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  • Writer's pictureElana

under pressure

I have had so much to say about our family trip to Cozumel that I have been splitting it up in several posts. Today is another one of those posts.

Normally when I'm on a trip, I spend one day or a half-day diving. It's usually the best of both worlds because I get to go diving, and Navin gets his quiet alone time which he values greatly.

On this trip, I wasn't the only diver, we could do one or two tanks and leave straight from the resort, and I wasn't paying for said dives (thanks mama & D!) so there was a lot more diving than usual. We were told that bad weather would be coming mid-week so we decided to go diving on our first day. Then we went again the next day. Then again the next day. Then we had Jeep super-fun-adventure-extravaganza day. Then again. Some of these times we went deeper than I am used to because of the depth of the caves or pass-throughs. And as I said above, I'm not used to diving so frequently.

On the way up of one of our later dives, I experienced something I've never felt before and every diver dreads. Ear squeeze. It's exactly what it sounds like: pain in your ear that feels like squeezing... kind of like if you're congested on an airplane ride and can't get your ears to pop or equalize. This is caused by a difference in pressures between your middle ear and what's outside. It's not pleasant. And it can cause people to abort their dives (as my sister Tamara did when she couldn't equalize on her descent because she was congested) in order to prevent the eardrum from rupturing. Fun stuff, right?

In this picture, Jordana is showing us how much she loves diving, and Aaron is equalizing, as divers must do. (Either that or he's telling us that something stinks)

Well this was at the very end of our dive, on our ascent. I had never felt anything like this on a dive before. I hadn't been sick so I wasn't expecting it and even though I knew what it was, I still panicked. I was scared that my eardrum wouldn't be able to handle the pressure and I suddenly felt claustrophobic as I saw the surface of the water, but couldn't ascend any higher. And on the ascent, it's not good to just plug your nose and gently blow out to equalize like it is on the descent, because the pressure is working in the opposite way.

But I feel like the steps that I took in resolving this issue were really good life lessons. This experience with ear squeeze was comparable to the way I might resolve any pain or discomfort felt when facing a challenge.

1) Stop: As soon as I felt pain, I stopped ascending. If I had pushed through the pressure, I would have risked serious ear damage. 2) Communicate: I turned to my buddy (aka mom) and made a sign to let her know that I was having a problem with my ears 3) Seek help: With my mom's help, I quickly swam over to the dive master, not only for help with my ear, but also because I panicked I was likely to also be low on air. And he was not only helpful in making sure I did the right things to fix this issue, but also maintained constant, reassuring eye contact with me which calmed me down. 4) Return to comfort: I took a step back, or in this case descended back down to where I felt comfortable. 5) Slowly move forward: Once we had descended to a place where my ears no longer felt like they were about to implode, we tried ascending again, very slowly. If I still felt squeeze, we went back down. If it was okay, we tried going a little further.

After this dive, I reluctantly decided it was time to take a break. When my family decided to dive again, I opted out. While I was worried about missing out on seeing something amazing, I also needed to give my ear a rest. I got to sleep in, have a casual breakfast and spend more time with Navin.

"Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself" - Cicero

I also decided not to dive the next morning, on our final day in paradise. This one was particularly hard because it was my mom's birthday. And it was her birthday dive. But I had to do what was right for me and I knew not to push myself. Plus I had already gone on plenty of dives and seen lots of amazing things.

And you know what? They did see amazing things when I wasn't there. Turtles (which I also had seen but you can never see enough turtles), sharks, a spotted moray eel, and the subject of my next point, a lobster.

We had seen lobsters on my dives as well but this one had a funny story. Usually they are just sitting there, but on this dive (so I've been told) the lobster saw the humans and panicked. He was trapped in between people and rocks but started running back and forth, pacing frantically. When they came back they told us all about this hilarious lobster and his slapstick routine. Building on the "#$@% Navin says" theme from my previous Cozumel post, when my sister finished telling the silly lobster story, he enlightened us all with another burst of wisdom:

"We don't all live life in a straight line" - Navin Chand

And even though he was being silly, he's completely right. I'm certainly not living my life in a straight line right now. And I'm glad I broke away from the path I was on to explore where else this line can take me.

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