January 28, 2015 by jeliwobble
Elsewhere, I have told the story of how a few words from an adult can destroy a child’s self belief and can remain with a person into adulthood. I don’t think one should necessarily *blame* the adult, once one has become an adult and identified the source of destruction. However, taking that destroyed piece of your psyche and rebuilding it is not necessarily easy to do.
Before truly understanding what was going on, and working out its source, I started training for sub aqua diving. I swam well, in the most part, and enjoyed mucking about in the sea, so it appeared that it might be something I would enjoy. And the bloke I was seeing did it, so it seemed as if it would be a fun thing to do together.
Training wasn’t easy. There was a lot of swimming required, including towing a person, with both of you in full kit, while performing resuscitation breathing, and I have never been the fittest of people. But I did it. I earned my BSAC sport diver qualification along with the rest of my class and have since dived in many places, though not since having children.
Not long after achieving this, we went away on the summer dive trip. During this trip, the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me occurred. We’d just finished a dive in the Mediterranean. It had been lovely, but I was then required to get into a ‘squidgy’, a soft inflatable dive boat. I had done this quite a few times previously, as it was one of the things you were required to do to get the dive qualification. However, previously, I had been wearing a full dry suit, which you fill with air for added buoyancy underwater, therefore getting into the soft sided boat was, while tricky, achievable. The Med was warm. Having dived a few times in my dry suit, it was too warm for me, so I’d bought a ‘shortie’, a neoprene suit more commonly used by surfers. I had feck all buoyancy.
It took me over ten minutes to get into that boat.
It felt like three hours.
By the time I managed to beach myself on the side of it, like a red-faced, exhausted, purple and pink neoprene covered whale, the other boat had filled and was circling my boat, enjoying the entertainment.
It wasn’t long after that when the bloke who I was seeing at the time admitted to me, as someone who was involved in training me, that I had been labelled ‘fragile’ by chief dive officer.
Fragile. Liable to break if pushed too hard.
I had spent my life, to that point, avoiding being broken. If I couldn’t do something, I would have no tenacity, I would just give up and move onto the next thing. However much I was bullied at school and college, instead of facing up to it and calling them out, I just avoided the situations where I might encounter those who didn’t like me, or make myself small and insignificant if I had to be around them. Even my degree and my previous love life had suffered from my inability to overcome and endure.
I could not avoid getting into that boat. I could not give up, though I doubt they would have let me drown, there was no moving onto the next thing.
It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint the pivotal points in your life, but occasionally they are bleeding obvious!
I broke on the side of that boat. Utterly and completely shattered. And the collective shards that rolled into the boat were unable to ever be broken like that again. You can’t avoid the breaking, no matter how much you’re labelled ‘fragile’, but how you put yourself back together again, and how much determination each breakage gives you, these are the things that make you human.
The Japanese do something very interesting with pottery called kintsugi. When something is broken, it is mended with gold (or silver or platinum) lacquer, the idea being that the history of the item is more important than the fact it is broken and that the joins illuminate the piece’s imperfections but also allow it continued service.
It doesn’t matter how fragile you are, or how much you have to rebuild yourself. Humans endure their brokenness and are more beautiful because of their cracks and mends.