I am ready to face my phobia. I shouted the words as soon as I awoke one Saturday morning three years ago.
I am ready to face my phobia. I sang as I skipped aboard the bus for Mosselbaii.
I had signed up to go on a shark cage excursion in South Africa - the great white shark capital of the world. I thought there would be only one of two outcomes: either I would crush my fear of Jaws or Jaws would crush me. I was wrong.
I stepped off the dock onto a small boat called the Shark Warrior.
I think I'm still ready to face my phobia.
We were headed for a tiny place called Seal Island. I had visited it many times before from the comfort of my armchair while watching Shark Week but this time there was nothing comfortable about it.
The stench of seal excretions quickly overtook the boat and all the passengers on it. I tried hard not to vomit.
I didn't anticipate my phobia was going to smell this bad.
"Five Deep Breaths through the nose and you won't be able to smell it anymore!" The captain shouted.
The boat anchored, a quick safety briefing and then we suited up in wetsuits and masks (that make everything look 25% bigger).
Why the hell did I think I could face my phobia today?
I climbed down into the cage, the cold Indian Ocean filling my wetsuit and took my place beside the only guy in there.
I don't want to face my phobia. I just want to sit on the boat and eat potato chips instead.
"Excuse me? Can I get out please? I have to go pee!"
"Do it in your wetsuit, it will attract more sharks."
With eyes the size of dinner plates, the guy beside me said, 'please don't'.
The cage filled with more human bait. The top lowered and locked into position.
I do NOT want to face my @*&#( phobia!
As instructed, I clung on tight to the bar in front of me and wrapped my feet under the bar below - making sure no limbs were poking out of the cage.
Giant chunks of meat were tossed into the water in front of the cage.
Dark blue ocean.
Heart Pounding. Mouth dry. White knuckles. Non-existent bladder.
The cage gently rocked as a giant force displaced the water behind us. I tried to look but could only see dark shadows.
My phobia is going to eat me alive today.
"Down to the left!" Shouted the captain.
I Held my breath and pulled myself under looking to the left.
AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Arms and legs flailing out of the cage, I screamed, SHARK, SHARK, SHARK!
"Get your legs in!" Ordered the captain.
I CANNOT do this.
It's Jaws. He's coming head-on. He's so fast. He's all teeth. Giant, flesh ripping, bone crushing teeth. He's not slowing down...he's not stopping...he's, oh God, he's, he's in the @(&%^$#! cage!
The shark's nose came right through the cage and stopped inches in front of my face. I squeezed my eyes shut. He's going to bite my head off.
I have to face my phobia, he's in my face.
I peeled my eyes open just as he disappeared into the blue. He didn't try to kill me?
I am ready to see my phobia differently. I am ready to see love.
90 minutes witnessing power, grace, beauty and, creation in its most magnificent form. I was changed forever. I finally 'get it'.
The Indian ocean now painted pink with sunset my phobia is replaced with a love and commitment to protect this species that has survived 450 million years but is now endangered at the hands of the greatest super predator of all: mankind. I am ready to practice love.