Five years ago my husband, Davis, and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. We did so by going on our first cruise to the Caribbean. My mom and dad came and stayed with the kids, and we set out for seven days on a ship with three ports of call.
When we signed up we were offered the opportunity to select optional shore excursions — things to do when in port. These activities ranged in difficulty from easy to challenging, and represented a wide spectrum from shopping to guided tours to parasailing to snorkeling.
Being the vacation planner he is, Davis made a selection. Now, I must say here that I would have chosen something like butterfly watching or shopping or maybe a guided tour, but I would not have wandered from the easy category. Davis did. He also booked before he told me. In other words, instead of asking for my input, his plan was to ease me into the idea.
Davis made a reservation for discovery scuba. Now if you have gone scuba diving before, then you are probably going to think that this is silly, but I was apprehensive. From the very beginning I wanted to sit it out, content to watch and hear his report of the fish below. I was anxious. The whole idea made me nervous. What if I couldn’t get up fast enough? What if I couldn’t breathe? What if…?
The day of our adventure dawned, and I was doing better; I had a plan. I was going to make a good showing and then bow out. That way I wouldn’t spoil Davis’ fun and at least look like I had tried.
Our leader was from somewhere in South America and had a heavy accent. I could only understand about half of what he said. He was trying to explain it all, and the only thing I could think about was my plan of escape.
We donned our swimsuits and got help with our equipment: mask, weight belt, flippers and finally a scuba tank. It all weighed about 50 pounds. Now it was time to get into the water. When the water got just over our heads, they wanted us to practice breathing with our regulators, slow and deep, by putting our faces in the water and deflating our vests so we would sink. I dutifully practiced, but even with my plan, this was harder than I had predicted. I could stand there and practice, but the moment I was all the way under water, I would panic. Now panicking is not a normal or regular practice for me. In fact, I have often prided myself on not panicking. What was the deal — why couldn’t I get a hold of myself?
The instructor came over and watched me try to go down, but when I would get to the bottom I would inflate my vest and shoot to the surface all out of breath. At the surface, I would say, “I don’t think that I can do this. I just can’t seem to let go and relax.”
“Keep practicing,” said the instructor, “let’s try again.” But I didn’t want to “try again” — I just wanted to swim to shore and get out into the sun.
Now I must note here that this is when our instructor noticed that Davis was missing. Yes, my dear man had gotten the hang of this new skill and had taken off to explore on his own. But this was against the rules; he was supposed to stay with the group. I was not worried because I knew Davis. He would be fine. It was at this point that my determination kicked in. You see, at that moment I didn’t want to be beat. And two things flashed before my eyes: my recent 40th birthday and the faces of my seven children. In a flash I realized that it had been a while since I had faced a fear or challenge and overcome it. When would I have this chance again? And I wanted to be able to tell the kids I had succeeded. They would expect Dad to make it, but I wanted to say that I had not given into fear. I wanted to overcome!
My instructor sent over his assistant, who was beyond patient. She said, “You can do it. It is so beautiful down there. Your fear is all in your head. This is all about relaxing; just relax and breathe slowly. Let go; I will stay with you. I promise it will be worth it!”
She could not have known the mental and psychological battle I was fighting, but her words were just right. She extended her hand and we descended to the bottom — about 20 feet.
I was the first in line behind our instructor, a fact that amazed the rest of the group. I think they had all expected to give me a report when they got back to shore. But now I was in the lead, being amazed at every turn. We dove to the remains of a shipwreck, where a magnificent display of underwater life awaited with fish of all sizes, colors and shapes. The whole discovery lasted about 30 minutes. It was incredible!
When I came to the surface, there was Davis, waiting for me at the dock. I had done it! I had let go of my fear, I had relaxed and trusted, I had pushed past the initial sense of panic, and been greatly rewarded by an up-close encounter of creation.
With vacation over, I found myself back on the home front with laundry, grocery shopping, e-mail and so much more. Here I am faced with another challenge. And just like when I was on the scuba discovery, I have the option to go deeper or stay on shore, to take His hand or give into my fears, to trust His plan or revert to my own, to panic or relax.
Homeschooling is an adventure of a lifetime — a challenge that can often begin with fear or panic. Yet it is an opportunity for discovery like no other. So relax, persevere and enjoy your family and the blessings of home education.
By Rachael Carman, 2012 FPEA Convention Speaker. Rachael is a board member with North Carolinians for Home Education, for which her husband serves as administrative vice president. In 2003 she started Real Refreshment Retreats for homeschool moms. Her latest book is How to Have a Heart for Your Kids. For more information, visit www.apologia.com/apologia_family.php.