A year ago this week my husband and I were in Maui, taking a private tour on the road to Hana.
If you’re not familiar, the road to Hana is a miles long stretch of highway along the east coast of Maui. As you drive you’ll find yourself in the middle of a glorious rain forest with a number of waterfalls, beaches, and about 64 million photo opps. The views are incredible.
We were nearing the end of our day when our guide, Laura, brought us to Wai’anapanapa State Park. Here we walked the black sand beaches and afterwards she asked, “Do you guys want to swim in a cave?”
It took me all of ten seconds to answer, “Yes!”
My husband looked at me. Between the two of us, I’m more the adventurer or at least I used to be. He was thinking it through, considering the downsides of swimming in a cave. Do we want to be wet in the car? Did we have the right shoes? What about our wallets and phones?
All I could think about was that I didn’t want to miss out on this experience. We’d wanted to swim in a waterfall, but the week’s heavy rains made doing so unsafe.
It took a little coaxing, a little me talking about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get my Steve to agree. But once his concerns were met, he was all in. After changing into our swimsuits we followed Laura down the short trail to the cave.
“Not everyone knows about this,” she said, “but a lot of locals come here. It’s actually a lava tube (natural tunnel made out of lava) and some even swim out through to the ocean.”
We arrived minutes later to find a father and his four children getting ready for their swim. I watched them, one by one, as they jumped into the narrow opening of the cave. The children were filled with delight, laughing as they jumped, there father right there in the water with them.
After they were all in, Laura followed suit, “Ah, feels good! Who’s next?” she said, “Steve? Tracy?”
Suddenly I was terrified. I hadn’t expected to have to jump into the water, but the rocks were such that one could not step in. They were situated a good six feet above water. When was the last time I’d even jumped off a diving board?
Steve looked at me, “Well? You going?”
I giggled, I do this when I’m nervous. “I don’t know, it looks scary, you go first.”
My husband hesitated, but only for a minute. He jumped, went under and rose to the surface. “Whew!” he said with a laugh.
Oh Lord, it was my turn.
I wasn’t sure I could do it. I wanted to, yet I didn’t. The water was going to be cold (refreshing Laura had called it) and I hate being cold. Not to mention the jumping part But I knew if I chickened out, I’d regret it. Still, I couldn’t get my feet to remove themselves from the ledge.
The father, who was still in the water, saw the fear in my eyes, “Come on, we’ll count you down,” he said. I looked up at his smiling face, his dark hair slicked back from the wet water. All four of his children were staring at me, excitement in their eyes.
“One, two, three…” shouted the crowd.
Lord have mercy.
“No, no, don’t do that!” I said, giggling again, “That makes it worse!”
Oh, the pressure.
Then Laura gently said the words I needed to hear, “Don’t think about it, just jump.”
Yes, I thought, she’s right. My fear is paralyzing me, holding me hostage. I mean, really, what did I think was going to happen? I needed to quit thinking and just do it. And with that I closed my eyes, pulled my legs up toward my belly and jumped into the cool dark waters of a cave in Wai’anapanapa State Park in Maui, Hawaii.
It was thrilling.
It was exhilarating.
It was better than I could have ever imagined.
Laura, ever the tour guide, pulled out a waterproof flashlight and told us to follow her into the depths of the cave. We swam along in the dark, following her tiny light. The water, spring fed, was crystal clear and beautiful.
It was an experience unlike any I’d ever had.
And I’d almost missed it.
How often, I later wondered, have I allowed my fear to paralyze me? How often have I missed out on something spectacular because I feared the water might be too cold? The answer: lately, it had been all too often.
The older I get, the less I like stepping out of my comfort zone. I like being comfortable. And part of me feels like I’ve already had my share of thrills in this life.
I could be content to sit on the sidelines, watch others ride the roller coaster, cruise the zip line or swim in a cave.
But here’s the thing: there is joy to be had when I step outside of my complacency.
Doing something different, doing something scary is exhilarating. It makes me feel alive, and there is nothing better than feeling alive.
Let me repeat that: There is nothing better that feeling alive.
I’d forgotten about this adventure until recently when we took our daughter to Holiday World.
“Come with us Mom,” she’d said, as she and her friend got in line for a crazy water slide ride.
I hate water slides. I hate being cold and wet and those tunnels on the slides scare me a little. But I love living. I love the joy of life.
“Okay,” I said, “I’m scared, but I’ll do it.”
In all aspects of my life, I think I need to say that more often.