I was born afraid of the water. I clung to the side of the pool crying during swim lessons at age 6. I tell myself I almost drowned at age 10 on a Girl Scout swim outing. My best friend growing up had a big brother who pulled at my legs one time swimming at their grandmother’s lake house, and I swear I almost drowned then too. Then there was the time snorkeling in Hawaii in 8th grade. I have “an almost drowned” story for that time as well.
So now at age 43 I have started swimming once a week and next month I am going to try a new adventure, rowing. In order to participate in crew I need to pass a float test. Yesterday, fully clothed I jumped into the pool for my 10 minute test. There was a senior swim session going on so one lady said to me, I know it can be cold in here honey, but are clothes really necessary?
I explained my reason and from then on I had my own personal cheer section. Way to go, they encouraged as the lifeguard threw me a life jacket for the last part of the test.
Later doing my laps, my slow, only breast stroke and back stroke laps, I noticed a man getting out of his wheel chair and slowly easing his way into the pool. There were elderly folks of all shapes and sizes getting in their exercise, perhaps facing their fears. One woman probably weighed more than 400 lbs and there she was making the effort, the slow, beautiful effort of moving through the water.
My body, not born loving water, but born to a woman whose heart loves the water showed up at the pool with some definite nerve chatter. When I let go and let the water support me, moving my arms with slow effort, I floated.
I fought hard against these water fears, but now I see it was with the little attempts that got me over a big hurdle. And now that fear seems like nothing when I see others ease into the pool with a special chair or need a hand getting out of the pool. We all have our hurdles, our fears, born with them or learned. It is with the little efforts that we can teach them to float away.
Next up for me is swimming under water and learning to breathe while submerged at the bottom of the pool. Perhaps when I’m doing my laps in my 80’s and diving down deep, I’ll be thinking, HA, and I was born afraid of water, so glad I got over that.
by J.G. McGlothern