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. I never want to escape.
It is a perfect day. I have been to the Hindu Monkey Temple, Pura Pulaki, where I have watched a large, dignified silver macaque (a high simian 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 human hands have made 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 and backstory with which I jokingly saddle a little clownfish and his aquatic haven. I have marveled at the colors and seemingly infinite variety of the coral reef and the life it fosters, feeds and protects. It is a wonder that I am right now a part of that, as intrusive as I am here in my huge clumsy sexy black flippers, clownish yellow snorkel mask and tube. It feeds a part of me that needs feeding. Maybe the part that says, Be Here. Now. Wonder. Be Happy. Be Grateful.
But now. This Now. I am floating, next to the Drop-off. I dare to swim into it, playing a little game of chicken with myself. On my right, there 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 left- it is a deep dark Forever. Visibility drops suddenly. There is nothing. Dark water. It looks cold, and forbodeing. 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, past the ledge even though she admits that when she imagines these vicious sharks that petrify her, they are cartoon sharks. Yes, from Finding Nemo (who 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’s shit out there I should be afraid of… I’ve seen Planet Earth Ocean Deep…
Then, the Deep spoke. Simply, candidly, clearly. It was louder, resonant and more crystalline than any of the voices in my head- Ever. It was calm, definitive in its wisdom. I knew without a doubt that this voice was not my Crazy.
“Worry About Nothing.”
No explanation. No preamble. Oh, Honey, I KNOW it’s big and scary and dark out here, but….” No parable for me to puzzle and decipher. Just an answer to my question. Worry About Nothing. Is it the voice of the Deep? The voice of Vishnu, the Preserver, God of the Sea? Was it my own sub-conscious? Jesus Christ Superstar? Had I channeled Bobby McFerrin? It didn’t matter. I get 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.
Later. In the subsequent Nows, when the panic begins to rise, I return there. On the airplane over the same Pacific when the turbulence hits. When I can’t find one of my boys, and the Crazy starts to scream that an evil dragon is 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. Even though I chose it. 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.