My body is 60-70% water. When I see a lake or a pool or, gosh, even a bathtub, I yearn for it. When I dip my toes into a sun-warmed pool, I become 100% water. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not a mermaid who has forgotten her source. (My parents almost named me Ariel, dontcha know.)
I've started swimming at the Y with my dad, who has been asking me to go with him since February. Annoying bouts of anxiety managed to convince me that I shouldn't swim -- too many opportunities for a panic attack. Last week, though, when he asked again -- up for a swim? -- I didn't think. I just said yes, I'll go.
It's difficult for me to explain how the swimming has affected me without relying on baptism metaphors. Those feelings don't surprise me, though; I'm at home in the water, always have been, and I hope -- I pray, really -- that I won't forget how it connects my body back to my mind. Swimming for me facilitates being present in the moment; it collects the fragments and reminds me that I'm complete.
What really surprised me was what awaited my brief glance at the mirror in the women's locker room after my swim. Arms trembly, quads tightened, I showered quickly and headed toward the lockers. I usually avoid looking at the mirror when I'm in various states of undress -- particularly when said apparel is a wet and clingy swimsuit. More a habit than a conscious choice, really. But I looked, and my first thought -- I swear to you -- was this:
"I look great!"
Emphatic, unconditional, exuberant, unashamed.
That gut response floored me. Was it possible that I was looking at my body, the one that I've allowed to remain sedentary for many years, the one that I've picked apart, inch by inch, to further my goal of feeling not good enough? Yes. I looked at my body, and I saw nothing with which to find fault. Moments later I still stood there, gazing at my reflection in disbelief.
Only later did I figure it out. It has nothing to do with self-esteem or an actual change in my physical appearance. I looked so good because I felt so whole.