Coming apart

I feel it coming apart,
Well, at least I tried,
I can win this war
By knowing not to fight

Me, I’m Not, NIN, Year Zero

Back at the pool practising eskimo rescues and, what do you know, like a moth to a flame, like a missile seeking heat, I honed in on precisely all the things you shouldn’t do most with a good dollop of irrational fear mixed in. Alan performed a few near perfect rolls, even managing to wait while inverted until I blundered into position as rescuer. Next it was my turn and I made the interesting discovery that something happens to my brain when my head is underwater. Basically, it stops functioning – a bit like when you get a blue screen of death on a PC. Or it enters a parallel universe where there is no up or down, all logic is suspended and the only thing that resides there is the specter of a watery grave.

What you’re supposed to do:

  • capsize and thump the bottom of your upturned boat 3 times
  • run your hands back and forward to “feel” for the approaching rescue boat
  • grab the rescue boat’s bow
  • gently hip flick your boat to an upright position, bringing your head up afterwards

What I did:

  • capsize
  • forget to thump boat
  • panic
  • fumble
  • forget to pull deck off
  • panic some more
  • try to come up wrong side
  • keep panicking
  • hit head on rescue boat
  • drink half the pool
  • emerge, gasping dramatically for air

and repeat. But for the fact that I had 3 helpful coaches looking on in concern, I was ready to descend into a complete public meltdown. Alan recognised the signs as I began to suggest that I’d had enough for the evening. He proceeded to pre-empt me by asking if it was because I was always so hopeless at everything and couldn’t get anything right. As I nodded feebly in agreement, he then asked if that was me giving up kayaking for good then (he knows me too well!). I sensed his and the coaches’ anticipation of my next attempt, recalled some Zen teachings and told my ego to step aside for a moment.

I did eventually end the evening with several successful rescue-rolls with Alan taking the place of the rescue boat. Locating his arm was somehow more attainable than feeling for a boat. As I analysed this later, I began to realise that 2 things had been going on previously in my disoriented mind. First, upon detecting the rescue boat, my mind actually apprehended an obstacle to my immediate need to surface – hence the insanity of trying to surface up the wrong side. Secondly, the concept of “boat” got highly muddled in my brain – Alan’s boat, my boat, up, down, left, right – it was all too much. Whereas human flesh was something more instantly definable. Getting hold of a warm arm of assistance was just so much more attainable than grabbing some random plastic. Or something.

Anyway, my many attempts have left me feeling today like I spent last night flushing my head down the toilet. It’s been humbling, but I remain undeterred.

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