The thought of getting into 51 degree water is always harder than actually getting in.
There is an expectation of pain and suffering associated with it that will absolutely root you in your tracks, if you let it. And let’s face it, most people do. I have taken up explaining to people what I feel, when I feel it as I get into cold water, so that they understand and know what I’m going through and the toll the water takes on me. I mean, otherwise, it would just look like I’m swimming along merrily and when I get out – they maybe don’t get why I’m staring off into space or uncommonly quiet.
Today, there was very little lolly-gagging as I got into the water. The muck on the bottom of Lake Memphremagog was thick and trying to swallow my sandals. As soon as I could sink in enough to float, I did and threw my shoes up on shore – one of them coming within an inch of hitting my friend who was watching me. I apologized to her, profusely. Of course, the one time I could hit somebody with a shoe would be while they are watching me do something crazy like this.
My goal was 45 minutes. I felt chilled, as I hadn’t really allowed myself time in the water to get used to it before I submerged. I figured I would try swimming to warm up. The wind was whipping and the water was choppy, undecided in which way it really wanted to go.
I started out. The wind was against me, the chop washing up over me. I was instantly in love. I cannot explain to you why. The water pushing and splashing up over me, harsh and cold, but not overwhelming. This I love. This I can do. I don’t know why.
The water tugs and pulls, conflicted. I have no sense of direction, no sense of anything. If I had my way, all I would do is swim into the wind and the waves. Because somehow, somehow – I make it through.
My puppy came up alongside me. And now, now there was nothing I could not do. Nothing. Because even loneliness is gone in her simple companionship. The song of the wind and waves and harmony of my best buddy by my side.
I swam out and I swam back. I did loops in the bay, careful to stay where I could see the ground and in easy eyesight of my friend. I was thrilled to the very depths of my being and yet longing to be free of time and safe to roam the vastness of the waters before me. I wanted to swim farther. Longer. But safely.
So I finally came back to shore. 45 minutes. I came out of the water to find that my swim had attracted a couple of other on-lookers. Weird.
“That’s quite the swim,” the one guy said. “Forty-five minutes.”
My brain, sluggish, could not think of a legitimate reply so I probably only agreed, rather than explained. It was not lost on me that the two people who had been drawn to watch me were men. But I was so intent upon getting warm that I forgot to look at them. Besides, I could swim fine, but walking was an entirely different matter and my feet were very interesting to me.
When I finally got into the shower to warm up, I could see the angry pink glow of the cold on my skin. Strange bumps, almost like a rash, also appeared. AND to top it off, a purple spot on the top of my foot showed up like I had spilled ink or something. I assumed it to be a bruise of some kind because it wasn’t a discoloration I saw anywhere else. If it was from the cold, I would expect it to show up on my toes or fingers, too. It lit up like that for a while before my skin returned to a normal sort of color and it disappeared back into Subcutaneous Land.
“Thanks for visiting,” I found myself saying aloud, TO THE PURPLE SPOT ON MY FOOT, before I smiled at myself for being crazy and determined not to talk to myself again.
I got out of the shower and got dressed. Then…
I started to shiver.
A sweatshirt, hot food and tea all helped remedy the situation. Soon I found myself able to be still again. Still. Quiet. Maybe… even… just normal.
I stared out at the water, golden with the sunset as the wind beat against her surface.
Such gratitude filled me. To think that I did not know this part of me until just a couple years ago. And who would have ever guessed that this girl was going to swim the English Channel? I am so glad. So glad. Glad that I never settled. Glad that I did not stop. Glad that I keep going forward. Glad that I keep reaching and believing and aspiring and achieving. I am so grateful for who I am; mind, body, soul, spirit. Every last drop of this life I live is beauty.
I smiled, thinking back over that swim. 45 minutes! Personal victory for today. I laughed to myself as only one thought bugged me:
I wish I had looked at those guys!