Feed the Fish

A View From the Watchroom

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Barry K. Wyrick, MS, MBA

Chief Operating Officer

Feed the Fish

This is the second of three posts regarding my recent vacation.  Do not read this if you are eating.  The posts is intended to be somewhat humorous, with an important life lesson.

I had planned this particular activity for months.  During my vacation, I was going to snorkel at Looe Key, one of the premier diving sites in the Caribbean.  The day was beautiful—blue sky with big, fluffy, white clouds; a lovely breeze out of the south; the water the unique shade of aqua characteristic of the Keys.  I was traveling with the Looe Key Reef Resort and Dive Center (mile marker 27.5 on Ramrod Key).  The dive boat was stable and comfortable.  The trip to the reef was short.  The dive boat was gently rocking after tying up to the mooring ball (please remember this).  The day could not have started better.

My first swim was near perfect.  The sea fans gently waving in the tidal surge (please remember this as well).  The reef was covered with brilliantly colored fish.  I was able to simply float on the surface, occasionally kicking some to stay close to the boat.  Then minutes into the swim, two enormous Goliath Groupers showed up and decided to hang out under the boat.  They obviously were accustomed to snorkelers and divers as they were not timid and allowed us to approach them.  A spotted eagle ray glided by as if sailing on the thermocline.  Schools of sergeant majors swam by in militarily precise formations.  I got back on the boat with a smile on my face and, as usual, snot in my nose.

And then five minutes later the entire experience changed.  I’m not sure what I noticed first—my stomach turning a little shaky or the slight dizziness.  My first thought was that my blood sugar was falling (I am diabetic), but I had purposely eaten enough carbohydrates that morning.  I looked at my hands, and they were not shaking, so I knew that it was not my blood sugar.  We had a very short drive to the next site, and the boat captain announced that the pool was open.  I wasn’t completely sure that I was OK, but I convinced myself that getting in the water may help—I was wrong.  The tidal surge was a little bigger on this site, like the gentle cycle of a washing machine.  I tried to focus on the beauty of the reef and the Goliath Groupers that had followed us to the new site.  But all I could think about was the back and forth and up and down of the waves.

And then it happened.  I felt my stomach turn against me.  Divers are trained that if you are going to be sick, you can simply do it through your regulator.  I suppose the same can be said for a snorkel, but I didn’t want to find out.  With a few kicks I was back to the boat, handing up my fins, and standing on the ladder.  I would say that I turned green, but I’m not sure that description is severe enough—I think I turned purple.  Just a couple of seconds and I was no longer in control or possession of my breakfast.  I have been on the water for over 40 years, and I had never been sea sick.  I can no longer say that.

And then through the fog of one of the worst feelings of my life, I noticed something.  A giant school of yellow-tailed snapper had gathered around me.  There were at least a hundred of them.  I don’t know where they came from because I had not seen them during my swim.  But this was obviously not their first sea-sickness rodeo.  They were tumbling over one another, just waiting for my stomach to empty again.  So instead of focusing on how sick I was, I focused on feeding the fish.  There is a part of me that could see how the Universe sought balance.  My misery had become an obviously tasty treat for the fish.  I wish that I could say that when I was done that I was done.  But fifteen minutes on the boat rocking back and forth and up and down, and the fish and I were sharing a moment again.

It almost seems predictable.  The activities that we look forward to and plan for seem never to work out the way that we imagine.  I am beginning to believe that the best part of this type of activity is the anticipation and the excitement of the planning.  Somehow when we finally do the deed, it seems anti-climactic.  And we often walk away disappointed or with regrets (or, even worse, angry).  We can allow our focus on the negative to color our entire memory of the experience.  Shakespeare wrote, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  How we choose to think about the events in our lives determines the experience that we take away and hold onto the rest of the day and the rest of our lives.  It is an amazing skill that we have—the ability to define and determine our own reality.  We get to choose what we will focus on at all times, and we get to choose what our experience and memory will be.  Even when things do not turn out the way that we imagined or planned for them to be, we can choose to hold onto the parts that we want to keep, and let go of the others.

So, as I sit here this evening, writing about my day, I am feeling much better.  I had a light lunch.  I took a nap.  I stayed out of the sun.  I forced fluids all afternoon in order to re-hydrate myself.  And I am smiling.  What I am remembering is a tumbling mass of grey and yellow fish in apparent glee (I don’t know whether fish experience glee or not).  I am remembering that I was blessed with a beautiful moment when I was able to share an obvious treat with another part of the Universe.  What could have been my misery was their joy, and so I will choose to share their joy.  And I will share with you the lesson that the Universe shared with me today—when things don’t turn out the way that we expect them to, feed the fish.

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