This past week I participated in my annual conference in Las Vegas. We in Arbonne call it GTC for short, and it’s held at the MGM Grand Garden arena. The company has been growing a lot, so the arena was full – 18,000 people. It’s always a fun and inspirational time. Over the course of four days I get to see teammates from multiple cities and nations, and room with my besties. There is always a great show, fabulous training, genuine belly laughs and lots of hugs. It’s also a time to be surrounded by positive people who are all trying to become the best versions of themselves, and let that kind of good juju rub off and inform your next steps forward. I always come away refreshed. This year however, I got more – an uncomfortable mix of hope, excitement, fear and resolve. I had inklings of this going to the conference, but those surroundings brought all of it to the surface.
Ever since The Fire, I have been feeling an urge to be BETTER. Concurrently, I feel as if I am underwater – without my breathing apparatus. Back a quarter century ago in Los Angeles, I occasionally went scuba diving. Diving there is cold, but great – lots of bright orange Garibaldi’s, sea lions, and other fun fish. However, one time I saw a shark swimming just a few feet below me. It was a small shark, but nonetheless a shark with that fin and those teeth. As part of that overtly scarred generation who both read the book Jaws and saw the movie, I was petrified. The summer the movie Jaws was released, not only did I not want to go into ANY free-standing body of water, salty or otherwise, I was even afraid of being in the bath tub, imagining that a shark might come up through the pipes. The day I had my shark encounter, I was diving off the Santa Barbara coast. I had wandered away from the main group of divers, and had been playing with a group of sea lions, who were trying with no luck to try and teach me how to do backflips the flexible sea lion way. Suddenly, the sea lions fled and I got the horrible sensation that I should flee also but I wasn’t sure what direction to go. I looked down, and there it was. My very own Bruce*, gliding ominously below me. That music filled the space between my ears… da dum, da dum, da dum… I had a clear vision of that shark grinning with all those horrible rows of teeth and then zooming straight up at me. I screamed in my ventilator, which of course does nothing except create bubbles and waste air. In that moment, the reality hit me like nothing had before in my life: “I am not in my natural element”. I was toast, I was an appetizer, I was an interloper. I most certainly did not belong 40 feet under the surface of the water, and I was going to pay for my audacity. It was humbling, terrifying, and electrifying. I froze and peed in my wet suit. Evidently Bruce was not hungry or I looked unappetizing, as moments later he flicked off and disappeared into the shadows. I promptly flippered back to the dive boat, clambered awkwardly aboard and hyperventilated. To my surprise, I bravely went on a second dive that day, but stayed with the group. I was comforted by the thought that I can outswim most people as I descended again into the murky green waters. It was my aquatic version of ‘I don’t have to outrun the bear, I only have to outrun you.” Circling back around to the point at hand, post-GTC, post fire, I am feeling that way again. Not in my element, displaced. Humbled from being saved and the remarkable outpouring of love from friends. Terrified as I realize that I really do need to be MORE, do MORE, help MORE. I am mandated to do so by the very fact that air is filling my lungs, and my eyes see a new day every day. I am filled with doubt — do I really have the skill sets or the energy to create a big vision and make it so? Yet, finally I am electrified as I realize the probability that I will go for being better and more anyway, despite fear, despite screaming into my proverbial ventilator. I just need to get back in the water.
On a final note, upon returning home this weekend from GTC, I found a long Amazon box waiting for me. I didn’t remember ordering anything. I opened the box and laughed in delight when the umbrella pictured here slid out. For those of you who are not regulars to this blog, I was complaining last week about my seldom-used umbrella getting burnt up. This particular umbrella is divine. There was no note, so whichever of you amazing Dear Readers sent this anonymous gift, thank you! I love having an umbrella again, and love the circumstances of its arrival even more. I promise I will use it, and am very grateful indeed.
*Bruce was the nickname Steven Spielberg and his crew gave the mechanical shark that so often misbehaved or plain old didn’t work at all during the shooting of Jaws.