Mental Hurdles

What is it about mental hurdles that turn the most mundane task into an impenetrable force?

And yet, when you finally muster enough...gumption, defiance, frustration (insert your descriptor here), it turns out...the thing that stood in your way for so long? Was like the Wizard of Oz...looming in the distance, feared and untouchable. Only to be discovered as...smoke and mirrors.

Throughout my life, I've taken steps...and overcome some obstacles that would take the best out of anyone. For years, that was me. Defeated. The hurdles in my mind were so strong, I could barely be present in my own life.

Looking back, the obstacles weren't with the greater forces at large. The obstacles were in my mind. Plain and simple.

Fear of the unknown used to stop me cold.

Now, I make a point breaking down that barrier.

I used to have a fear of swimming in the open water. As a product of the Jaws era, who wouldn't? If I couldn't touch the bottom of the pool, I'd freak out...arms flailing and gasping for air.

Then I decided to take a more rational approach. Maybe...if I knew what was down there, I wouldn't be so afraid. So I took scuba diving classes. I studied aquatic life...and their behavior patterns. My best dive buddy was an Oceanography major at the University of Washington.

Maybe I over compensated?


A couple years ago, I dove the Blue Hole in Belize. It's known as a "log book dive"...if you're a serious diver, the prevailing thought is...this is one of the places you must go.

I was in Belize. The only dive trip leaving the next day...was going to the Blue Hole. So I went.

After hours of riding the chop out to our destination, within the rim of the collapsed underwater cave, it looked nothing like the photographs I'd seen. We jumped in the water and headed down. The goal was to poke around at 110 feet and check out the stalactite pinnacles.

Overall, it's a pretty boring dive...and I was feeling duped.

Suddenly I see a grey mass off in the distance. "Wow. A seal? What's that doing out here?" As it got closer to me and came into focus, it turned out....this mass was a 4' long barracuda! Now I've done my research, and I know there's nothing to fear, but they sure LOOK gnarly.


Right by my leg, I could feel the drift.

I looked down and saw a 9' long shark zoom past my leg.

Slight panic now.

I look over at the dive master, hoping he can see beyond all my gear and notice the fear beginning to take hold. He calmly points up towards the surface.

Rays of light cut through the water and I see dark masses, swirling.

They're feeding.

Slow mind finally registered:


This was NOT in the travel brochure!

From 70 feet below, I could see a feeding frenzy overhead.

The dive boats were chumming for sharks!

Here, with divers in the water.

What the hell were they thinking?

Well, it turns out, this was a bit of marketing. Divers pay big money to visit the Blue Hole. But like I said, it's a pretty boring dive. No life. Nothing worth checking out...yet, it was one of the most expensive dives I've ever been on. But here I had taken up diving to overcome my fear of the unknown (sharks) and this dive operator actually rang the dinner bell!

Sure, it makes a great story now. And the dive master and I were practically inseparable until I left Belize (a redeeming event, for sure.)

If I'd known there would be sharks, would I have gone? Probably not. But they were there and in those conditions, you can die via the bends, or take your chances with the sharks.

So here I am, back in Seattle. With too much time between the last use of my passport.

Something about being in a comfortable environment makes those mental hurdles seem much worse. For months, I worry about stupid stuff, and then miraculously, it all comes together with a single day of focus.

How much time do we waste worrying about mundane things?

Some things are truly out of our control...and I'm learning...far fewer than you might imagine. But it's the others...the things that are in our control...that still seem onerous. Why?

Hello, my name is Traca and I have a fear of yeast.

I'm a consummate baker, and yet until today, I'd never made yeasted bread.

On the grand scheme of things, it's no big deal, right? Now that I'm past that hurdle, I can say it, yes, it's no big deal. But for years, I've taken baking classes...and turned a deaf ear when the subject came to yeast. In fact, my one true family recipe involves yeast...and I've never made it.

Today I was in the middle of a baking frenzy and finally conquered my fear. It's a small thing, I know. And the end result is nothing to brag about so there will be no recipe.

But the yeast's symbolic.

And it got me thinking.

What else am I afraid of?

The list is longer than I'd like to admit...and deeply personal. But let's just say this: From here on'll be seeing some yeasted goodness around here!