“So, do you want to do a Polar Plunge with me on New Year’s Day?”
“No!” she said as she continued to tread water in the warm, salt water, indoor pool.
I remember the thoughts I was entertaining like it was yesterday. But it was exactly a year ago that I was days away from joining my son at the beach at 5:30 am, New Year’s Day morning. The wind was blowing very cold and made the bare-footed walk on an icy parking lot very difficult. A friend joined us to take pictures, but all we really did at first was to laugh with and at each other because of the absurdity of what we were facing – a dark and churning ocean that seemed to be telling us to “Just go home already!”
A friend said to me over 20 years ago, “Betsy, you have a very small gap between thinking a thought and following through with it. I’ve never met anyone like you.” I wasn’t sure that was a compliment, but I became very aware over the years that the gap was widening and I justified every inch of space I’d allowed. I’d started to believe the illusion that my thoughts were actions. But they weren’t. They were just thoughts. Inside of them I was still an artist and a lover of life. Outside of them I was surviving, not really living. But I thought I had been. I felt happy enough. But I wasn’t really excited about life. I wasn’t really joyful. I was sort of sludgy. You know? Do you ever feel sludgy? Like everything’s fine but there’s this gnawing feeling in the back of your head that you’re not a kid anymore and that’s NOT a good thing?
And then came the struggle of wills on the beach.
That’s when I woke up.
We were tired, excited, scared, nervous, laughing, giddy….and paralyzed. We wrapped our towels tighter and shouted through the wind at each other.
“Come on! Let’s go!”
“NO WAY! It’s too cold!”
That’s when I knew who I was.
I was going in by myself because the torture of living with a thought that hadn’t been given wings was not an option. Not that day. And the ocean welcomed me, punched me in the arm for laughingly cursing at it for licking me with its freezing waves, and thanked me for playing for a second, gently depositing me back on shore with a slap on the back for good measure.
And then I walked out to a new world where everything was possible again.
I was alive like I never had been before.
Colors, sounds, people, stuff – everything was richer. And I felt so calm inside. It was as if I’d fought a dragon and we’d both come away unscathed but stronger and happier.
Once a month I continued the plunges and waited for cold weather to return this November to resume them after a long stretch of lazy summer days. Starting in November I’ve been dipping every Saturday morning. I’ll continue my weekly plunges ’til June 1st, 2014.
I still hear about how cold it is and how I must be brave.
I’m not brave. I don’t know what brave is.
I was given the gift of a thought that was triggered by a memory that I decided to listen to.
So, I guess I’m grateful.
I’m grateful to have in front of me the gift of time to greet the cold water and colder air every Saturday until June 1, 2014.
I’m grateful to know that nothing about the experience will change, but I will be growing with each plunge as I follow through with the thought to “just do it.”
I’m grateful to live near the ocean, for cold wintry days, for bitter winds, for snow and ice – all the things that show up consistently to remind me that they are being themselves and it’s time to go on a spiritual journey of sorts and to see that….
under the fear
under the excuses
in spite of my tiredness, stress, and questioning attitude
in spite of all that and more, nature keeps doing what it does best…
to let me experience IT so as to better know who I AM. It’ll be interesting to see what we find. Don’t you think?
- I’ll be posting on my Facebook page regularly (see the Facebook “like” box to the left of this post). If you’re in the area on Saturday mornings, I (sometimes we) dip at 10 am at Chapaquoit Beach, in West Falmouth, Ma. It’s a great time and I’d love to share the experience with you!