Hi there, dear reader. I have good news to share. I went swimming and survived. I don’t use the word survived lightly. I mean it seriously. I have such a fear of water that I worry about not being able to save myself if I panic. Oh I know that I could just tread water, but the truth is I can’t. So let’s start at the beginning.
My Mom faithfully enrolled me in swim lessons at the local state park pool when I was around age six and then again the following summer. Each time the teacher finally just stared at my Mom with this knowing look and said, “yep she really can’t swim.” I remember Mom saying “well thanks for trying.”
I grew up in a community that has a beautiful lake and many country properties had a pond. So water has been a part of my life from the very beginning. As a pre-teen and later as a teenager, there were many times when I was sitting on the outside looking in as my friends would be swimming. And there were times when swimming looked really fun, but drowning while naked didn’t make good sense to me…however I did think twice about joining them on a couple of occasions.
About 50 years later (hey, quit doing the math in your head) I decided to take swim lessons again. The University where I worked offered lessons taught by the college swimmers. I bought my swimsuit, goggles and swim cap. One Saturday morning, I happily headed out the door for my first lesson. I was finally going to learn to swim.
I entered the natatorium (your SAT word of the day) through the women’s locker room and stopped dead in my tracks. Sitting in the bleachers were 40 children, average age of 6, and their mothers and fathers. Yep, I wanted to disappear. Immediately. But I was there in my new swimsuit, cap carrying my goggles so I quickly found a seat. I stared at the floor until I heard my name called and sheepishly waddled to the edge of the pool. I did that same routine for four Saturdays and I learned how to swim…on my back. When it came to the freestyle swim, my 20-year-old instructor looked me in the eye and said “Yea, you can’t swim. It’s going to take more lessons.”
Here I am, two years later, signing up for yet another gym membership just so I can learn to swim. When I did the membership paperwork, I asked about swim lessons. Why yes they offer them…for children. I guess once you pass the age of eight, society (or the fitness industry) has decided that people are too old to learn, so sit on the sidelines. Not one to be easily deterred, I asked if they ever offered private lessons. Lo and behold they do, 10 lessons for $240. I’m not saying no to the private route, but I’ll try FREE YouTube swim lessons first.
Today I arrived at the gym 45 minutes later than my first visit and was happy to find the Cocoon pool only had a three people in it, one-man swimming laps while another man and woman walked laps talking at the top of their lungs. Again, not the serene swimming environment that I was hoping for, but there was plenty of room for me to swim. I waddled over to get my trusty kickboard, left my towel and flip flops on the bench and waddled even faster over to the edge of the pool. Screeeeeech. I stand on the deck of the pool thinking, God please let me get in this water without falling. Clutching my kickboard, I descend the four steps, slowly, carefully, all the while trying to look self-assured (read cool). Once in the water, my trusty kickboard and I “swam” laps. For 30 minutes. I even did a couple laps on my back sans kickboard. It was glorious.
While in the pool I found myself critiquing each lap. “You’re going so slow. You can’t swim in a straight line. Hey I don’t think you’re supposed to see your entire foot in the air when swimming on your back, but those red toes look awesome.” I finally said out loud, today is not about going fast or looking perfect. Today is about learning technique, breathing and of course, not drowning.
So what did I learn. Breathing is really important. The more air I took into my lungs, the easier it was to float. When I focused on my breathing, all was quiet. My crazy inner dialog turned off. I couldn’t hear the loud talkers. My fear of drowning lessened. The next time I am afraid of (fill in the blank), I will just breathe. Tinkering With Success is a journey to be a little better than I was yesterday. Today I learned to breathe better. And I didn’t drown.