Not Drowning but Waving*

IMG_0506Two days before Christmas, 3 wives met up to swim in the icy Irish Sea and complain about 3 sick husbands. The husbands were meant to be immediately fully embracing all things Christmassy and in particular, helping their embattled wives and their never-ending seasonal chores instead of lolling about with ‘flus. It did us all good to have our pre-Christmas rant in the chilling out surrounding of our beloved Forty Foot. It was a blue sky, a wicked Banshee wind, wild sea day. Sheets of watery waves slapped me in the face. Fierce and cold.

I’d read an article that week about cold water swimming and how your heart speeds up as you gasp for air and how it can lead to a feeling of panic which then puts you on a dangerous watery path.

Years ago, I battled the demons of fully fledged panic attacks so when I read that article, it put them back in my mind as a possibility. As I gasped and flailed in the first minute or two of getting into the numbing water, I wondered if I should indeed panic. My heart was beating fast, it was freezing. Breathing was difficult.

I almost, almost psyched myself out.

It’s a funny thing panic and what I try always to remember is that it’s a kind of choice.  So, as the waves slapped me about with deliciously cold, salty water I thought, no, Mr. Panic,  I want to do this.

I have done it and I can do it.

Swimming is my choice of pleasure. Also, having my buddies there makes it all okay in the harsher conditions. We will all protect each other.

Sure enough I forgot all about it and just enjoyed the wildness of this feisty winter swim. As per ritual, I did my one baptismal dunk of my head underwater before getting out. More than one dunk freezes my brain a bit too much I find. Making my way up the steps in the rambunctious, big water I banged my knee. It didn’t hurt much but I could see the blood already running down my leg.

I was weirdly pleased with my wound like it was a badge of honour. I had conquered the aquatic challenges of the day and this was the proof. Or as Little Chief likes to say: I had a  blood.

We dried ourselves up and a random swimmer beside me showed me the size of his teeny towel. I thought he was looking for sympathy, but really he wanted to explain that it was a high-tech one that dries super quickly and is weirdly very absorbent and packs up into the size of a kernel of corn. Slight exaggeration. He has a green shamrock tattoo right above his butt I couldn’t help but notice. He’s kind of a leprechauny type of dude.

My knee was fine, it was quite swollen but with lots of icing with a bag of frozen peas that day, no probs or, not a bother, as they say here..

St. Stephen’s Day we were out for a swim with my great new Christmas pressie: an underwater camera.

My beautiful picture

My beautiful picture

New Year’s Day there were lots of people starting their year off right with a sprightly dip. A friendly forty-footer offered around crispy pieces of bacon. Perfect après-swim snack.

School holidays are wonderful as we all know but sometimes the moms get a little harassed. I was thrilled to learn that Devildog also likes to kick appliances and yell at them.

My beautiful picture

These days I generally swim on Sunday mornings. It’s the perfect holy time.

Going down the steps last swim, Devildog said: “you know it’s cold when you feel the hairs on your legs blowing in the wind.”  Thank God our husbands are of the generation that are oblivious to fur or in fact are man enough to relish a hairy wife during the winter months.

Hope your ass warms up we say to each other instead of goodbye.

I’m so looking forward to my next Sunday swim. I have been two weeks on land and my toes are unwebbing…

*Stevie Smith

For any of you that missed this classic I posted ages ago, here it is again:

1 thought on “Not Drowning but Waving*

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