Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"I'll Swim Around"

Do you ever have those moments in life when you think back to something you did or something you said, and it makes you cringe with embarrassment, or makes you slap your forehead with an open palm? Of course, the incident is blown WAY out of proportion in your own mind, and those around probably don't even remember it happening. But still, for whatever reason, you hang onto the memory of it and allow it to affect you so greatly that hopefully it is never repeated.

Last year I was away for the weekend with a bunch of friends. It was an overall awesome weekend. Sun, watersports, drinking, good times. On Saturday night the party was raging, games, laughing, fire, the whole bit. Someone announced it was time to swim. If you don't know by now, I love the water. I love being in the water, I love activities on the water, always have. Swimming is never something I have turned down, despite my various fluctuations in weight. I put my suit on.

A whole gang of us marched down to the mighty Columbia River in search of an access point for which to jump in. Somehow the drunken group got split up, and a smaller group of us found a boat ramp with a dock. Only two of us were set on swimming, me and this other guy. I looked over, and he was stripped down to his undies and instantly in the water. It was then I realized how high the dock was out of the water. It was probably a good 2.5- 3 feet above the water. I scanned for a ladder. Nothing. But, there was the boat ramp I could swim too if necessary. I watched as this incredibly fit guy hauled himself up onto the dock with some considerable effort. There was NO way I would be able to do that.

I stood on the dock, staring at the water. Then he looked at me, and said "ready? On three." He grabbed my hand, counted down, and I was jumping. It seemed like an eternity before I hit the water, and when I did, I nearly panicked. It was pitch black, and moving, fast (um, Columbia River? what did I expect?). I tread water for a bit, and once again, this super fit guy hauled himself up out of the water in a gigantic-pull-up motion. I swam close to the dock and grabbed the edge with both my hands. My arms were fully extended above my head, and I pulled up. I got my shoulders out of the water maybe. The fit guy came over to assist me. He pulled, I kicked and fought. I was no where close to getting on that dock. He tried again. And again. Finally I said "I'll swim around."

I was mortified. I probably would have been even MORE mortified if I weren't buzzed. Here was probably one of the most fit guys I know, and between the two of us, I couldn't be pulled from the water. First off, that has never happened to me before...I have been swimming off boats and docks many times, and if I couldn't get myself out, usually I had no problem if someone was helping me. Secondly, I realized at that point that I must be REALLY fat (I was at or near my highest weight, by my calculations). Thirdly, I was scared. If I didn't have the strength to pull myself up (out of water even!), that is a real problem. What if I were in a situation where I need to essentially do a pull-up to survive?

This moment is one that I think back to many times and cringe. I'm guessing (hoping?) the boy doesn't remember it, or even know what a pivotal factor it was in where I am today. The funny thing was, I considered myself in shape (denial). I could run 3 miles, we went for a hike the next day and I kept pace with everyone. I always thought that I wanted to get to a certain weight, and be able to run a certain distance before I could truly call myself in shape. This experience showed me that what I really want is functional life skills, and the strength to perform them. I mean, seriously, when in life am I going to have to run 8 miles? However, I can think of 100's of examples where I would need to be able to lift my own body. I need to know that I can rely on myself 100% to get me out of any predicament.

I never want to have to "swim around" again.


  1. Ahhh, the Gorge. Love it, miss it. I might have to come up for an adventure one of these summers.

  2. Things like that are exactly why I lose weight too. it’s not as much an embarrassment thing for me, because I am one of those super shy people who wouldn’t have gone swimming at all without doing a test run, haha. But the idea of getting in my own way due to weight or shape has always been rattling around in the back of my head, and I feel so much better actually doing something about it!