Monday, July 13, 2009

First Time For Everything

I just got back from my first swimming lesson.  Yes, me.  Not the kids.  I learned enough at swim lessons as a kid to flounder my way through the deep-end swim test with the life guard, tread water and not drown.  Given the fact that I've had contacts since I was 8, I never learned to breathe under water or put my face in the water.  Either my contacts would fall out or I'd swim without my glasses and not be able to see two feet in front of me. so I just stopped trying.

Taking lessons is an idea I've kicked around for a few years, but have never acted on.  People who swim claim it's great exercise, easy on the joints and clearly a good skill to have with four kids, but I really don't like swimming and if I'm honest, have a bit of a fear of the water, so I never followed through.  My recent knee injury and the doctor saying, "You should learn to swim," was the catalyst for me to finally sign up for lesson. 

So here I am.  Standing at the pool with about 2 billion other 4 and 5 year olds, waiting for my instructor to call my name.  I didn't realize how uncomfortable I am in the water until my instructor, named Miss Bug (not joking), told me to open my eyes with my contacts in, and stick my face in the water to "glue my contacts to my eyes."  I seriously thought she was joking, but no, she was dead serious.  I looked at her, looked at the water and felt a rush of terror flow over me.  I don't know how to breathe under water OR open my eyes under water.  Both are things I've never done before.   It was at that moment I realized it's one thing to sit on the sidelines and watch people do stuff.  It's a whole different view when you get in the game.

I tried to appear calm and told Miss Bug that I didn't know how to breathe under water.  She showed me how to blow bubbles out my nose and then showed me again how to glue my contacts to my eyes.  I forced myself to stick my face in the water, eyes open, and blow bubbles out my nose.  To my surprise, both methods worked.  My contacts stayed in place and the water didn't go up my nose.  I silently celebrated victory number one.

We practiced bubbles, bubbles, bubbles, breathe on the side of the pool.  Then with the kick board.  I swerved around several 4 year olds who no doubt wondered why Momma Stilp was in the pool in their space.   We practiced back stroke and Miss Bug taught me how to look at the ceiling to guide me to the wall.  Not sure how I'll know where I'm going when I'm in open water, but I'm taking baby steps...  She tried to teach me how to breast stroke and I laughed out loud when she tried to find something positive to say after my pathetic attempt.

Everything about swimming seems unnatural to me.  Who opens their eyes under water?  Okay, probably everyone but me, but that was a whole new concept to me and it felt kind of creepy.  And humans breathing under water?  That's just unnatural too.  I kept expecting the water to rush into my nose and was continually surprised that I wasn't inhaling half the pool.  Several times I felt a rush of unnatural nervousness wash over me when I put my face in the water and I had to mentally talk myself out of panicking.  I was surprised at how quickly I lost my breath and felt tired.  And I was equally surprised at how quickly the 30 minute lesson flew by.

I opted to not share a shower with the 4-year-olds, and hopped in the car, dripping wet with goggle rings around my eyes, to shower at home before picking up the kids from Vacation Bible School.  But one thing I did learn, is that swimming is a lot like life.  It's easy to watch someone do something with what appears to be a lot of ease and very little effort, but doing it yourself is a whole different experience.  Life can be scary.  Unnerving.  Uncomfortable and a little embarrassing.  But it's in the DOING that we find little victories and that we conquer those fears.  Move over 4 year olds and watch out Michael Phelps.  Momma Stilp is learning to swim.

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