Ice cold water, creeping higher up my waist as I wade in deeper. Every inch of this body shouting ‘NO’. What the F___? Skin dimpled with the cold. Toes warming with loss of sensation.
I’m not in the water though, even imagining it makes me squirm, shiver.
At the same time envy, admiration, for those who can do it. I see it as a battle, this winter swimming, this all-round-the-year dipping into the ocean that has become a trend of sorts.
Because it makes you feel alive
Because it makes you feel free
Because it boosts the immune system
I am always cold. I love the water but I am always cold. Why would I want to make myself colder?
I saw it as a battle, to enter the water despite this feeling, to spite this fear of cold nipping at my toes, spreading over my skin, wind burning cold water face. I used to do it once, but wetsuit-clad, surfboard-under-arm, braving the shocking spray to catch a few laughing waves. Or in warm seas in sunshine Far off places in a faraway life.
Long enough now since I got into the winter water for it to feel like something I’d never done.
I see it as a battle, but then I hear it described another way. An exercise in melting into resistance.
Remembering. That first wave crashing over me, chest level, spray whipping face like cold hail on a windy day. The intake of breath, the shout, the resistance rising up, and then the letting go, with a breath, with a scream, with relief and with joy.
Something else then. Birth. A battle. Getting the baby out. Getting ready for the pain. The grimaces, groans and screams. Isn’t that what we’re told it is?
I got myself ready. I read all of the books. I was strong. I was determined. All good things. Got myself ready for the work.
But I forgot to be soft. Maybe I didn’t know how to let go. Didn’t know what letting go felt like. But a baby, sleep deprivation and never having time to pluck your eyebrows teaches a lot about letting go.
The mess under the table.. yesterday’s breakfast, last weeks soup? let go
Let go of peeing in peace and eight hours sleep, having your bed to yourself and drinking tea when it’s hot. Let go of spontaneously leaving the house, of clothes that are not covered in baby snot, of hallways free of lego bricks and paw patrol stickers. Let go of a flat tummy, pert boobs, sex drive and conversations with your partner that don’t revolve around your baby.
Let go, melt. Relax. Everything is out of control.
So I learn to melt, first a little, then a lot. First every day brings a new resistance, a new opportunity to let go (sometimes I see it at the time; sometimes I have to meet the resistance many times),
Cut to baby number 2, labour number 2. All thoughts are about letting go. Allowing the ‘thinking me’ to melt into the background. When things become intense, there is no other course, no other possibility than to let the waves wash over me. The intake of breath I barely notice but the outbreath saves me. Sometimes a hushed sound, sometimes a roar, a shout. The relief in between the surges…
And then the final joy.
So basically, who cares if I don’t have the guts to go sea-swimming in January. I birthed a baby.
(But if I had the guts to do that, then maybe I could manage a sea swim?)
To be continued…