What I Didn’t Expect…

Me and Meg Hansen in November 2013. Her expression is priceless! She makes me laugh so hard!

52.

I was 52,  so I chose that number as a goal.

52 Polar Plunges from November 2013 ’til June 1, 2014. And once I get a thought in my head it’s hard to ignore it or change it’s mind. I just go where it leads me and have fun with the adventure, knowing I’ll learn something along the way.

I knew something about the committment I’d made – cold water, cold air, laughing, etc. I knew about the 15 minute drive to the beach and how anxiety would sit on my lap and get heavier, the closer I got to the shore. I knew that there would be a lot that I didn’t know, like what the weather would be like on any given day, or what it would be like to walk through snow and over icy steps to get in the frigid water. I found out that life hands you the opportunity to face many “firsts”, introduce yourself, and see what you’re made of all the time, and when you least expect it.

The hardest part of this challenge (besides getting 52 dips in – that goal had to be changed to Saturdays only.) has been following through after the newness of the experience wore off.

I can handle adverse weather conditions.

I can calm my heart down so that I don’t die of a heart attack just thinking about the cold.

I have overcome my fears of being seen in a bathing suit, on camera, in video.

I’ve managed to push through the discomfort of feeling like a “pain” by sharing these weekly plunges on Facebook. (You might not “get” that one, but that’s huge for me.)

I’ve even kept to a schedule: every Saturday at 10 am, at Chappaquoit Beach. (this one is huge, too. My kids are used to me telling them that we’ll be leaving for somewhere in an hour and 10 minutes later saying, “Everyone in the car!” They hate that!) Schedules are good for things like trains, planes and classes. I like to know when something that someone has planned is going to happen. I just like the freedom of coming or going as I please. That can be annoying to some people.

I could go on, but I think I won’t. Instead, I’ll let you in on something that I didn’t expect – something that touches my heart so deeply it makes me a bit teary to think about. Something that gets me out the door every Saturday when I don’t see a reason any more, or when I just don’t feel  like going. I’ve noticed a pattern: when the newsness wears off it’s easy to forget the underlying joy that is embedded in the activity. It’s easy to say, “been there, done that, don’t need it.”

I didn’t expect to have a constant companion to come to the polar plunges. I didn’t expect there to be another person who’d depend as much on me showing up as I would her.

Every time I imagined the eight months the plunges would span, I pictured myself alone. I knew my best friend, Lisa would come when she could to cheer me on. But I never really thought anyone else would go in the water with me. And that didn’t matter. I don’t count on people to do what I do. I have fun by myself. That’s how I lnow I’m being true to myself.

But then Meg Hansen said that she wanted to try a plunge. She said she’d always wanted to try it and, “once would be enough, thank you very much!”

I will never forget that day. I sat in my Beetle at Nobska Beach with a new bag of Dove chocolates and was so nervous that I unwrapped and read all 36 messages wrapped around chocolates I didn’t eat! I sorted the messages on the wrappers into piles and finally saw her coming down the lighthouse hill, signalling my need to get out of the car and head for the water.

After answering her question, “So how do we do this?” with, “Just don’t think about it and run!” she ran and dove in with me.

(We’ve since stopped diving in because the cold is too much for the head and neck! We dip under instead.)

We had a blast as her husband looked on and captured the experience in a few photos.

And she kept showing up!

And getting in the water!

And screaming and laughing and learning with me!

I did not expect that.

This was MY “crazy”. Now it’s OUR “crazy”!

I not only had a friend in Meg, but I had a friend who seemed to sense a reason to be on the same path that I was on. There was no convincing her. She chose it and shows up because  it’s important to her in a way that only she could explain.. She’s not “supporting” me. She’s not “taking care” of me. She’s not worried about me. We are just enjoying an experience TOGETHER.

I think that there’s a lesson there. Don’t you?

Do what you love and the unexpected will blow your joy out of the water and into another realm…in whatever way it does.

For me, the unexpected was companionship, camaraderie – attracting a like-minded soul.

Don’t you just LOVE surprises?!

What If Today…You Shared Your Joy?

184570_549955569528_1906545808_n (1)

Me and Brody, 1/1/13. Chappaquoit Beach, W. Falmouth, Massachusetts

 

“Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.” ` Mother Theresa

 

“They didn’t laugh? Really? And all you had on was your bathing suit? No shoes or towel? Nothing?”

“Not a peep, giggle, or smirk.”

“Lis! Two days ago you said you didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit. Now you’re wearing one as you order hot cocoa in the bright light of day in the middle of Winter?” Wow! was all I could think.

An hour earlier we’d met in the beach parking lot. The drive there was excruciating.

“I hate this! I really do!”

My son listened to my pep talk to myself and laughed nervously along with me. See, this early morning swim had become a tradition. It’s #3 for me. New Year’s Day, Rose Island Lighthouse, and the first weekend in March so far. The goal is to take a dip in the ocean on or near the first of every month.

I’m committed, but it never gets easier.

When our three pairs of feet hit the sand I knew there could be no delay, no hesitation or she’d bolt back to her car. Brody was already showing signs of reluctance, but he was too far away from me to do anything about it.

I grabbed Lisa by the wrist before she could stop walking and started her in a slow trot to the ocean.

Then we hit the water. Screams of shock and pain were drowned by laughter. Brody never made it past his knees. Lisa got up to her thighs and froze. So I plunged under and splashed her the rest of the way wet as we watched my son racing to the car.

“I think it’s colder than when we came on January 1st! I don’t remember it being that cold!” he laughed.

I felt a calming depth to my joy that I’d felt on the two previous “swims” and knew that it had become a trigger to wake myself up and feel alive again.

Alive and aware of how fleeting life is.

And life is meant to be felt deeply and to bring one joy. But it also has to be shared with people we love.

“Why do you guys have to do that?” complained my youngest daughter when we got home.

I spent the rest of the day wondering the same thing. I tried to explain what it did for me, but fell short every time.

All I can really offer is what I saw happen with my best friend, and what changed inside of me because she’d come.

Would I do a Polar Plunge by myself? I would, but I always want to be with someone. It’s more fun. (And I have to admit, if nobody came with me I know without a doubt that someone from the “other side” would be there to laugh with me.We’re never really alone.)

This was a new experience for her and she could only imagine what it would feel like. As long as it stayed in her head, she’d believe that a dip in the frigid ocean would be painful, crazy, pointless and maybe life-threatening.

She was scared.

But she changed after the experience.

She was so happy. Her fear of being seen in her suit in public was gone. It was wonderful to hear how she was miffed that  the ladies serving her the hot chocolate didn’t react to her appearance. She was awake and feeling alive and was really in the mood to share her joy.

The night before the swim she said, ” Bets, call me at 5:25 and I will meet you… I need to do this… life is way to short to miss this opportunity with my ???? don’t know what to call you anymore…. going to put on my suit tonight when I go to bed to be ready!!!! LOL You just gave me the hiccups!!!” (from Facebook)

And you want to know the last thing she said to me yesterday?

“What’s next?!!”

For me, nothing is more joyful than having a friend to enjoy the journey. Max de Pree said:

“We need to give each other the space to grow, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

…it’s just so much fun when those spaces are shared once in a while.

Don’t you think?