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A Yellow Pansy in Deep Water

I can’t swim.  Sure, I can look like I’m swimming if I want to, but I have no doggie paddling skills to save my life and deep water is not something I go into without a life jacket, no matter how stupid they look (seriously, why can’t life jackets be fashionable and functional… but that’s a conversation for another post).  I have an inexplicable fear of the whole act of swimming.

I’m not kidding when I say I took the yellow course three times (yep, swimming was colour-coded way back when I was in elementary, and yellow was the very first level).  The instructor was forced to keep me in yellow twice rather than graduate me to orange simply because I wouldn’t put my head under the water.  Thinking back on it, the instructor probably saw my fear and kept be back more because of that than anything else.  Finally when I’d plucked up the nerve to finally submerge my head, I was sent to orange the following year and I promptly failed orange because I wouldn’t put my head under while we were learning different strokes.  I didn’t trust myself to only breathe out and not in while my head was under, so I didn’t want to risk it.  Plus I wouldn’t open my eyes underwater because, um, ouch?!  I don’t understand why that’s a necessary skill anyways.  I don’t remember my exact age but I was somewhere between 8 and 12 I think.  I was just a kid, so no big deal.  The problem, of course, is that this fear has not gone away since then, and instead only seems to be getting worse as I get older.

For our first anniversary, Tavis and I organized a group camping trip to a site that had a pond, and there were canoes to take out to the platform in the middle where folks could sunbathe or jump into the water.  We’d been to this site the previous year, and I’d gone into the water a couple times, so this wasn’t a new location or situation to me.  This time though, I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  It’s really quite embarrassing to be the only adult on a platform wearing a life jacket and being too afraid to jump into the water.  Our friends tried to be supportive, naturally, but I can’t help feeling like a pansy.  A silly little yellow-bellied pansy.

Honestly, I’m extremely uncomfortable in deep water and I’m not even sure why. (Except, of course, for the underwater creepy crawlies that will no doubt eat me up as soon as they get the chance – I mean seriously!)

Tavis is a strong swimmer, and it’s a huge comfort knowing I can count on him if I get into any trouble.  Considering I was also surrounded by friends who all knew how to swim I should have felt completely secure.  Also, I’m usually wearing a life jacket.  Yet despite those safeguards, the last time I was in that pond I felt like I was going to hyperventilate.  Tavis seems to be able to sense when I need help to calm down and he talked me through it, but the whole thing just seems ridiculous in hindsight.  I’m a grown woman for goodness sakes, and I can’t handle a little water.  Oh who am I kidding; it felt like a LOT of water at the time…

Why do I care, you might wonder.  After all, this isn’t a problem that I need to deal with on a day-to-day basis.  Even in the summer, I don’t go to the beach or pools often enough to care about my inability to swim.  But I hate missing out on group fun – all our friends can function in the water without turning into a complete basket case.  Plus, Tavis and I hope to have children some day and I’d hate to pass along my fear of the water to our kids; also, having fun with them in the water would be much easier if I had some confidence.  It’s because I’m tired of missing out on the fun and I’m looking to be a positive influence on our children that I decided to address this fear of mine in my list of 31 Goals for this year.

So I signed up for an Adult Basic Swim course at a community centre near our house.  It runs for the month of September, every Tuesday and Thursday, and I’m very nervous.  That’s a lot of time in the water.  Actually, nervous is putting it mildly.  I’m straight-up scared.  And I’m anxious, not only because I’ll be an adult in a “basic” swim course (have I mentioned how embarrassing my inability to swim is?), but I’ll be forced to deal with my issues and I’ll have to do so in front of strangers.  This is not a goal I’ve been looking forward to achieving, let’s be frank, but I really do believe somewhere in a part of my brain I can’t seem to find right now that attempting to conquer my fears is a positive thing.

In the meantime, perhaps I’ll see about finding a fashionable life jacket…


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