in the early 2000s, p.v. park was the lake to be at in the entire tri-state area.
okay, okay, maybe just in the mind of the people in pompton plains, nj, where i grew up.
okay, actually, maybe just in my mom’s mind.
we’d go quite often & i remember the feeling of paralyzing fear mixed with the slightest courage swelling inside my pale & freckled body upon arrival to the park as the thought of jumping off the middle diving board — what a crazy thought — entertained itself in my mind.
all it took was a couple snarky comments from my POTD (playmates of the day) who were a tad more ambitious & much more dangerously curious than me at that age to call me something along the lines of freckled wimp or middle diving board loser (i’m totally kidding, no one ever called me either of those ever)
& i’d march right up to the long, white board towering over the dark, murky lake, glance up at the lifeguard & send the message with my eyes if this goes bad you better be paying attention.
i’d saunter to the edge of the board & only the lord knows why, i literally would play the jaws theme song in my head duh nuh… duh nuh…. duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh until i flung my body into the water — graceful & composed, i’m sure of it — & then picture the shark, alligator, whatever creature with an appetite for timid doggy paddlers, right on my tail all the way until i reached the ladder.
believe it or not, i was never eaten. i swam too fast.
(side note : i’m genuinely curious, did anyone else think like this as a child? asking for a friend.)
i don’t know what age i eventually grew out of that. i’m still scared of sharks (not the ones that live in lakes anymore but only the ones that live in the ocean) but rarely do i think of them & if i do, i’m able to calm myself down, reassure myself everything’s ok, it really is.
don’t worry, i’m not gonna, like, totally get carried away with this shark analogy.
okay. maybe just a little bit.
my sister’s a therapist & she’s been doing these coffee talks with her colleague, alison (i’ll link it at the end, shameless plug) & in her last chat she mentions dan siegel, a psychiatrist & author, who has this activity he calls "shark music."
in this exercise he shows the participants a video of a really peaceful neighborhood that winds down a path that leads to this beautiful scene overlooking the ocean. after the scene is done he asks everyone how that made them feel. lovely. beautiful. relaxing.
after they reflect, he shows them the same scene, this time with shark music in the background.
duh nuh… duh nuh…. duh-nuh, duh-nuh, duh-nuh-duh-nuh.
in other words, the participants are experiencing the same scenery but it’s totally different. what they’re experiencing is a feeling of panic.
dan (& kelly) make the point that sometimes we live as if there’s shark music playing in the background, when really, everything is okay. it’s not to dismiss the worst case scenario, it’s to ground ourselves in what’s here, in this moment instead of getting ahead of ourselves.
sometimes we get tangled in a web of what ifs, when all that’s really happening in this moment is i’m eating a bowl of strawberries on my couch.
that being said, shark music is scary, unhelpful and worth exploring.
because a lot of times, what’s underneath our shark music is real & worth paying attention to. there are excruciating things we’re walking through. darkness. grief. wounds.
we need healing.
God’s getting to that.
here’s what my shark music sometimes sounds like :
what if my family & friends reject me? what if all of my emotions suddenly become too much for ben to sit with me in? what if i find out i’m actually not capable? what if this virus never ends? what if during my next zoom workout, my friend asks me to do 10 burpees & i pass out?
again : scary. unhelpful when it’s the only thing i hear. worth exploring.
when we invite in our what ifs & listen to our shark music before we turn the dial down, our anxiety actually decreases when we choose to explore it with a kindness & gentleness while we stay grounded in what’s actually happening around us.
we just gotta pay attention.
kind of like this :
bethany, why are you scared of being rejected right now?
oh, why hello beautiful bird that just flew by my window.
bethany, why do you believe your depth is too much to handle? what’s making you think that?
hello, sunshine, covering the grass in light & warmth.
this is no action call to abandon & dismiss our hard & heavy things.
it’s an invitation to pay attention to our pain, our anxiety, our what ifs & engage ourselves in holy curiosity & reflection.
we are seekers of sacred abundance when we do.
(here’s that link i promised you : https://www.anchorandbellcounseling.com/blog-1)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.