“Swimming: From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” – Unknown
Ah! I love these hot days of summer and I love spending time at the lake or pool, but I must admit that this is the season that brings out the envy in me. My jealousy is prompted by those who are at complete ease in the water and who seem to take summer fun to a whole different level. How I envy those who can take a flying leap off the end of a pier or those who just float around without a care in the world.
While others cavort in the cool water, I am usually found on the sidelines. A bad swimming incident many years ago while I was taking adult swimming lessons ( a story for another column) has left me with a deeply ingrained fear of water, particularly of going under water.
Over the years I have attempted to overcome this paranoia, so that I, too, could enjoy all that summer has to offer. For instance, when my friend offers a ride on her seadoo I want to jump on without hesitation and I want to be brave enough to zip through the waves with the wind in my hair. Or when a group of women decide to go canoeing, I want to have no second thoughts about tipping or getting dunked. But it seems that every time I decide to brave a water experience, there is a setback – usually an embarrassing one.
The incident that comes first to mind is when I took a group of students to the water slides at Kenosee Park. It was a hot June day and the water slides provided a nice reprieve from the scorching heat. I kept a watchful eye from the side, but it sure looked like fun and my students kept encouraging me to join the fun. I knew I was setting a bad example by not even trying, but my fear of going under was holding me back.
Finally my son, who was part of that class, convinced me to go by assuring me that all I had to do was stand up when I got to the bottom and all would be fine. He would even be nearby as a backup. It sounded so easy that I agreed to give it a try.
I got to the top, sat down, took a deep breath and shoved off. To my surprise, it was great and I enjoyed the nice slow turns and cool water splashing up. But then I started to pick up speed (still fun at this point), but suddenly I was going faster and without understanding how, I found myself on my back. Now I was hurtling down like one of those skeleton bobsledders and I was out of control as I bounced off the sides! By the time I got to the bottom my feet were straight up in the air, so the “Just stand up” instruction was clearly not going to work.
I went completely under and, of course, started to panic and flail about. Instead of getting up, I went back under. But then as I thought I was a goner, a reassuring hand grabbed my elbow and my son quietly said, “Put down your feet, Mom.”
With his help I managed to do so, but continued to sputter and gasp as water was in my eyes and up my nose (not good for those afraid of water). And then my boy added, “Mom, close your mouth.” Much to his embarrassment I must have looked like a beached fish struggling for air!
I survived that incident, but it wasn’t pretty.
I haven’t given up on the idea of learning to enjoy the water. I did go for that seadoo ride and I did go on that canoe trip, and enjoyed both immensely. But there is still the issue of actually getting into the water and ducking my head under. When it comes to that, I might try it somewhere private where I won’t humiliate myself and my family.
To the rest of you, “Happy swimming,” and please don’t splash the tentative lady wading in the shallow water.