Monday, July 03, 2006

Never a Mermaid

One of the things I inherited from my mother was a pronounced fear of drowning. My earliest memories of the beach include her admonishment to stay close to shore for fear of the undertow.

There was never any real effort to teach me to swim when I was a small child, so I arrived at a pool party for a 10-year-old classmate in fear and trepidation. I had never before been in a pool. (I really did lead a sheltered life as a child.) I resolutely stayed in the 3-foot area and splashed appropriately, never revealing my inability to swim.

Someone must have suggested to my parents that I needed to learn how to swim, so they found me a swimming instructor – Mr. Herring. He was about 75 years old and had some form of palsy that made it difficult for him to speak clearly or move very well. I'm sure it was a bargain deal. He taught me to blow bubbles while I hummed. I never really learned how to swim.

As an adult I discovered that a snorkel and fins can compensate for a lot of inability in the water. I was comfortable doing laps at our health club with a constant depth of 4 feet, aided by those props. But deep water still conjured up intense fear in me. I most certainly would drown in water over my head.

Contrary to my mother's approach, I made sure my children could swim at an early age. They not only swam, but they also competed and brought home walls of ribbons and trophies. So the water fear was not genetic!

At some point, I decided to take a few lessons from one of their coaches in an effort to wean myself of the snorkel. Barry patiently worked with me to teach me to turn my head and breathe without gasping.

From time to time my children have tried to teach me to kick so that I could free myself from all swim props, but to no avail. So I am down to fins and the need to be near a wall if I am swimming over deep water. Or at least that was the situation the last time I swam laps, which was probably at least 5 years ago.

My friend Deborah asked me to go swim laps with her at her pool on July 4. I went and bought a new pair of goggles as my old ones no longer had a good seal. I'm already preparing my little speech about my water phobia.

People who are swimmers just don't have a clue as to how much fear deep water can engender. If I could change a few things in my life, coming to terms with water would be high on the list. I would like to think of swimming as enjoyable and relaxing, as well as aerobic. Maybe I will have to get serious about taking lessons. Maybe I can find someone who specializes in water wimps. Maybe I can be hypnotized out of this anti-water spell my mother cast on me so long ago.

6 Comments:

Blogger Old Lady said...

I used to fear the "deep end". As a child I took swimming lessons at the Y. Passed them all. Had to swim across the deep end to pass the final. So, here I am paddling across, realize I am in the deep end and I slowly start sinking. My instructor lifted me back up and I started crying because I wanted my parents to be proud of me. I was able to overcome this fear with extra work, but the most important thing I was taught was to relax. A tight body is like a lead weight. Your fear might make you tense. Try relaxing on a float over the deep end with your googles on and your face in the water until you are relaxed. Then float on your back, relaxed of course, Maybe with a rope across the pool.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks for reading. I have added you to my link list as you seem to have interesting things to say and you are more or less in my generation! I appreciate your advise on the water. I think it is high time for me to deal with this deep water issue...

7:25 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I too never learned to swim. While I don't worry about drowning, I do worry about not touching the bottom.

My fear is falling, whether that be in water or in the air.

I don't think it is anything ingrained in me by my parents. My son also dislikes any "falling" type sensation (so rollercoasters are out for us). Whereas, my daughter can't get enough and longs for the day when she can go on the ever bigger one (she is only 7).

12:26 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

I'm happy to report that I just came back from swimming 50 laps in a beautiful pool on a scorching hot 4th of July. The secret was a constant depth of 4'6". I never stopped mid-lap, but I knew I could always stand up. Made all the difference in the world!

Richard -- I share your fear of falling. That's one reason I have never done downhill skiing, as much as I would have liked to. Neither of my children inherited my fears of deep water and of falling, thank goodness.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I was very fearful of water when I was young. I wouldn't even take my feet off the bottom with a life jacket on! (Mind you, this was in Lake Erie with huge waves!)

I went to summer camp for years and finally got my Intermediate Red Cross but never went further. It was always a struggle and to this day I don't do laps and laps of crawl but prefer to do side and breast stroke and backstroke.

So I think you have done extremely well today!

10:33 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

What a perfect way to spend Independence Day, facing one of your oldest fears. A watery salute coming' at ya.

9:26 AM  

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