I survived.

*surfaces and gasps for air*

Gosh, that was a long dive wasn’t it?

Well, I wasn’t actually underwater that whole time but I am happy to say we achieved the desired underwater wedding anniversary celebrations.

And no, that’s not Grace Jones circa 1977, that’s my husband.

After the first diving debacle (which I’m really not going to go into detail about because it’ s boring and choc full of negativity and I’m over it in a big fat way but if you want a brief recap you can find it in my last post) my extraodinarily thoughtful husband surprised me by arranging for another instructor in Port Douglas to go through a dive lesson with me in a deep swimming pool.

Andrew knew my confidence had taken a BIG hit and wanted me to see for myself that it was the other nasty instructor’s fault and not something I had done wrong. To my relief, he was right.

It turns out the nasty dive instructor (let’s call him Herald, because that was his name) simply hadn’t put enough weights on my belt. His colleagues on the day suspected that was the case but he was convinced he had weighed me down more than sufficiently, to a dangerous extent even. Well, it turns out I am freakishly buoyant. And no, I am not prepared to attribute that solely to body fat percentage. Hope floats people, okay?

In keeping with theme I’m punctuating this post with water-related photos.

Long story short, my new lovely dive instructor (let’s call him Paul Nelson from the Dive Shop in Macrossan Street, Port Douglas) sorted out my buoyancy and confidence issues in the pool and we decided to go out again with him to see if we could weigh hope down.

But it wasn’t just a split second decision to go back out. It took me days to decide to do it. Having had one panic attack underwater I was pretty sure it might be tough not to have another. These things tend to be sticky like that. But I had to get back on the horse.

Getting back on the horse is something I love and loathe about myself. Love it because I have done some really exciting things in my life. Loathe it because I have spent lots of my life in nervous/anxious anticipation. But ultimately, my mantra that you have to embrace every opportunity to enrich your experience always outweighs anything else. Although sometimes there seems a fine line between enriching and foolhardy. To wit, white water rafting on Class 5 rapids in West Virginia, USA.

But getting back on the horse also meant I spent the next week of my holiday, the week I was supposed to be doing nothing more than floating in the pool and sipping iced tea, doing deep breathing exercises and visualising myself not panicking underwater. UNDER FECKING WATER.

Meanwhile, the littlest Bettys got on with doing lots of this.

Yep, this is the short version, by the way.

Anywaaaaaaay, I did it. It was VERY hard and I spent at least half the time I was under water working very hard on not panicking. This is a synopsis of what ran through my head during my first 40 minute dive: “Shit shit shit, oh my God I’m doing it, oh shit I’m having trouble breathing, my air has run out, NO my air has NOT has not run out, breathe slowly and evenly, WOOOOHOOOOOOO I am ecstatic, I’m having a heart attack, I’m NOT having a heart attack, breathe normally and evenly, oh my God it’s Nemo…

…my lungs are getting crushed by the pressure, no they’re not, wow look at that coral, I can’t do this, I’m having a panic attack, I’m going to have to surface, I am NOT letting that panic surge take me to the surface, I have given birth twice for God’s sake, oh my God this is life-changingly amazing, holy shit I’m underwater, I’m deep underwater, I’m having a panic attack, I am MEANT to be enjoying this, I’m a mermaid, the COLOURS…

…uh- oh I feel panicky, Andrew’s hair looks funny, is that a lion fish, when will this end, I never want this to end, I DID it.”

And then we did a second dive. Only that time I enjoyed every minute.

Paul claims descendance from Admiral Nelson and that struck me as having a lovely, appropriate watery-ness about it all. Here he is exhibiting the Nelson Touch and leading us fearlessly forward through the coral gorges. That’s me in the middle and Andrew faffing around with his regulator in the background.

So folks, I’m here to tell you that even if you think you can’t do it (whatever “it” may be) , you can. If I can swim around at 12 metres under water for 40 minutes and stave off anxiety that really threatened to overwhelm me at any moment, you can do it. You can totally do it. You just need to keep breathing.

PS: I promise I’m not going all breatharian on you. I’m just cutting out trans fats and shitty dive instructors

All underwater photos courtesy of the lovely Dutch photographer onboard HABA that day. EDITED TO ADD: By the way, I just wanted to clarify that it wasn’t HABA that I had the bad experience with. It was another company. Which shall remain nameless. Because apart from that one bad egg, all the other people on board were pretty good and I don’t think it would be fair to tar the whole boat with the same brush. HABA were great.

Our holiday

I wasn’t sure whether to blog about the fact we are on holiday in case the burglars are reading this. If you are, you naughty burglars, you should know that our alarm is on and our neighbours are irritatingly nosy…until we go away and then we love them for it.

We’re in Far North Queensland. This is a SPECTACULAR part of the world. The tourist patter bills Port Douglas as the spot where the rainforest meets the reef. I’m generally skeptical when it comes to big claims like that but I’m here to tell you not only is it the truth it’s more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Pristine beaches fringed by coconut palms (which would be utterly perfect if not for the rogue crocs and excruciating jellyfish) framed by mountains thick with millenia-old rainforest. And an hour or so off-shore, one of the world’s great marvels: the Great Barrier Reef.

As my regular readers know, this year has been a bit of a bear. So this  fortnight away has been the holy grail Andrew and I have been striving towards all year. And, once again,  FNQ has not let us down. It’s as amazing and relaxing as ever.

Here are a few shots that I think really capture our holiday so far.

A torch ginger flower after a tropical downpour.

I’m happy to now be able to report from experience that twirling betty visors handle long days in the pool perfectly. I don’t recommend them during the middle part of the day when a full hat is what you need to protect you, but in the early mornings and late afternoons they’re perfect.

Despite weekly swimming lessons before we left Melbourne, Sophia had been too scared to put her head under water. One week later, this is what she was up to.

It’s been a fortnight of long, sunny days spent in the pool, copious ice blocks, fish and chips and deep relaxation. Almost total relaxation. But not quite.

On Monday we are heading out for a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef to go diving. Again.

I have an interesting story to tell you about my first attempt to dive on the reef last week. It’s a long, but (hopefully) ultimately redemptive story. Let’s just say it involves a dive “instructor” who was having a bad day and for whom there are not enough expletives in the English language to describe (although let me assure you I’ve given it a red hot go over the course of the last week), an under-water anxiety attack  (thanks to aforesaid dive “instructor”) and some pretty spectacular marine fish. What a cast, what a plot. Stay tuned for the full story and (I’m praying) the feel-good sequel!

So if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve been eaten by a giant Moari Wrasse like the one we saw last week. And who seems to be saying, as he looks at the underwater camera man, as soon as you swim away I’m eating this man. Lucky for my handsome husband, he must have spotted a better looking piece of bait.

And if you look closely, you can see my torso and legs behind Andrew looking, ahem, not very much like the mermaid I had anticipated I would be under water. But there’s always tomorrow my friends. And tomorrow I intend to summon my inner mermaid with as much power as I can muster. Just hope I don’t summon any other large sea creatures by accident. I actually can’t sleep with my hand hanging over the edge of the bed for fear of a shark biting it. So it should be an interesting sequel.

Stay tuned!

PS: I haven’t forgotten the giveaway. After writing down everyone who commented on both posts (people who commented on both posts only received one entry) I used the good ‘ole random number generator again and  it threw forth this magical number:

Number 7, according to my list, was Renee. Congratulations Renee and thanks SO MUCH to everyone who commented. The support I received both in the lead up to and aftermath of what I like to refer to as “The Great Cake Bunting Scandal of 2010” was really, truly amazing. I felt extremely loved and supported and can’t tell you what that meant. You guys rock. Like, almost more than Bon Jovi. True dinks.