Most of us have old, deep-seated fears. They usually take root in childhood and, over time, become part of who we are. ‘I am naturally a shy person.”He doesn`t like confrontation’. ‘She is afraid of heights.’ ‘He has a claustrophobia.”She doesn`t like public places.’ Labels. Names. Terms. And, underneath it all, there is a frightened, lonely heart that just wants to live and be, enjoying life in its fulness.
Three days ago I returned from a trip which was life-changing, to say the least. Of course, I did have some ideas and hopes before I packed by bag, I did suspect that maybe I will have to face some challenges and, hopefully, overcome them. But what I was not prepared for, was to have my whole inner world, along with my perception of myself, shaken to the core…
A man who is very close to me, opened his house to me, giving me his very presence and focus, and a week from his precious time so I could finally learn to swim and overcome my fear of the water. For most of my thirty-two years on this Earth I had been crippled by an inability to swim and be relaxed in the water which I so love.
Murky, unknown terrors overwhelmed my childhood. Shame bound me during school trips and holidays. Fear, covered with bravado, stalked me during the university years where, holding a beer in my hand, I chuckled as the others ran toward the water, acting as if I was actually better off where I was, thank you very much.
I may not be old yet, but I am now too old for playing roles. And though I have many fears, the one that is greater than all of them, is the fear of spending my life behind a mask.
And so it began. Day after day we strove, sometimes taking ground, sometimes giving it back, but advancing, although ever so slowly. My deep bond with the man allowed for openness and strength in every way – spiritually, as well as any other way. And, because of that, we were able to explore, and excavate many deep, dark roots which hid in my soul. Together we suffered, we fought, and prevailed over the darkness. It was gold we were after and, as with any true treasure-hunt, this one too, was opposed. The joy, the laughter, the food, the stunning view of the sea, and the crystal-clear water of the pool, were the backdrop of the battle we fought, day by day. And each day, as the Light advanced, the darkness retreated, one step at a time.
It happened toward the end of my stay. I had, by that time, learned to swim from the one end of the pool to the other, on the bottom, breathing only when I reached the other side. That morning, like many times before, I took a deep breath and set out toward the deep end. Suddenly, as I looked ahead, I sensed that the bottom of the deep end seemed somehow dark, despite the brightness of the sun rays which penetrated the water. As if the sun did not reach the deep, murky waters that awaited me. Or maybe it could not reach them. Then something happened within me. My mind froze in terror, causing me to lose control of my body and give way to panic. Splashing and sputtering, my heart drumming inside my chest, I finally managed to reach the edge of the pool. Frustrated, spitting water from my mouth, I hit the hard surface with my fist. Damn it! I could not understand…
Minutes later I was sitting next to my friend. I was still shaken and disoriented, but now I was also angry and determined not to let my joy be stolen anymore. I knew that together, we were strong. And there, under the hot, Middle-Eastern sun, surrounded by trees, butterflies, and birds, it began to happen. Deep within my soul, the darkness finally emerged, revealing its true face. And the old, long-buried emotions swept over me. I saw things which I knew I had only seen as a little child. I felt feelings which I did not know I had ever felt. Dark, scary film scenes were before me again, just as they were when I was left alone in front of the televison as a little boy. Scenes where people drowned, killed in the water, and pulled under by monsters, lurking in the deep. Even as I was in the midst of that horror, a sudden knowledge dawned in my mind. I realised why, all throughout my boyhood I so loved the stories about supernatural beings, monsters, sharks, crocodiles, dinosaurs, and all kinds of big predators that hid in the deep waters. It was because, in my mind, they had been validating what my heart, in the young parts of itself already knew to be true – that there were indeed, monsters, lurking in the deep. The boy inside me knew what the man did not, for it was the boy that was imprisoned in the deep, and not the man. It was the boy that had to face the darkness, and not the man. The man, simply unable to bear the boy`s pain, was cut off from him, letting him live a life of horror and torment while he himself lived a nice, pleasant, but shallow life.
We have not been made for the shallow. Treasures are hidden in the deep. And our enemies can only be defeated if we meet them in their territory.
I had been hiding long enough. It was time to meet them. In the water, I let myself feel what I had been running from. The terrors rushed at me like the predators they were. Warm waves of long-suppressed emotions swept over me and I welcomed them. I did not run this time. Parental neglect had to be forgiven, subconscious agreement with the fears had to be broken, and as the Light rushed in, something extraordinary began to happen. Peace flowed within me, and then, at last, the monsters fled…
Monsters of the Deep – the enemies that had oppressed me since my very first years, left as suddenly as they had once come, taking with them the dark, murky shadows in which they hid.
I saw the sunshine even before I had opened my eyes. It penetrated every corner of my world, seen and unseen. Looking ahead toward the deep end, I saw no shadows.
I learned to swim during that week, and I got the stolen joy of my boyhood back. That, and a lot more besides…