Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: I Get That Sinking Feeling...

Anyone who knows me knows that I will swim pretty much anywhere anytime. Each summer during our vacation I start each and every day with a lengthy swim - 45 minutes to an hour of watery Adirondack goodness. And I start many other days during the year with a pool swim. But it wasn't always this way.

As a child I was terrified of water. Even having my hair washed was a terrifying experience. I expect that there were many times when my mother was tempted to drown me rather than deal with my screaming.

I had many opportunities to learn to swim. My elementary school had a pool. During the summer the local recreation department offered swim lessons there. Beginning in third grade we had regular swim lessons as part of our PE program. My parents took us to the pool at the college where my father worked. A particularly scary pool since the shallow end was 5 feet deep!

The swim lessons that have stuck in my head, though, are the few I had with the swim coach from the college. Mr. K had a house on New York's Lake George and on a couple of occasions our family spent the day there. I remember standing in ankle deep water with Mr. K. In his hand he held a red boat. He explained that this was Popeye's boat, but that it didn't float very well (actually it didn't float at all) so when it went into the water I would have to retrieve it to save Popeye.

The first time the boat went into the ankle deep water. No problem to pick it up. Each time the boat went into the water it went a little deeper. Soon it was going into waist deep water. This presented a dilemma. If I picked it up by bending forward at the waist my face would be very close to the water. The point, of course, was to get me to put my face in the water. But I was having none of that. I worked very hard, twisting my body so that I could get full extension into the water, but not get one drop on my face. I'd like to say this game helped me learn to swim, but it didn't. I still got that sinking feeling when faced with the necessity to put my face into the water.

I was 10 before I learned to swim. I don't actually remember learning. It happened during one of the swim classes during PE. The mother of a classmate had taken over as our PE teacher. I remember that she was patient and didn't push me to swim.

Once I learned to swim there was no stopping me. I spent most days during the couple of summers after I learned to swim at the pool at the college where my Daddy worked. I would bike over, stopping to say hello to the athletic department secretaries then head to the pool. Mid-day was lap swim time, a forced break for me, but once that was over it was back into the pool for the afternoon. Freshman year of high school I signed up for swimming 3 of the 4 PE terms. My high school not only had a pool, but passing the Red Cross intermediate swimming test was a graduation requirement.

Swimming is one of my favorite forms of exercise, and if I'm not swimming I'm probably in my kayak. I no longer get a sinking feeling when presented with a need to get my face wet, and these days no one has to bring out a metal boat to get me swimming.

More Sunday Scribblings here.

10 comments:

JHS. said...

Interesting! I'm a pool baby, too. Water aerobics is my sport -- I love treading and am beginning a deep water class.

I'd rather be at the pool than virtually anywhere else. Except the beach.

Stacy said...

I have loved swimming from the moment I got in a pool (I'm too young to remember - mom reports it was at 1) but JT was so afraid and your post reminded me just how paralyzing swimming fear can be.

And, how empowering it is to overcome the fear.

Fledgling Poet said...

I'm so inspired by the fact that something which once terrified you now brings you such joy...that's amazing and incredibly impressive. :~)

Robin said...

What a dramatic transformation!

I love to swim in pools and clear lakes, but I get nervous anywhere I can't see, imagining all sorts of "something" waiting to slither up. The idea of Adirondack swimming took me right back though to summers spent at camp swimming in the frigid early morning waters of Lake Champlain. Funny, I don't remember worrying about the fish back then.

Bongga Mom said...

Swimming is such a wonderful sport and a wonderful way to keep fit! Congratulations on how far you've come -- your achievement puts many of us to shame :)

gautami tripathy said...

That was a greatpost. Loved to read about your achievements.

tumblewords said...

Good for you! As I child,I took early June lessons in a frigid lake and never learned to do more than panic and a bit of pseudo dead man's float.

self taught artist said...

I liked this...made me relive my own swimming lessons and water excursions. Never heard of the sinking popeye boat, I can almost see you just wanting to watch it sink rather than have to get your head under water. Good story!

Rat said...

Motivating post! You've expressed the important point that a skill has a start point and it was followed by taking small steps, guided with nudging caring hands.

Rural Lesbian said...

I used to scream when my mom washed my hair. Somebody did a reading on me and told me I drowned in a past life. I can't stand to have water on my face. But I love to swim and I taught my self to swim at 4.