Wee Scoops

Measure for Measure

Kubla Can’t and the Search for Plan B

I don’t jump in.

I stand and look at the water and imagine my feet leaving the land and entering. I can imagine it as far as my head reaching the water and then it’s a blank.

When people jump in and go under – fully disappear – what happens down there before they resurface? Do they have their eyes open – seeing swirling chaos in an airless blur? Do they try to resurface, or does the bob just happen, bobbity bob?

I should have practised on holiday when I had a nice pool to practise in – but in that kind of context it’s my feet that worry me. What’s the chances of jarring your legs with a misjudged depth? To hold ones nose or not? Caustic cholrine up your sinuses. Not very appealing.

In order to cure me, what I thought might work was peer pressure and necessity. What if I had a context in which to jump into water was the path of least resistance – a preferable option – an only option – and with a buoyancy aid on – surely that would help…

I had the opportunity to go canyoning today. If you like you can watch the youtube of the same excursion by another group- this is what it was meant to be like:

Back to my life.

So we got out the van and got to the top of a moderately high precipice. Against my will my hands started shaking, as did my body – and even my speech went against my will, saying, “I don’t think I can do this,” like what some lame hysteric would say… *moment of self realization *

*urge to insert unnecessary quote from Kubla Khan *

“But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place…”

So like gung-ho lemings the rest of the party jumped off the cliff and I began to slip into a metaphor for the Scottish Referendum. What was plan B?

At this particular cliff there was another ledge a bit lower. Nope. And another step a bit lower. Nope. And a waterfall to shimmy onto…. best of a bad job – no opportunity to dreep doon backwards into it. Whoosh, I launched myself from about a foot and a half above the water into the water and glub glub disappeared and reappeared and spluttered and bobbed and caught up with the rest of the party. Worried about my ability to drain my nasal passages adequately while swimming ungainlyly along…

The next bit was a wee fun flume and bob.

“…meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran
Then reached the caverns measureless to man…”

So we climbed to the top of another precipice. For interest’s sake I had a wee look over the top. In my mind though, I was scanning the terrain on either side, thinking, “What are my options?” and unbidden again came the voice of Alex Salmond saying “we have a range of options” and I am thinking and thinking “What is Plan B?”

I felt a little sympathy for Salmond, as I had an instructor who knew in advance what Plan B was. It wasn’t “It’s Scotland’s pound and we’re keeping it”, is was a wee rock descent into a wee flume, leading to an ineffectual swim against the current and a chivalrous rescue before I:

“sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean”.

There were more bobby bits and more flumy bits and more one-of-these-kids-is-doing-her-own-thing before we got to the final jump with was a thirty foot drop. A couple of others wavered before taking the plunge. I didn’t even look over the edge for research. There was No Way.

“So, Mr Salmond, what is PLAN B?”

“Well, there are a range of options…”

“And from this chasm, with ceaseless tunmoil seething

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing”

… I suppose the wetsuit might count as thick pants… so I had to scale the canyon wall, thankful for all my muddy-running bear crawl experience, up and vertically out of the canyon to wait for everyone else who were finishing off with a coccyx bashing flume.

So, even with a buoyancy aid, kind instructors, encouraging peer group, lovely weather, beautiful surroundings and an intent to succeed – I failed to jump in.

I did manage to jump out of the minibus when we got back to base though…

“One small step for man…”

Always good to reach the point of failure. My point of failure is entering water from a standing position. Happy to dreep; happy to shuffle. Not happy to jump.

I find it interesting that my body can have a separate opinion/will to my own. But maybe it had a point.

So, now I need to decide whether or not to admit defeat and write off jumping in for life, or do I resolve to triumph over this particular phobia. And there again I find myself edging towards a referendum metaphor, so to jump or not to jump – I should perhaps echo my political leaning and think “No Thanks”, in which case there’s no need for Plan B. Or a range of options, even…



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10 thoughts on “Kubla Can’t and the Search for Plan B

  1. theotheri on said:

    I am a psychologist, and one of the things I have learned is not to call all fear neurotic. Or phobic.

    It is, I admit, not always easy to distinguish between sensible, realistic fear and neurotic cowardice. But there is a difference.

    In relation to jumping into the depths of water, some of your fears seem to me to be legitimate. We differ in our physical ability to deal with heights. American Indians seem to have very little fear of heights, for instance, and make terrific window-washers for our very tall buildings. But other people begin to tremble in the way you describe, and heights really are objectively more dangerous for them.

    Would you want to try to overcome your fear if you might help your drowning child? I strongly suspect you would. But if it’s not enjoyable, do you really need to build character by facing the particular danger of jumping into water from a very high precipice?

    I will watch with interest to hear whether you opt for “no thanks” or “Plan B.”

    In any case, I have greatly enjoyed reading about your first exploration.

  2. I am so proud of you for taking part in the exercise, being mindful of your reality in relation to the challenge and taking that leap, I don’t know if I could. Bravo! 😀

  3. There’s fear, and then there’s fear. Do we fear water or opinions more? I am convinced some of us are not meant to venture very far into the wet abysses of life. I, for one, have had swimming instructions from an expert, who merrily told me, “You are not doing ANYTHING wrong; you just SINK.” So much for finally being brave enough to conquer this thing.

    However, in my dreams, I can swim many laps and dive deep and nary a sputter. 🙂 It’s so much fun to have those dreams, I actually awaken feeling refreshed, as if I’d been for a nice swim.

    So save it for the nighttime; it’s wonderful and not scary at all.

    • I didn’t ever have proper lessons – just relatives throwing me in at the deep end on occasion – *splutter*
      I have sent my children for lessons and it has turned out very well – they all love swimming; they are like little seals in the water.

      • So glad for them! Every life skill prepares us for multiplied more possibilities. One of mine got his first job, ever, because he could swim well. You never know. 🙂

  4. I wouldn’t worry about it. You don’t HAVE to do it. To use a previous hypothetical example, if the life of one of your children depended on it, you would do it without thinking. I know this from experience: I took up karate in my forties and enjoyed it but I was physically incapable of being thrown over anyone’s shoulder – my fear would not permit it. My body flat refused and that was that.

    I am terrified of confrontation and bees and live in dread of either being a part of my day, but I have rescued one child from bees and another from bullies and I didn’t even think about it, I just dived in. Maternal instinct took over.

    And I have never had one sleepless night about my karate ‘failure’. 🙂

    • I didn’t know one had the choice as to whether or not to be flung over someone’s shoulder at karate – i thought they just did that as a matter of course 🙂
      I’m trying to think of child rescues I’ve carried out… and can only think of times I was so pregnant that other people had to rescue my kids!
      Thankfully they are all fine 🙂

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