Some weeks are so strange and surreal. Like when you leave work on Wednesday afternoon to get the results from your CT and PET scans the day before. And your oncologist tells you that your new tumour is too big and impacting too many vital organs for surgery to be an option. Without palliative treatment, you may only have months to live. If the proposed treatment slows your symptoms down, you might have another year or two, if there are no complications … Staring through the image of the enormous white tumour on his computer screen, you try to calculate how many dives you might have left. Quickly you realise it probably won’t be enough to empty your Bucket List that overflows with manta rays and great white sharks and blanket octopuses and whale sharks and more …
So the weekend comes, and you do what you always do when you need to clear the muck of life out of your head. You drive an hour down to the peninsula with your friends to submerse yourself as quickly as possible under one of the local piers. It is too early to tell your friends what you know, and besides – you don’t want to spoil the dive. Beneath the surface, it is impossible to think of anything else other than the cold salt water against your skin and the beautiful creatures that might appear to dance before your camera. Weightless in the water, there is no choice other than to forget that you are sick, and that you have truly left the job you love for the final time, and that no-one can tell you how many dives you might have left.
It has been many months since you last dived Portsea Pier. But you are with your amazing buddy who always manages to find a cuddlefish or two in these waters. More than ever, you need a cuddlefish today. Within minutes, your friend has activated his critter-spotting super-power, and you are gliding as one through the water with the most intelligent and intriguing critter in all of the ocean. Funny little fish peer out at you from sponge covered logs, each of you in awe of the other’s simplicity and fragility.
After an hour, the conditions in the water go from serenity to more like the inside of a washing machine – the notorious tide is turning. You swim towards the beach, only to find large waves ready to smack you down each time you try to get up. Resistance is futile, and soon you are rolling on your back, like the proverbial beached whale in the shallows, being pounded repeatedly.
You begin to laugh uncontrollably, doing all you can to avoid a mouthful of angry waves doing their best to smash and drown you again and again. This relentless rolling and flailing and almost dying at the end of such a blissful dive is hilarious. Your tired body pounds endlessly into the sand and you know with all your heart that resistance is futile. Perfect laughter drives out all fear, pouring out of your mouth like all the life of the ocean itself. You roll and laugh and wait until your buddy can come to your rescue.
You understand that there is simply no need to panic. No need to lie down and die. No need to let the waves carry you out into the depths or smash you to pieces against the sharp rocks in the shallows. You count every dive as a blessing and every breath as a miracle. You let the purity of joy flood through your soul. Death will come for us all, but in this very moment, you are vibrantly, fully alive.
Breathe slowly and deeply. In those moments when you can’t seem to keep your head above the water, gently rest your face against the surface and peer in wonder into the depths below. They are not nearly as frightening as you once may have thought.
Love and bubbles,
(Photo of PT courtesy of Julie Jones)