I didn't learn to swim until I was 28 years old for many reasons but mainly lack of resources and fear. I was in grad school and a cohort member suggested taking swimming lessons together. Living all my life by the Pacific Ocean, I felt it was time. I wanted to be able to go into a body of water and not panic. I had no idea that those lessons would translate into swimming as a regular form of exercise and stress relief for myself.
Thinking back to those first few lessons, I remember the distress my body felt, the inability to breathe and coordinate my limbs, the cold turning my lips blue, and the massive effort it took to get from one end of the lane to the other, the raw fear crawling up my neck.
When I’m swimming laps now, I’m moving fast, breathing in and breathing out, lengthening my body forward, rotating my rib cage and head for breaths, extending and kicking my legs, swinging my arms up and out and over. Lap after lap, I feel heat in my face, my cheeks warm, my goggles fogging. I feel in this body, these parts of mine moving in sync with one other, breathing and reaching, moving forward. I notice breath and bubbles, a lack of thoughts, just repeating motions.
Last summer, I got a simple wetsuit and started to swim in the ocean, I could feel that raw fear in the back of my neck, wanting to tighten my throat, trying to shorten the length of my breath. I acknowledged the fear with gentle words and I took some safety precautions like getting a bright orange swim buoy and joining a swim crew of ocean swimmers. I also noticed that underneath the fear was wonder; in the ocean, my body is small, the tide and the elements so vast. Taking care of fear and smiling at the wonder, allows me to return to the ocean with more ease.
I'm thankful for this body, for the many bodies of water so full of life.