Lessons from embracing my inner mermaid

IMG_3093If we have any imagination, we’ve been curious what it would be like to live someone else’s life if only for a day. I’ve sometimes pondered how I might like being an actor, lawyer, airline pilot, teacher, cruise director, dancer, film director or any dozen other professions. As I teenager I loved acting as I got to try on being a different person for weeks as we rehearsed and performed the play.

Perhaps you’re like me and fantasized what life would be like in another persona. If you’re a fan of Disney films, maybe that fascination crossed into animated characters. At Halloween, I’ve seen grown up Cinderellas, Prince Charmings, Snow Whites, Plutos, Belles and Beasts.

So it may not surprise you that 3 gal pals and I recently embraced the opportunity to explore our inner Ariel. On the island of Boracay, voted one of the top vacation destinations in the Philippines, one of the gals asked if we were interested in the Mermaid Academy. We enthusiastically raised our hands.

Although none of us really knew what it would entail, off we trotted to the beach-front dive shop which doubled as the Mermaid Academy. There we picked our tail from a stack of hand-painted, stretchy fabric tails with fused flippers at the bottom. We walked the 100 feet to the water’s edge where our instructor led us in “mermaid stretches” to prepare us for our in-water “tricks.”

But before we could make it into the water — and out of sight of so many watchers, with camera aimed at us, we shimmied into our tails. It was pretty easy to get in, but then moving around required an inch-worm movement. This was too much for some of the watchers who liberally video-taped our antics accompanied by their raucous laughter. “What was so hilarious?” I wondered, as I didn’t think we were that funny. But from their perspective, watching 4 middle-aged mermaids was side-splitting.

Our instructor posed in various mermaid positions, as a group and individually. Had I known this in advance, I most likely would have passed as I’m not fond of having evidence of myself in a swimsuit, even with a pretty, hand-painted skirt/tail. But she was skillful in how she had us position ourself for the camera and afterwards I only deleted a few shots.

Then we had to inch our way into the water to learn the promised mermaid tricks. Getting to the water’s edge was not as bad as getting into the chilly water deep enough to actually swim. We kept getting hit in the face by incoming waves. We were the ones laughing loudly now, which of course attracted attention and more on-lookers were snapping our pics and video. I turned away as I didn’t want to be the joke on someone else’s Facebook page.

In the water we learned to do some synchronized swimming moves — twirls, rolls, handstands and “mermaid kisses” — exhaling underwater to create bubbles. And we laughed as we screwed up.

What I learned in Mermaid Academy:

  •  to laugh at myself when everyone else is already laughing at me. Better to join in than be offended.
  • sometimes not knowing what’s ahead allows you to participate in the moment and not let your fears stop you. The thought of pics in my swimsuit might have stopped me from this fun experience.
  • to see the humor in unpleasant obstacles you must get through to enjoy the next part of the journey. Those cold waves slapping me in the face weren’t fun, but it motivated me to figure out how to get into deep enough water to avoid them.
  • be in play. Allow myself to take a playful attitude toward the activity at hand.

Am I glad I did it? Absolutely. I now can more fully embrace my inner mermaid, even when on land.