry about sharks.
Mari Rose Hale is a Glenwood Springs writer. She blogs at mariroseland.wordpress.com. Semi-Conscious appears on the fourth Tuesday of each month in Body & More.
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