Learning to Float


I think I’ve finally realized what my greatest fear of the water actually is. It’s not drowning, although that is really high up on the list, it’s giving up my control to anything stronger than me.

My water phobia strikes harshest when I feel my body, which usually isn’t moved by much, become buoyant. As my feet lift or I feel like I’m losing control of myself in the larger body of water I start to panic. Like – big-time panic. If I can’t control my body then I can’t control not drowning, which, like I said earlier, is pretty far up on the list of my biggest water fears.

It started when I was 14. I had a group of friends at the apartment building where I lived that loved to congregate at the pool. One particular day I, who had never learned to swim, allowed another “friend” to take me into the water and “teach” me to swim. This consisted of her walking me around the perimeter of the pool and finally pull me out into the deep end and proceeded to LEAVE ME THERE. BY MYSELF.

I panicked and started to thrash and try to scream but I kept going underwater. I was desperately calling out for people around me in the pool – but they simply looked at me like I was nuts. As I realized no one was going to come to my rescue I panicked even more and nearly went under for good, but finally my “friend” came back out to me and pulled me to safety. Her excuse for waiting so long? She thought I was “kidding” about not being able to swim.

I wasn’t phobic about water before that day, but have been every day since. I’ve gotten into pools but I have a panic attack should I feel myself start to give way to the water around me… and God forbid I actually dunk my head underwater. It took years for me to forget the feeling of water filling my lungs and the hopelessness and helplessness of no one there to help… if I ever really have.

Talk about feeding into the abandonment issues… what could be worse than feeling you are dying but no one is around who cares enough to notice?

This might be why I stay mostly at the shallow end (usually by the railing) and walk at least four feet around any pool so I’m not close enough to fall – or worse, be pushed – in.

I don’t trust anybody. Not after that.

Later on that same year a bunch of guys thought it’d be funny to toss me into the pool, but I latched onto the chain link fence that surrounded it and would not let go. Three grown men couldn’t pry me loose, and I was no where near the size I am now.

Finding someone to trust enough to learn how to swim has been the challenge. My first husband Dan learned how to swim by being tossed into a lake. Been there, done that – it didn’t work for me. Went to the YMCA and took a swim class, but quit about mid-way through. I just couldn’t ever see myself being “okay” with giving up all that control to something bigger than me.

I couldn’t make that concept fit in my head… that by giving up control I actually gained it in the only real way I could.

My friend Shelley and I have been discussing this at length. When life takes you out into the deep end and leaves you there you can fight it by thrashing and screaming or you can simply allow yourself to float – to yield control to the forces around you and learn to navigate your circumstances a different way.

This is where I am now. With my back going out again and now the onset of the flu, I’m getting hands-on education on how to let those things I can’t control go and simply focus on what is within my grasp to control.

I can’t go to the gym five days a week like I had hoped, but I can ease myself back into the walking routine that was working out rather nicely for me.

I can’t come up with the magical money it takes to do the things I thought I wanted to do, but that’s okay too – maybe I really didn’t want to do it as much as I thought.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that these are patches on the gaping holes in my life. Some of my obsessions, like my food, were there to fill a void that gave me all-too-brief giddiness to cover the fact that I’m not where I wanted to be. And much better to face those things later when I’m much more in control of my own fate and my own destiny.

I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself.

The trick is to get through the weekend without feeling pretty deprived.

I think I’ll be okay though. Some of these old obsessions have lost their luster as I move forward into finding my own identity. I no longer have to leech off of anyone I perceive as “stronger” than me because I’m digging out my inner strength for myself. (Turns out, I have quite a bit of it I wasn’t giving myself nearly enough credit for…imagine!) But I find I don’t *want* to go back to that familiar emotional push and pull that never felt like I had any real footing at all.

Basically I was just thrashing and screaming at the deep end, and the people around me simply looked on like I was crazy.

And maybe I was.

All I ever had to do to learn how to swim was to allow myself to finally float. Yielding that perceived control is where I gain the ability to truly navigate my circumstances instead of fighting against something that is often bigger and more unyielding than I am. It’s hard for someone as big and unyielding as me to face that sometimes – in fact, it’s damn terrifying.

But I’m never going to get anywhere until I learn how to float… so I guess I’m just going to have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Weight loss for the week: 2lbs

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2 thoughts on “Learning to Float

    • Thanks! I think swimming is right up there with substantial weight loss – if I can do that (or moreover, when I do that) I’ll know I can do anything.

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