Since I was young, I have had a love-hate relationship with water. I love the feel of water, the look of water, the sound of water but have been scared to death of its power.
I have tried to do some things to get over it. I have gone snorkeling with some success. It took someone holding me for the first fifteen minutes while I hyperventilated before I could calm down enough to enjoy the water. I have doggy paddled in swimming pools across America. I have even tried to scuba dive but only made it about ten feet down before a panic attack ensued.
It all came down to breathing. I had never learned to properly swim with head in water, breathing on side while kicking legs. I only knew the abbreviated version of swimming, i.e. I could do most of the swimming strokes I just had to keep my head above water.
What a metaphor. My head above water. That doesn’t sound too fearless…
I have considered myself a fearless person for most of the past ten years. I have tackled things that for me were considered frightening emotionally, spiritually, mentally and even physically. But swimming kept floating around in my head as something unfinished, a goal unachieved, a dream unfullfilled.
My excuses: I had bought into the fact that I just wasn’t a swimmer (none of my sisters know how to swim). I could never figure out the breathing thing. Heck, even when I played basketball I would get out of breath. Lets face it, I just had too many bad experiences.
I almost drowned as a kid. My father tried to kill me by strangling me and on it goes. No wonder I have a fear of losing my breath. So you can see I had a lot of darn good reasons to think swimming was beyond my reach. And then I started training for that darn marathon.
Watching my body run mile after mile (Are you sitting down? I ran 20 miles this past Sunday) has provided me with new data on my physical capabilities. Remember how I couldn’t run a mile just six months ago? Well, I couldn’t get away from the fact that my body was now able to do so much more with the proper training, proper rest and proper nutrition….I started thinking about my nemisis…swimming. Something that has alluded me for decades, something I have been afraid to try, started to seem like a possibility.
I asked for support from my personal assistant, Sarah. The next thing I knew I had four swimming lessons in my schedule. For a second I thought “I am way to busy for this now” but then I took a breath and decided to commit. So I went.
No wonder I couldn’t get the breathing thing. I would have never figured it out alone, by myself. (Another example of “no one can be fearless alone”). Day after day, I took one more step in understanding how to breath in the water and each day I learned how to side-kick properly, exhale with ease while putting it all together: Strokes, kicking and breathing.
After four lessons, I DID IT! I now know how to swim. I may not be a master but I CAN go the length of the pool without freaking out. It is nothing short of a miracle.
Something that has held me back from so many water activities, so much fun, was solved because I finally was willing to surrender, ask for help and practice a new skill (even if I felt stupid doing it.) Truth be told, I had to face the fact that I had held myself back for another reason: my age. I felt too old to learn how to swim after all these years. In fact, as I was taking my swimming lessons so were loads of other people but they all happened to be under the age of five. Yes, I was the only adult at the pool who was a student but this time I didn’t let it stop me.
I feel like I have unleashed a part of me that has been submerged. Head above water? Not anymore. I can be above the water, under the water or just gliding on the water.
It took me thirty years to finally become fearless enough to dive into the deep end of my life. Between learning how to swim and falling in love, I am risking all over the place. Are you?