Breathing. We take it for granted. Every 15 to 25 minutes air is drawn in and out – through our nose and mouth.  Lungs expand to take in that precious air. As it travels, our lungs process air into oxygen, which is sent to our bloodstream, jump starting our cells – giving us energy.

Carbon dioxide, the wasteful byproduct – is pushed from our lungs once we exhale.

Nature’s dance to keep our cells and bodies in harmony. So simple.

Yet, I couldn’t do it.

John, my scuba instructor subtly gestured to me – indicating we meet at the bow side for a conference.

“I’m sorry, we don’t have enough time to finish the certification. I can’t certify you today in good conscience.  Your airway control is erratic.. and well, you seem scared down there.”

My throat constricted. Fight or flight. Instinct prodded me to deny it. Me? Why… I’m cold, blue steel. A courageous woman who leaps first, asks questions later.

I gazed beyond the bow. Flints of sunlight skimmed the choppy waters rocking the hull viscously. The water was unmanageable that day, so was his searing honesty. Slicing to the bone.

The boat carried two others who had excelled further than I. It was past midday on Christmas Eve. There lacked time to reschedule or even think clearly.

With unflinching shame, I knew he was right.

My boisterous character disappeared at a depth of 10 feet. The compressed air emitting from my tank felt ragged, like I could never inhale enough, sending panic to the center of my brain. Limbs froze, worse, so did logic.

I couldn’t perform the tasks associated with obtaining a PADI certification. And yet, when there wasn’t the threat of performing, I could relax and enjoy the sea turtle hovering below me or the school of large tuna swimming past. It was maddening, beyond frustrating.

The boat took us back to shore, I hung my head low, remained quiet and thoughtful.

A swirl of emotions battered from all sides, leaving me bruised as a peach. This was the first major failure in a very long time.

I felt stupid and defeated.

I counseled myself to not put this on the website. Admitting that I failed at something that I’ve wanted to accomplish for a long time is disheartening.

Images of childhood broke through suddenly. How my parents were so enmeshed in their marital drama that little time remained to throw a ball with me or run in the park till our chests ached from the overflow of activity.

I came far, didn’t I? It’s miraculous that I had the bravery to weigh myself down with a wetsuit and a 21 lbs. tank to plunge into a completely alien world – under the sea.

From lacking a sportsman bone in my body to jumping from my skin with wonder as a dark blanket of water surrounded me  – failure might be a softer landing after all.

Going solo into the fire – gambling with chances – those are things I still do. And failure too.

Sometimes things don’t have to be perfect. They can be good enough.

Photo: Kate Stumbler