Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Into the deep

published in the South Shore Breaker - November 16, 2016
published in Chronicle Herald - The Nova Scotian  - Nov 21, 2016
If you're like me, you may have a small irrational fear or two, little things you're scared of that don't seem to be based on any life event or make any sense. Nonetheless they can challenge us from time to time in our lives. 

I'm not talking about a monster in your mind type of reaction or a life restricting phobia, those are a different kettle of fish. I'm talking about little fears like my husband's dislike of snakes or my granddaughter's fear of bugs.

For some reason, I have always been terrified of swimming in natural water. Ponds, lakes, oceans, it doesn't matter. If I can't touch the bottom, I go into mild panic mode.  I love being in the water, and my fear isn't based on lack of skill. I am a good swimmer, and spent many years taking lessons. I swam in a pool everyday in the summertime, and I even taught a swimming class for a week when I was a teenaged camp counsellor.

with my mom at a beach in the late 1960’s. I have spent my life trying to overcome my fear of swimming in open water.
When I was young, every summer my parents and I used to stay for a week at a cottage belonging to their friends. My mom loved to swim. When we stayed at the cottage, every morning my dad rowed a boat beside her while she swam across the bay. I always stood on the dock and watched, but I dearly wanted to be swimming with my mom. The summer when I was ten, I stood with my dog and watched them move away from the dock. They moved farther away and our dog jumped in and started to swim along. I wouldn't, I couldn't, jump in and swim after them. Frustrated, it made my ten year old self believe that I wasn't as brave or determined as my dog.
 
A couple of summers later we rented a cottage of our own at Port Stanley. Back then, kids were free to roam around on their own during the day, and I walked down to the beach and out on the pier with my friend. It was a windy day, and the water was raging. Waves were washing over the pier and one of them was strong enough to knock us off our feet. We grabbed an iron mooring ring and held on. I think it was my fear of ending up in the water that made me strong enough not to let go. When we got back to the cottage and told my parents, it was clear they didn't believe our story. Maybe the thought of us being washed off the pier was too frightening for them to deal with. In any case, we didn't get any sympathy.

Years later I was spending a weekend at the lake with some university friends. We went out to the middle of the lake on a ski boat and drifted around. Everyone decided to jump in the water for a swim. My embarrassment about my fears overrode the fear itself, so I jumped in too. Breathe in. Breathe out. It was the good kind of peer pressure, and it was my determination not to make a fool of myself in front of my friends that helped me accomplish something that I otherwise wouldn't have the courage to do.

And now I am a grandparent with grandchildren who swim like fish. At a family gathering by the lake, I was determined to conquer my phobia and swim along with them. I did it, and no one realized my fears but truth be told it was a real challenge for me.
 
Small victories are worth celebrating when trying to overcome your fears. I have just finished a late September swim at Summerville Centre Beach.

In late September, on a glorious warm fall day, I took a solo plunge into the ocean at Summerville Centre Beach. Okay, so I didn't go in over my head but my husband was on the beach taking photos so I have the pictures to prove that I was actually swimming. It's just baby steps, but it's nice to prove to myself that I can overcome my silly fears if I put my mind to it.

However, I can change my environment and be completely happy. There's always the swimming pool at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre to satisfy my love of swimming!

At least twice a week, I head to the pool. Fifty lengths of swimming doesn't feel like work to me, and it's the only form of exercise that I actually love to do. After my workout, I reward myself by floating on my back in the open section of the pool. Eyes closed, hands behind my head, only the sound of ripples in the water that make me think of canoe paddles dipping. I get so relaxed, I actually think I could fall asleep floating around.
I can swim at the LCLC with no fear at all!
Swimming in the open water is obviously not for me, but I can change my environment and enjoy my love of swimming in a different way.


Many of us have our idiosyncrasies, and yours probably isn't a fear of being in open water. Maybe we can never completely overcome our personal little challenges, but we can try to adjust and adapt. And that's something good to focus on.

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