Today I learnt that my swimming classes are more than just about learning to swim.
You might recall that last year I embarked on a little adventure to learn to swim. Those classes came to an end and in many ways they were a success. I learnt to stay horizontal in the water and move etcetera but still a long way to go before I can say I can swim. I waited for new classes for months as my local centre was refurbishing their pool, but then when they reopened, a floodgate of anxiety hit me hard. I needed the classes – you may have also noticed I’ve not posted as often in the past several months (that’s another post) but depression’s been very bad and all the more reason I needed the classes (it’s great therapy).
I dilly dallied until I could no more (equally afraid of missed opportunities and all that). So today I returned to a new class, new instructor, new environment (where hopefully there’d be fewer people to watch me struggle while learning).
It occurred to me as I wiggled my body with great effort into my swimsuit which hadn’t felt this snug last December, that I’d have to walk from the lockers to the pool. Of course I would. How else would I get there? Panic set in. I looked at my work clothes carefully packed away now and wondered if it was too late to get back into them.
Thankfully, the universe has a way of setting things up just the way we need them to be, even if we don’t want them so. The sweltering heat was too much.
“Nope, I need to get in that water, even if I just splash about,” I said to myself, wiping away the beads of sweat from my forehead.
I ventured out, and boy oh boy. The lifeguard was shouting from across the pool that the pool was closed. I shouted back that I was there for classes. He said fine, but kept looking, and a deluge of thoughts poured in.
‘I’m fat, just look at me in this suit’
‘They’re seeing your wobbly bits’
‘Try to tuck in your tummy’
‘Try not to fall over’
By the time I got the other side of the pool I felt exhausted.
When the class started, the self-doubt and criticisms that stem from a shaky sense of self took a back seat for anxiety to take centre stage.
My heart throbbed.
I had a nice chat with the instructor about some of this (given my fear of having a massive attack like I did last year on my first day of class). He was kind and helped to remind me a number of times of logic that always slips away on sight of anxiety. I would not drown, if I got uncomfortable I could simply stand up.
It was tough I can’t lie. I thought it might have been easier, from wearing the swim suit, walking out in it and the actual classes, having done it all last year. But with each effort I made, I felt a smidgen of improvement.
Roosevelt’s quote came back to me as I pondered on these things. I’d read it just this morning, now my mind was offering it up for thought. An important truth settled on me. That we don’t get stronger or better by doing things the easy way. We become brave, steely and the best versions of ourselves by confronting the very things we think ourselves incapable of. How powerful a reminder. So in the end I patted myself on the back, as the instructor did so. He reminded me to come ready next week to face off with that anxiety again. I nodded and tried to believe, all the time the doubts nibbled on my insides. Not bad for my first day.
Then, it was just to endure the walk back from the pool to the lockers.
Gentle hugs 🙂
What’s it like for you when you face up to your fears and worries?