Thursday, June 17, 2010

Two steps forward, one step back. But I've turned it into two steps forward from there.

This long and rambling brain dump probably won't interest anyone. You've been warned.  =-)

Asked the Big Boss for the day off, and did something crazy: ran up to WA for the day. The solitary drive time was needed (and put to good use; the road is a great place to think and plan). I was meeting up with Amy from A2Z Scuba to dive. I'll refer to her as Amy(2) for clarity. Later I was hanging with Chris and Christy (along w/ their wonderful kids) so I considered it a full day and drive time well spent.

Amy(s) and I went to Les Davis, knowing pretty much the entire Sound was a silty, summer solstice time mess. But what the hell. As wonderful as my last dive was (also at Les Davis), this one was the slap in the face that I initially felt shoved me back a step. But after evaluation, quite the contrary.

I'd had a good night's sleep, ate something good for breakfast, avoided coffee. While I don't know her well, I'm comfortable with Amy(2), and had not a thing in the world to worry about. Using a steel 100 and thinking my kit was still overweighted, I left 4 lbs on shore this time.

So why did I feel really unsettled when we got into the water? That's usually my "Ahhhh..." moment. I told her this, and she was positive and supportive. Water was silty, but vis was not the worse I've seen. We swam out even with the pier and began to drop and... everything in my body said, "NO." But why I had no idea. I thumbed. We surfaced, and I'm sorting through my head trying to figure out what is up with me. For days I was looking forward to getting in the water!

We went in toward shore a bit and dropped down in only 15 ft to get started, then followed the bottom down to the reef. Immediately, the wonder and joy of it all took the edge off. (Yes, silty water, seaweed and little crabs are all it takes for me.) Current was noticable, and shouldn't have been a problem... but it was. I seriously have not dove that poorly since my OW class! OMG, was it bad. I kept wanting to fix whatever was going wrong in my head, instead of just relaxing, going slow, and going with the flow. In that internal fight, I forgot what I should have done: visualize, breathe deep, slow down. Then slow down some more.

I was *fighting* the water, arms and fins spazing out.

Amy(2) hung effortlessly while I flailed around. Finally I got things in order, and we set off. Something wasn't right, though; usually I can establish decent buoyancy in the suit pretty quickly, but I would get it and then shortly after, "Bottom, here I come!" WTF?  Initially things were okay, but over time, I put so much air in the suit I should have been the Michellin Man; it was clearly escaping. The exhaust port was set right. I'd not asked for help with the neck seal, though. Fact of the matter is: I can't get it right without help. I got a little damp last time I dove because I didn't ask for help (but the suit kept air fine, just a quick shot down the back when I moved my neck in an extreme motion), but this time I literally dumped water out of the boots when I was done. This suit kept me dry for every PNW dive I've done except the last two.
Once down, viz was bad, but it was still worth being there. Nudis, a rat fish, lots of rock fish, scallops, crabs -- the usual suspects. For the first part of the dive the suit held, but then I started feeling cold so I knew I had more than just a quick shot of water in with me. By the deepest part of our dive, the lack of ability to keep air in the suit made the squeeze really uncomfortable, and restricted mobility which really sends my comfort level bottoming out.

While Amy(2) paused to photograph something, I had a little dance with an eddy caused by a V-shaped area of the artificial reef, banging into one of the slabs. Heading in one direction it pushed me down, then back and around and... oh, hello plumose anemone! Didn't mean to actually KISS you.

Even in Coz during my first dives after certification in strong currents,  I never banged into anything. A certain level of anxiety + buoyancy issues + currents + bull in china shop syndrome was creating an unhappy Amy. That was the last straw. Upon evaluation, what really happened was it broke whatever confidence I had in the water at that moment. I literally felt something click in my head and I said, "That's it. It's over." Calmly, I went over to Amy and signed "Me, problem, up." She gave me a good looking over and took my hand and we started to slowly ascend up the slope, did a safety stop, then surfaced.

Bless Amy(2), I didn't want her to have to "work" that day, but it's clear why she's a loved instructor. Supportive and positive; I can't count how many times I heard, "Oh, don't worry, you're fine!"

That was it for the day.

Driving home, I analyzed not only that dive but my head around diving recently in general. I came to some conclusions.

1. I need to relax. Not in the water, but about the water. I an passionate about diving and will be focused on it for years to come. My path will be long, and it will take time. I've been putting a lot of thought into where I'm going (probably DM) and how to get there. I had a calendar all marked up with Rescue, the UTD Essentials class, etc. All that can wait. What I want to do is get to 50 dives, with the next 19 being dives that just focus on doing what I already know how to do, just doing it better. No rush. Don't rush or do crazy things to get a chance to get into the water. Hit the coast for a day for two, or spend an overnighter in WA to partake of four+ dives, or partake of a multi day trip. More fun, less... not fun.

This is my path. It doesn't compare to any one else's. It's mine. I may go slower than someone else. I may go faster than another. It doesn't matter. Also, it's but one path amongst a number in my life that includes friends, family, spiritual, professional and freelance paths as well.

2. I need to work on mental fitness and focus. When preparing, I need to focus. I need to meditate on the process. I was wrapped up in chatting with Amy(2) as we geared up and I think a lack of "head in the game" was what started the anxiety. Compare this to the previous dive: the gear up was a silent meditation during which I visualized the dive in my head, and when I hit the water, I had not a shred of worry or anxiety. I might as well have been walking down the block I was so comfortable.

3. There are some issues I need to work on. Descending in poor vis is one of them. And honestly a few more pool hours futzing with the water around my nose probably wouldn't hurt. When amped up, that still bugs me.

4. Weight loss. Really focusing on this will help my gear fit better, lessen the weights I must carry which will make diving easier and result in lower air consumption, and a myariad of other good things.

There are some more revelations that are more wide ranging but not things to share. That's what a good long stretch of dark road can do for you.

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