When I was 14, I took a vacation with my Dad and step-Mom to Marco Island, FL. I will never forget swimming with dolphins, sightseeing and sunbathing for that week. But I also had an experience that made a profound impact on me that I still think about often.
Heights terrified me as a child. It was so out of character for me to ask my Dad to allow me to go parasailing. And I’m shocked that my conservative, doomsday-prepping father allowed me to do it! Once I had approval, there was no backing out. I strapped into the harness and with little to no instruction how I was to land, the boat took off and I was lifted into the air, flying above the ocean like a tiny speck in the sky!
After the initial near heart attack and emergency safety assessment of my lifelines, I actually began to look around and enjoy the view. I imagined myself as a seagull, when suddenly I spotted my other great fear. A shark below me! Now it does not matter that this shark was floating belly up, being washed onto the shore. Just the sight of it raised my awareness that there WERE sharks below me, and that if any of this equipment failed, I would be plunged into the depths alongside them.
Looking back on that experience, I realized how tiny the shark looked from above. And how harmless the entire experience was despite my fears. Throughout my divorce and years of depression and anxiety afterward, I tried to use my “bird’s eye view” to put stressful situations into perspective. If I could take a step back and assess real danger vs. perceived danger, often I could take on problems realistically rather than emotionally.
In hindsight, the “sharks” I have faced really were tiny and harmless, but seemed looming and threatening at the time. Would I parasail again? Absolutely! Heights are another fear that I faced and won.