I used to live to swim. All I wanted was to feel the water on my skin and in my ears and through my hair. I loved the way the world looked underwater, slower and calmer, and painted with a quiet kind of lovely. I was a water bug through and through. I swam competitively back then and spent lots of hours at the pool, working on my form and speed. I was pretty good, for the small town in which we resided. But then we moved, and for reasons I can’t really remember now, I chose to not pursue competitive swimming in our new town. Instead, I would spend time at the neighborhood pool, floating and diving and gallivanting. My father, the truest of water bugs, would often suggest weekend outings to the pool. I always obliged. Swimming was the calm that helped make the world a little more level.
And then, well, my body began to change. I started to feel self-conscious about my soft thighs and the way they looked in my swimsuit. I hated my small chest and the way I couldn’t hide it in my tight, racer-back suits that I had always worn. I began to notice the other people around me, as if they were suddenly clearer and more in-focus. I found myself worrying about what they thought and how my body compared to theirs. While I missed swimming and I missed the water, my insecurities were stronger and louder than ever before. I began to minimize my time near the water and would only swim with the most trusted of people, still fearful that they would notice all of my imperfections and judge me quietly, silently. It became a “thing”, this insecurity, and it hasn’t been easy to cast out. To this day, I still feel a very significant amount of anxiety when I think about having to put on a swim suit. My heart pounds and my hands get clammy. The sweaty palms are real - far realer than I’d like to admit. It’s embarrassing, yet here it is and there it is. Ever present and something I’m always pushing against, working to nudge out of the room.
But even so - even with the clammy, sweaty palms - I’ve still found myself drawn to the water. Every couple of months, I’ll muster up the courage, and I’ll find a place to dive in and swim the length of a pool, back and forth, back and forth. Last week, I did just that. I put on my terrible racing suit - the one that cuts my hips at the place I don’t like and smooshes my chest- and I grabbed my goggles. I chose to blur out everyone around me and I slid into the water. Back and forth I went, letting my brain wander and my body put in the work. I focused on the contrast - the noise and the vibration of the world above the water and the muted stillness of the world below. I paid attention to how my body felt in the water, powerful and graceful, and how the magic of our muscles is that they all work together to accomplish the most wonderful of things. I pulled and I pushed, and I kicked until I couldn’t kick anymore. I nudged, and nudged some more - working hard to push the anxiety and insecurity beyond my reach. And a mile and a half later, I pulled myself out of the pool, and walked into the locker room. I stood and forced myself to look in the mirror. I didn’t look that different or stronger, but I felt different and stronger. And calmer. My insecurity wasn't quite as loud and my hands weren't quite as clammy.
And in that moment, that was more than enough.