The only other movie to rival its lasting ramifications of fear-scarred adolescents was the debut of Jaws in 1975. I was five when Jaws hit the theatres and was afraid to take a bath or swim in a pool for years. I'd like to tell you I've overcome this fear, but even as an adult, I dare not dip a toe into the ocean without hearing that chilling, shark-approaching music in my head.
Duh-dun, duh-Dun, duh-DUn, duH-DUN, dUH-DUN.... faster and faster and louder and louder the music grows until panic grips me.
One year, while in the Bahamas, my husband and I took a Catamaran on a snorkeling expedition. The boat was anchored in what I call the middle of the ocean, as there was no land to be seen. The captain explained we would be snorkeling around a reef area known for it's beautiful coral and fish. Every passenger was given fins, a snorkle and a mask and once we were all adorned in our gear, we lined up to descend the stairs and submerge ourselves into the beautiful, clear blue water. My husband was in front of me and he gleefully plopped into the water and started looking for fish. I tentatively lowered myself into the ocean only to feel my chest tighten, my throat go dry and my breathing quicken until I sounded like Darth Vader through the snorkle tube. Suddenly feeling like a floating appetizer for any shark that might be passing by, I shreiked aloud, thrashed my way back to the ladder and climbed over the fifteen people still on the staircase, trambling them with my big black fins.
This was not one of my prouder moments. When I got to the top of the ladder, the last woman in line shook me by my shoulders and with wide-eyed concern, yelled, "What did you see?!"
I dropped my head in utter humiliation as I admitted to her I had seen nothing. "I panicked," I sighed.
After I had stripped off my gear the Captain approached with a smirk and a island drink. "Dis is for you," he said in his Bahamian accent. "We call it da chicken drink."
I laughed, knowing there was no way to deny I was a chicken and deserving of the chicken drink. "I'm afraid of sharks," I sheepishly smiled.
"I see dat," he grinned ear-to-ear. "We all see dat."
We all experience fear. Sometimes it's rational and sometimes, well, it's not. It can be humiliating, frustrating and downright comical, but I think the important thing is that we learn to find the silver lining within even our greatest fears. For me, I may not get to swim in the ocean, but I get to sit on the boat, enjoy a cocktail and look at the beautiful water. Overcoming our fears sometimes means just being smart enough to remove ourselves from their chilling grip.
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