I woke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof. I knew it was cold, because I heard my heat cycling on and off frequently.
Maybe, it would warm up if I waited, but I had scheduled a call with a loved one, so I knew it was now or never. I’ve learned not to think about it; just do it. If I think too much, I pull myself down with dread, so I go through the motions – filling the kettle, making sure my woolens are in the bathroom, pulling on my swimsuit. I am still groggy from sleep, perhaps, a little stiff from the previous night’s work.
Yes, it is cold, so I put on my canvas twill and wrap my legs in my towel.
On the dock, I slipped off my shoes, fold my towel on top and cover both with my coat.
Then, I step in. The asphalt stairs and pad under water are cold and gritty on my feet. I feel until the end of the pad, then step into mud, mud studded with acorns from the nearby tree. The mud squishes but feels warmer than the asphalt. I could linger here in waist deep water. My legs don’t mind.
It doesn’t register until I take a step or two further, then I tell myself exhale. I stand for a few seconds, taking deep breaths, sometimes making a gutteral noise through my mouth, before pushing off and picking up my feet. I swim a few strokes and tell myself to relax. I feel for stress in my body and send my breath to that point. It becomes enjoyable. Sometimes, it feels good to lay back and kick, sometimes I side-stroke.
I recall the mantra that has developed, that which I enter the water looking for – calm, joyful energy I ask. Calm, joyful energy, I repeat.
I don’t stay in long, 2-3 minutes.
I emerge shaking water from my arms, and start to feel a chill in my hands and feet. With careful deliberation, I towel off between my toes and slip back into my shoes, noticing the trace of mud on my towel. I rub myself and pull on my coat. Rain turns to snow as I walk back to my house.
Once inside, the thought occurs, Damn, I’m strong. Had I stayed inside that would have never occurred to me. Now, I feel it and with it comes a rush of elation. Yes! I did my cold water dip today, early December.
I turn on the kettle and move into horse stance followed by push-ups when it strikes me, this pandemic has us all in cold water up to our necks. That is the world we live in today. Every morning, if we think too much about it, we encounter dread at our front door. Unlike my swim, we have no choice but to step into it.
Someday, we will emerge and know Damn, we are strong.
Until then, keep swimming, my friends.