piggybacking {productivity}

Last week I wrote about viewing tasks as full cycles.

Once you have that skill under your belt, there is an additional way in which this can benefit you: by expanding the cycle.

Adding an additional small task into a cycle is one of the easiest ways to build good habits. It is called piggybacking. You take something you want to make into a habit and piggyback it onto an already established habit.

Let’s use making a cup of tea as an example of what a full cycle plus piggyback add-on would look like:

  • Fill kettle, put teabag, sugar and spoon into cup
  • Boil water 
  • Pour water, steep
  • Remove teabag, add milk
  • Place milk back into fridge, spoon into sink, throw teabag away
  • Enjoy tea
  • Rinse cup and put into dishwasher

That is what constitutes a full cycle for tea-making, for me. The diamonds mark the two opportunities in this cycle to add something into it if you want to build a stronger habit. While the water is boiling, you have a few minutes at your disposal where you are probably just hanging around in the kitchen. This is the ideal window for a piggyback addition to the cycle. It could be wiping a counter, decluttering a shelf in the fridge, doing 10 wall push-ups, memorizing a verse of Scripture or a new word in a language you are learning. Or perhaps this is the time you take to connect with someone via a short note from your phone or tablet. The options are as varied as your imagination, needs and goals.

And likewise, while the tea is steeping, you have another small window of opportunity to piggyback a bonus habit onto the cycle. Taking vitamins, taking out the trash, taking something out of the freezer for dinner, updating your shopping list, whatever you can fit into that small window that needs to become a habit.

If you continue focusing on this, soon it will become completely natural for you to make that part of the tea cycle. Or wherever you see the opportunity to creatively make your day and your life easier. I find it easier to keep the bathroom clean since I have resolved to clean something small whenever I go in there. Instead of spending a dedicated amount of time on bathroom cleaning, whenever I visit the restroom I do one small thing: brushing the toilet, wiping the mirror, wiping the counters or windowsill. It means that the bathroom always stays under control and because the whole cleaning routine is broken up into small, widely distributed tasks, it does a lot to keep me free from overwhelm.

Need another example of this skill? Resolve to never leave your car without removing trash or (whatever does not belong there) from it. And when you have nothing left that needs removing, there is still the option to quickly wipe a rag over your dashboard or one of your windows at a time. I even do this while waiting at the stop light. This constitutes a major victory for someone who used to have a car that needed to be hidden from everybody I knew because it was such a dump!

Once you mind starts working in this way, the world opens up to you: you find ways and means to make so much of your day easier and more productive. And that, to me, is just one of the greatest joys possible!

What can you piggyback onto an existing full cycle habit?

Artist unknown

Artist: Leonard Leslie Brooke

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full cycle {productivity}

Recently I encountered a stellar piece of advice that has transformed my productivity in exponential leaps and bounds:

Determine the full cycle of a task and don’t stop until you’ve completed it.

It is that simple! Often we don’t have a clear image in our mind of what the complete task actually should be. Let me give a few examples of how this works:

  • Laundry: The full cycle of laundry is only completed once those clean clothes have all been put away. You’re not done when the washing machine is done. Or the dryer. Or the clothes are all (clean) in a hamper. You’re done when everything has been put away.
  • Writing a report: The full cycle needs to include research, typing, editing and proofreading (yes, folks, that’s an important part of it!), and submission before the deadline. It’s not done before that.
  • Travelling: The full cycle is only completed once you have unpacked and put away your luggage and your clothes are in the dirty hamper. For the more organized among us this may go even further and include putting together a packing list for the next journey.
  • That empty toilet roll: No, you can’t just leave it like that. If you used the last square of paper, you have already activated the cycle and you need to complete it. And that doesn’t mean you can just put a new roll on top of the bathroom counter. You are only done when you have put the new roll into the toilet paper holder and disposed of the cardboard core. (This is applicable to anything you finish: the paper in the office photocopier or printer, the milk in the fridge, a light bulb that has gone out, fuel in your car – once something is finished, the cycle has been activated and needs to be completed.)
  • Going to the doctor: The full cycle only ends once you have paid the doctor, gotten the medication from the pharmacy, paid the pharmacist, and – if need be – put reminders in your phone or calendar for when to actually take the medication.
  • Using equipment: Whether you are mowing the lawn, crafting, putting up a picture, taking photographs, making dinner, the rule is the same: the cycle is only completed once you have put away everything again.

Almost everything we touch in our lives consists of cycles. And the beautiful thing is that, as we grow, those cycles grow, too. You can start with a short cycle, and as you become more au fait in this, add on to it.

It has been truly empowering for me to realize this, especially since I can get a bit distracted sometimes, touching and going, and forgetting what I had been busy with. Or just not plain thinking. But I can tell you from the toilet paper situation in my and friends’ homes that clearly I am not the only one who needs this epiphany.

Viewing tasks in terms of full cycles brings with it the immense reward of a feeling of freedom and completeness. There is deep satisfaction in knowing you’re done with this one thing. It has been taken care of, all the loose ends have been tied up, you are free to move on to the next step.

For me, that means there is one less process that is open in my brain, slowing down my processing speed. I can use that released space for something more important. And next time I come into the bathroom and see the toilet paper, I think: ‘Yep! Nailed it!’

It’s the little things that make the biggest difference!

10 ways to conquer depression

It is a source of continual amazement and delight to me, the way we manage to find the light.

How do you help yourself feel better when darkness strikes? How do you lift yourself out of the mire?

I have received the grace of, by this time in my life, discovering many ways to navigate through darkness back to the light. Many of these ways overlap or are very closely related to each other. Sometimes one simply needs that slight variance for it to click into your brain and work, to really speak to you and do the trick.

  1. The 10% rule: A friend once taught me to ask: What can you do right now that will make you feel 10% better? It can be something as simple as listening to a song, or gaining back a sense of control by doing the dishes, or making a gratitude list, or going for a walk. There are billions of little things you can do right now to feel 10% better. And then 10% more…and 10% more, until you have bootstrapped yourself out of the pit. It is often easier to sneak your way into feeling better than to aim for an all-or-nothing victory. Conquer the darkness by stealth!
  2. The smile rule: Moving the facial muscles into a smile is the most direct way to affect the brain. You can enhance your brain chemistry by smiling. Or by walking. Or by meditating where you focus on cultivating an inner smile: smiling with your eyes, the inside of your mouth, your heart … until you smile with your entire chest, opening up to the world … and on, and on, and on. Softening your whole body into a smile … I know of few other things that can so quickly bring as profound a sense of contentment as this.
  3. The enlarged container rule: There are times when all we need is to be taken out of ourselves for a while. We get so wound up and tied into knots dealing with a problem that it can overpower our entire existence. It is good to sometimes do something that will completely distract us from the war. And I’m not referring here to the numbing things we are so good at, like eating or watching television or over-working. I am talking about things that will enlarge our container so that we can view the world with perspective again. Visiting friends, going out into the world, walking or exercise, listening to a sermon, podcast or TED Talk, doing something deliberately engaging or delightful. Whatever it is, just do it to show your brain that there is more to life than this current challenge.
  4. The bottom rule: Sometimes it helps to stop fighting the darkness and simply accept it, stop thrashing about as you fall into the pit and quietly settle to the bottom where you know you can’t go any deeper. It sounds immensely counter-intuitive but it’s not. There is incredible relief in knowing you can’t fall any deeper – this is as bad as it’s going to get. From this point onwards, the only way is up. Just this quiet acceptance, this falling, can help conserve vital energy you need for climbing back out instead of burning it up through resistance. Saying to yourself, ‘Okay, here I am. It’s that time of darkness again. I have dealt with it before. I can deal with it again.’
  5. The observer rule: Step outside yourself and observe the darkness as if it were a completely separate person. Look into yourself with compassion and childlike curiosity. Treat it as if this were a story and the main character – you – has just been required by the author to undergo a serious spurt of character growth. How would she grow through this challenge the author threw at her? How would he become the hero in his story, however reluctantly and falteringly? Because take my word for it: we are all the heroes in our stories. And the good stories are the ones in which challenges are overcome. We have such immense worth that we are never written into boring stories! Of course we are going to face challenges! Lift yourself out of this immediate experience and look down onto your life as a compassionate observer. Lovingly, always lovingly. And curious, always curious. Whispering to yourself, ‘Oh, how fascinating! I do wonder what is going to happen next?’
  6. The therapist rule: Healing from depression might be as straightforward as finding a good therapist and talking things out. I have immense respect for my therapist – because she knows what questions to ask. And I don’t always know. People say they can figure out their own minds; they don’t need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for someone else to peer into their lives. And that might be so, but only if you know what questions to ask. Only if you stand back far enough to see the patterns. And it doesn’t happen easily or automatically. You have to search. It took me hitting two blanks before I was the third time lucky and came to someone who just opened up my mind like a flower. Words can’t describe my gratitude for how much she has helped me this past year, how much she has empowered me.
  7. The inner therapist rule: And then there is this almost opposite approach: be your own therapist. If you were your own patient and in need of help, what advice would you give you in this situation? We carry an amazing treasury of wisdom within. If only we will become still and ask and listen. It can be a small thing, an inner knowing that what you really need right now to get out of this hole is simply the security of a dependable bedtime, as if you are a child that is loved and put to bed at 21:00 every night by parents that know she will be less cranky in the morning if she sleeps enough. Or your inner therapist can tell you to this week go do one thing that will make you feel treated, that will remind you that you are cherished. What advice would you give yourself? What homework for inner healing? What support?
  8. The purpose rule: When you accept that nothing happens without a purpose, life starts to make more sense. And as Viktor Frankl and many others point out, knowing this gives meaning to suffering. If you know that – no matter how senseless this suffering feels right now – a day will come when you will see the purpose in it, and will use it for good, then you can get through it. Imagine how you can one day help someone else who wrestles with the black dog. Or how your example may save a life one day. Imagine what rock solid tested-by-experience advice you can one day give to a fellow human being in need, because you went through something similar. And you may very well be the only person who can help them because of your unique experience. Why is this strategy so powerful? Because it changes us from victims into leaders. It empowers us. And I believe when we realize that we are leaders and that we have something to give, it imparts a true sense of nobility to us that enables us to move mountains.
  9. The wheel rule: This is the first bit of advice that ever helped me navigate depression. I read it as Burt Reynolds quoting Clint Eastwood, who said: ‘The wheel always turns again.’ Meaning that sooner or later, the wheel will turn you out of darkness into light, out of misery into joy. And after that, it will turn you out of light back into darkness again. And once more back into the light. All you have to do is trust the process. Stay on the wheel. Whatever this is, it will pass. Depression can pass through you. You can pass through depression. There is always something greater up ahead. If only you will stay the course. Knowing this helps me navigate through the challenges of life a lot more evenly because it diminishes the darkness (which, let’s face it, can be quite egotistical in its belief that it is absolute – a lie!) and it expands the light. What a comfort!
  10. The true name rule: The word is powerful. Name it like it is. In Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea novels, to know the true name of a thing or a person is to have power over it or them. That is how magic works in that fictional realm, but it is not far-fetched even in real life. Our words have power. These days ‘depression’ has become such a huge blanket-word that even children use it (!) But often it does not serve us well. When I say I am depressed, it brings with it an immediate and overpowering sense of helplessness. I suspect in you, too. But what if we are wrong? What if we could be more specific in identifying what ails us? Test this for yourself and see if it does not make a world of a difference! Change ‘I am depressed,’ into ‘I am sad,’ ‘I am too tired,’ ‘I am disappointed,’ ‘I feel insecure.’ Finding the true name of what we’re dealing with empowers us! I can deal with sadness, with disappointment, with not knowing what to do in a difficult situation … far, far better than with depression! Don’t let the darkness fool you into using that word unless it is the absolute truth. I would even go as far as to say that you have the power to not use that word at all – that there is always a better, healthier choice!

In time, those bouts of blackness lose their grip on you. They cease to be the nightmarish monsters that completely paralyze you with fear. Because you know from experience that they are not as big and scary as they make themselves out to be. They are simply a natural part of this life for those of us who are sensitive to light and dark. They are real, yes, but the light is real, too! And that is the perspective that empowers you.

Art by Silver Saaremäel

Art by Silver Saaremäel

asdfgh

I see it every day. My fingers touch it every day. The message.

But my mind is closed, merely viewing the world through the eyes of utility, seeing only the keyboard. An instrument, a means of communication. The keys have become so familiar that they are like a part of me, space bar worn shiny on the right where my thumb always makes the separation between the words.

Lately the separations between the words have become larger. I struggle to find them, struggle to hold on to them. And they, wild, untamed things that they’ve become, slip from between my fingers, letters disappearing or substituting themselves for what I wanted to type. Mistakes. Omissions. Wrong directions and meanings.

The backspace key will soon be shinier than the space bar. I use it more than all the other keys. It is my only hope in the chaos between the words. Reading slowly, deleting, correcting as I go.

I learn to type with larger spaces. Slower keystrokes. Focusing on each letter, each word I string together into sentences. It is a deliberate act, and it comes with difficulty to me, the one who had always been so fly of finger, so quick to speak, to write, to dance with words.

Here on the keyboard, I have become Moses, slow of tongue. Slow of hand, crippled … like Jacob wrestling with God and limping ever after. I lose myself.

And so it is in this slowness, this disability, that I find the blessing … that I finally see the message, the words that creep into the spaces between the letters:

ASDFGHJKL

All Self Dedicated, For the Glory of Him, Jesus, my King and my Life.

My fingers grow still on the keys. My mind spins.

It has been there all along, this holiness under my fingers! This love song and commandment I touch every day! He wants everything of me. Even my words … words I had thought my own, to do with as I please. He, the Word Himself, wants even that.

And suddenly I don’t mind having my way with words crippled so. Not when it means that the Word finally has the space to flow in. Space that becomes shiny!

I want more of that.

It means waiting more. Listening more. Letting my fingers rest more. So I may find the message and the shining light in the spaces.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
– John 1:1-4

warrior life

We have a choice.

We can be the struggling ones, hardly believing that we will make it, succumbing to weakness and temptation again and again. Falling, flailing and failing.

Or we can be the warriors, living proud lives of consequence, believing in ourselves, believing we can make a difference, believing we are stronger than weakness and temptation. Fighting, accepting and always moving forward.

I know which one I choose.

Does a warrior life mean that you never fall? No, you’ll fall, believe me. But you’ll get up again, brush yourself off, and keep focus on your goal and destination.

Does a warrior life mean that you are beyond temptation and weakness? No, they will still enter your life – in fact, if they’re on to you, they might truly hound you. But a warrior knows that life isn’t a carnival – it’s a fight between good and evil. A warrior is prepared for whatever the day might throw at him or her. So what do warriors do?

  • They plan every evening what they want to accomplish the next day.
  • They prepare for the battle by visualizing the successes they will experience that day, because a battle won in the mind is already won out there.
  • And at the end of the day they review what they did well and what they could have done better, and HOW they will do it better the next day.

Be it living healthier, achieving more at work, making more of a difference in your family or community, it all boils down to this: To being a warrior. To seeing yourself as the strong one, the one who can make things happen, the one who is able!

Image source: lotr.wikia.com

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

five things i learned on vacation

Well, folks, I am back from holiday, and it is pretty strange to start the new year only now, in the second half of January.

The last evening in the Drakensberg we saw the most awesome rainbow. EVER!

The time away from all the normal rush and running about was very welcome – and interesting. I want to share with you what I learned while on vacation.

  • Zoom out. I’m a macro photographer by preference, there is no doubt about it. Nothing delights me as much as zooming in on something and really picking up the detail. But I learned that sometimes I need to look at the bigger picture as well. And strangely, this does not only apply to photography. On my way to the beautiful Drakensberg, I thought I was super prepared for the trip into the unknown: I had my GPS, I double-checked the route on Google Maps … and still I got so badly lost, I ended up driving the ENTIRE day to finally reach my destination. Google Maps took me through some deep rural areas where a single white female had better not drive alone. And the GPS got it wrong completely, because it did not want to accept the seconds I wanted to type into the coordinates. Turns out being out by a couple of seconds can make you end up almost 300 km off-course! It was the sort of adventure Hobbits try to avoid. And my brother – bless him – observed that I sometimes need to zoom out a bit, look at the map and see the waypoints, which would have helped, because my instincts were screaming at me the whole day that something was wrong. Lesson learned and internal zoom disengaged. (At least, that’s what I’ll be trying to remember!)
  • Don’t be afraid of the MANUAL setting. I learned a LOT about photography from my good friend, and finally made that jump into the next dimension where I set my camera on manual and started playing around with the F-stop, shutter speed and ISO. I am so very, very, very far away still from being a good photographer, but you know what? It was utterly empowering to let go of Intelligent Auto and trust myself to make mistakes. And make mistakes I did – and still do. It can be highly frustrating, let me be honest. But learning that the world does not end when I allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole, that’s kinda awesome. And that most definitely applies to life outside photography as well. Take life into your own hands, stop running on auto the whole time, make mistakes, and delight in learning!
  • Inner confidence ripples outwards. We went horse riding during the week in the Drakensberg, which was a first for me. My horse’s name was Apple – actually he might really have been a pony. And stubborn as a rock. He went this way, then that, sometimes he stopped dead in his tracks, and sometimes he started to canter … without me doing ANYTHING to communicate with him. After the hour’s ride, arriving back at the stables, he rushed up to the fence and tried to rub me off against it. I still have the bruise on my leg. And it was then that I realized that I had been communicating with him. I had been so hesitant, so ill at ease, this pony knew exactly who was boss. HE was! It is just as the Dog Whisperer says: You have to have a calm, authoritative inner confidence when you work with animals (and actually with people, too). If my bum weren’t so sore after the ride, I would have gone back the next day to do it over, this time with more confidence! I’m certainly going to remember this lesson, though.
  • Sometimes effects take time to reveal themselves. Think carefully what you do, because the after-effects may only show up later. Halfway during the horse ride, I stripped off my jacket and rode for 30 minutes with bare arms and shoulders in the sun. I thought that was too short a time to get sunburnt. Ha! I got burnt. Pretty badly. But here’s the thing: the sunburn didn’t show up after the ride. And I thought I was safe. But then I developed a delicate blush that evening. And 24 hours later, the blush turned into lobsteresque hues … and 48 hours later I looked like I was on FIRE! I don’t know why I develop sunburn so S-L-O-W-L-Y lately but let me tell you, after this holiday I have finally accepted that just because I look and feel fine after being in the sun, doesn’t mean that everything is okay. Wait 2 days to see the full effect! It’s like that with life too, sometimes, isn’t it? You do something and the results only show themselves some time later. This can be good, and it can be bad, depending on what you do. Patience is needed for the good, and awareness is needed for the bad. Just sayin’.
  • This might be as good as it gets, so you might as well start enjoying it. No, this is not something negative I’ve learned, not at all, though I can certainly see that the glass-half-empty folk might interpret it that way. To me, it is something vastly positive I learned! I arrived at my first holiday destination – the coast – extremely tired. 2011 was a demanding year. And I was in need of some REST. Due to various factors outside my control, my holiday turned out differently than expected, and I quickly realized that REST was not going to be as high on the agenda as I had hoped. I rebelled against it some, but in the end I simply accepted that reality differed from the plans I had had. And the moment I accepted it and decided to run with what I had, that’s the moment I started enjoying it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I think back with longing to the two weeks of holiday I had. Did I rest? Nope, not that much. But was my spirit refreshed? Youbetcha! Am I thankful? More than you will ever know!

I don’t know about you, but I call that much learning a successful holiday!

And boy, am I looking forward to not only applying these lessons, but also learning more in the year to come.

Can't wait to go back again!

all about my scuba diving experience!

Yes, they’ve arrived! The photos I have been waiting for so I could show and tell everything about my scuba dive course. Pull up a chair – oh wait, you’re already seated? Well, then let’s get started!

The first week was all about the theory, classes at night far from home, learning about decompression stops and ‘It’s a mask, not goggles’ and ‘It’s a cylinder, not a tank’ and calculating dive times. Our instructor at Wild About Diving, Mike, cracked me up when he explained about getting the bends – when you rise to the surface too quickly and the gases in your bloodstream, which had been compressed at depth suddenly expand too fast: it’s exactly what happens when you open a bottle of fizzy water. If you don’t do it very gradually, it bubbles over!

This explanation from DAN covers the technical basics well:

During a dive, the body tissues absorb nitrogen from the breathing gas in proportion to the surrounding pressure. As long as the diver remains at pressure, the gas presents no problem. If the pressure is reduced too quickly, however, the nitrogen comes out of solution and forms bubbles in the tissues and bloodstream. This commonly occurs as a result of violating or approaching too closely the diving table limits, but it can also occur even when accepted guidelines have been followed.

Bubbles forming in or near joints are the presumed cause of the joint pain of a classical “bend.” When high levels of bubbles occur, complex reactions can take place in the body, usually in the spinal cord or brain. Numbness, paralysis and disorders of higher cerebral function may result. If great amounts of decompression are missed and large numbers of bubbles enter the venous bloodstream, congestive symptoms in the lung and circulatory shock can then occur.

So, guess who simply cannot open any fizzy drinks any more without cracking up. (Snigger! Heehee! I’m bending the bottle!) Humour is a good way of burning information into the brain.

Then, that following Saturday it was time to kit up and go into the pool. First we had to just get in with our normal swimwear and swim a gazillion lengths, followed by treading water. I guess this is to make sure we could actually swim, and were fit enough to handle the experience. I got squeezed into a brand new wetsuit which immediately made me feel ten pounds lighter and is seriously the BEST discovery ever for keeping you warm in the water.

Tadaaaa! (Photo by Linda)

We were briefed on regulators (the mouthpiece you breathe through) and alternate air sources, how to connect the BCD (buoyancy control device) to the cylinder, etc. – and what we’d be doing in the pool. By the time we got in, we were hot enough that we were looking forward to the cool water!

Scuba kit is wickedly heavy, let me tell you.

Yeah, baby! (Photo by Linda)

That’s my son next to me. He’s been qualified for ages, so he was part of the refresher course team diving with us newbies. Can you tell he’s got a wild sense of humour? =) It felt great diving with him and also with my niece (newbie) and her dad (refresher).

Of course the main aim of learning to dive is to be as safe as possible under the water. After all, us humans weren’t really designed for this, so we’re always explorers in alien territory. That means not only preparing and double-checking everything before you enter the water, but also knowing exactly what to do in the event of a mishap.

Folks, this was intense!

We learned how to find your regulator when it gets ripped from your mouth – with the mask on, your scope of vision is very limited underwater and you can’t afford to search around for your regulator while you are desperate for oxygen. So there is a technique to locate it blindly. That was still fine.

Then we learned what to do if your mask accidentally receives a knock and runs full of water. We had to do partial mask clears and full mask clears, in other words: learn to clear a mask underwater when it has run full of water halfway, and also when it is completely filled up with water. We also had to take it off completely, put it back on, and then clear it. Did I mention this all happens underwater?

I nearly drowned. Three times.

I can honestly say this part of the course was the scariest of all for me. The trick is to keep breathing through your regulator, evenly, continuously, calmly. And then blow air through your nose while tilting the mask up, which drives out the water. No matter how deep underwater you are.

The first time I didn’t understand that I had to exhale through my nose! So what happened? The mask didn’t clear, I got water into my nose, and started coughing. Underwater, yes. (It is perfectly possible to cough through your regulator – in fact, if you don’t, you’re in big trouble because the body’s survival mechanism takes over as you instinctively gasp for air.) Swallowing water signals only one thing to the brain: GO UP TO THE SURFACE AND BREATHE!!!

The first time Mike took me up and let me breathe while explaining the process to me again. Then down we went for a second try. I just couldn’t do it, so I got another lungful of water. And I couldn’t go up the way my body was screaming for me to. Mike held my hand, fingers interlocked, and calmed me down, demonstrating again while I was coughing and spluttering and swallowing more water … and finally I did it. This was in the shallow end of the pool. When we had to repeat the exercise in the deep end of the pool, 3 metres down, I nearly cried. That suddenly looked like a LOT of water above my head to not succeed in this skill. But after some more spluttering (I’m a slow learner when panic sits right under the surface) I finally DID it. I think of all the divers there I was the proudest … and the most relieved.

The Sunday after that we went to Miracle Waters for our first two ‘proper’ dives. Visibility in this flooded open mine is never very good. And we had the rare honour of picking a rainy day where the visibility hit a new all-time low. Diving in green, silty water where you can hardly see 3 metres ahead of you is extremely disorienting and somewhat claustrophobic. Panic sat very close underneath the surface. And you guessed it, we had to do all the skills we had learned in the swimming pool once more.

So, wouldn’t I almost botch the whole mask clear AGAIN! But I finally managed it, and now I know I really can do it – I just need to stay calm.

The dam at Miracle Waters (Photo by me)

Those two floats out there in the water are what divers use as markers. We swam to the blue one further away. Below each float are chains suspending platforms at different levels. We descended to the first platform, equalizing our ears, practised buoyancy (which is essential when you want to swim underwater without fighting sinking or rising too much) and did those all-important skills.

Last Sunday we did the following two dives there again, and even descended to the second platform, but with visibility just as bad as the previous time, we couldn’t really explore deeper to where other divers say there are a submerged bus, helicopter, boat and all kinds of other interesting stuff. We did find the submerged swimming pool where a mommy fish was protecting her tiny, tiny babies.

Afterwards we felt so happy for having survived it qualified that we went for breakfast on the verandah, feeling very proud of ourselves. I am so proud of my niece for doing everything so well, and very thankful that she accompanied me on this course. (It helps when you have to stay calm for the sake of others. Just saying.)

I had to take a photo of the steel plate leaning against the verandah rail, with a psalm cut out of it. Beautiful and very apt, given that I had had to exercise a lot of faith underwater.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest under the shadow of the Almighty. Psalm 91. (Photo by me)

Here’s a close-up:

Beautiful inspiration - I'd love this in my house! (Photo by me)

I wish I could report that I was the life of this whole scuba training party, swinging into the whole thing like Tarzan from a tree branch. But I did face my fears. And I kept going – and that is the important part.

Thank you to Mike who is the best. dive. instructor. ever. Someone who can keep me alive underwater when I panic is someone I will follow into deeper waters, too.

Thank you to my sponsor for the course, giving me this Christmas-birthday-Christmas-birthday gift. =)

Thank you to my young warrior and my niece for diving with me.

Thank you to Linda for taking such incredible photos!

It’s been amazing, and I’m looking forward to diving where I can find ray mantas, sea turtles and all the other pretties one day.