“Look at the horizon!” yells the Greek man in clear but accented English.
He’s standing right in from of me, but he might as well be miles away.
We’re off the coast of Crete and I’m lost in my body, all-too focused on being uncomfortable as I lean against the boat’s transom, digging my heels into the swim platform while the 6- and 8-foot waves wildly toss us back and forth.
The 6mm wet suit is thick and unwieldly on my limbs. A 15-lb belt cinching my middle feels like 50. And the tank on my back is a true 40 pounds.
But the guy keeps working to secure my gear in tandem with another behind me. I sit mutely with my hood and mask atop my head and offer them my feet to be flippered as they triple check the oxygen flow into my regulator, my pressure gauge, the security of each belt on my shoulders and across my chest.
It’s my very first dive, and my own voice thunders loud between my ears.
Yeah, you’re trained, but this is too much.
It’s too rough. Six and 8-foot swells? Really?
WHY isn’t it calm?
It’s gonna be cold.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
“Ready?” I hear my husband say to my right.
They’re preparing him too, and his voice is like a call from home.
“Yes,” I exhale, much more surely than I feel.
“Look at the horizon!” says the man again, this time so close I can feel his breath on my face. I look into his brown eyes and he points upward and beyond, smiling.
“Prevents seasickness. You will feel better.”
Mariners have known for thousands of years that standing on a boat with your feet spread apart and looking to where the sea meets the sky can help alleviate nausea. On land, we all sway naturally back and forth about 4 centimeters every 12 to 15 seconds. Scientists have now concluded that on water, focusing on a distant point may help the brain understand increased body sway by enabling it to differentiate between two sources of movement – the ship and the person’s own body.
Strapped into my scuba gear and staring at my feet, I was working myself into a nauseous state, and my new Greek friend could see it all over my pale face.
But taking his advice brought me out of my angst. Looking at the sea, the rocky coastline, and the sun shining full behind it minimized the size of the relentless waves, and I gained courage to take the leap off the end of the vessel and into the depths.
It’s no secret that 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone in some way or another.
Remaining in the present is essential. We’ve found it’s good to embrace the sanctity of every day. Nothing can be taken for granted.
But have we also lingered so long in our present mindset that we’re now staring at our feet, overthinking our burdens, and lamenting every wave?
In metaphor, a daily look at the horizon teaches us two things:
1) Our suffering is lessened when we regain a broader perspective; and
2) We are stabilized by focusing on an immovable point.
Who or what is your immovable point?
This Christmas and in the year to come, let’s heed the whisper that calls to our hearts saying, “Trust me. I am the One your soul desires, and I will bring you peace.”
When I finally jumped into the water that day back in 2018, I saw a stone anchor from a ship that sank 2,000 years ago – around the same time that Jesus was born. My focus on the horizon, and giant stride past my fears, was well-rewarded.