My fear of water began at age 2 after slipping and almost drowning in a large garden fountain. All I can really remember is standing on the concrete ledge the moment before I fell, and being wheeled away in my baby carriage, my clothes soaking wet.
The ocean added to my unease a few years later after being knocked over by a large wave that dragged me along the sandy floor and threw me onto the shore, gagging on a mouthful of salt water. My Dad used to say that if I faced my fear I would overcome it, and he tried to help, pushing me over the waves in a hollow inner tube as I did my best to be brave.
“Look up, Jess, look at the sky! Isn’t it beautiful?”
I refused to be distracted from my fear. “DAD! Here comes a wave! Get me over it! OVER it!” Eventually, he quit trying to help and I sat on the shore content to watch others.
Many years passed, and one summer day a few years ago, I felt drawn to go swimming. Unexpectedly, my desire to be free outweighed my fear. Young kids were everywhere, running in the waves, diving under the bigger ones, laughing and free. I wanted to be like them.
I walked out as far into the water as my fear would allow. The ocean floor dipped and dropped away, the water rose above my chest, and the waves appeared gigantic and insurmountable from that vantage point. I shrieked and lamented every time a swell began to form. And yet I sailed over each wave with ease.
Suddenly I noticed a young boy about 10 or 11 years old treading water nearby. His name was Nick. He came right over and boldly asked, “What’s wrong? You don’t like the waves?”
My anxiety had put me in such an altered state that despite our age difference, I spoke to him as an equal. “No,” I answered emphatically. “The waves scare me. My worst fear is that a big wave will crash on me and I won’t know which way is up.” Nick listened intently, and decided to coach me on what to do.
“Okay, when a big wave comes, you know how there’s white stuff?” I assumed he was talking about foam and I nodded. “Just go under the white stuff. You gotta go under it. Then it won’t hurt you.”
“Okay,” I said, hoping I wouldn’t be faced with that reality, since we were far past the point where the waves were breaking.
“Wanna see something really fun?” Nick stretched his arms over his head and demonstrated how to fly over a wave like a dolphin, diving headfirst over the other side of the wave. He watched me try. “You almost did it!” he cried. He urged me to practice, giving me little pointers about how to position my legs and hands. His youthful joy distracted me from my trepidation as we laughed and played.
Just when I was beginning to feel almost comfortable, a new set of waves approached, and I noticed they were a little higher than the others. Wave after wave swelled, and then we saw it — the wave that wasn’t going to reach us before crashing violently. I morphed into a three year-old in less than an instant. I whimpered and my voice cracked, “I’m scared.”
Nick yelled over the noise of rushing water, “DON’T TRY TO GO OVER THIS ONE! GO UNDER IT! GO UNDER! GO UNDER!” We were engulfed as I dove under the foam. I wasn’t aggressive enough in my underwater plunge, but the effects were less than they would have been, had I not followed Nick’s direction. The wave disoriented and pushed me back quite a few feet. My heart was pounding, and I came up gasping for air. When I managed to brush the hair back from my face and open my eyes, I saw Nick floating a few feet ahead of me and smiling. We had shared an experience that took away the barriers of age and social etiquette. He wasn’t the child, and I wasn’t the adult. He was my teacher, my Ocean Angel, guiding me through my scariest moment. “Thank you,” I said, and I really meant it. “Thank you so much.”
Following me safely back to shore, he walked away towards his family, turned back briefly, smiled and waved shyly. “See ya,” he said.
“See ya,” I waved back.
I have never forgotten him. Nick was proof that the Universe would never abandon me. If I was struggling and vulnerable and needed help, it would arrive. Have you ever really needed help, and found it just at the right time? Comment below — I’d love to hear your experience.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. Every day, you are surrounded by your Spirit Guides and Angels. They are completely aware of your struggles, and send help to you in many different forms. Sometimes it shows up as an inspired idea, a thought, or the words of a helpful stranger.