I have always enjoyed a good swim whether in a pool or open water. But since Josh died I have taken to swimming with added enthusiasm – especially wild swimming. I’m going to try and tell you why I find swimming such an important component of my grief – without my swimming I don’t think I would be grieving so well – but putting it into words is not going to be easy – it’s so much about feelings and a visceral experience that take you a place where words and metaphors are rendered redundant. But I’ll have a go.
First some news ….. about my latest challenge. This Sunday 10th September I will be taking part in the Dart 10k (a 6 mile swim on the River Dart in Devon) which some regard as the marathon of the open water swimming world and something I have never done before – nothing like it. I’ve been training in a local lake and have managed 3 or 4 kms two or three mornings a week but a river swim is something quite different. So I’m anxious and excited but looking forward to taking part both for the physicality of event (in the moment) as well as a continuum of my connection to Josh.
Because that’s what swimming does for me – it connects me to Josh in ways that I have found to be both surprising and rewarding. Swimming is essentially a solitary activity. You can run or ride with buddies and still hold a conversation together – they are companionable activities. Try that while swimming and all you get is to gargle with dirty water. People do swim together but likely they’ll be doing breaststroke and taking in the scenery at the same time. I do front crawl so my head and my airways are for the most part underwater. And I like it like that. I love being on my own underwater, feeling the water gliding past me as I pull on each stroke, breathing on every forth and finding the rhythm that will take me to the ‘zone’. There is no other activity that I have found that is so meditative, so in the moment and so far away from reality or the timescale of everyday living.
And that gives me space. Space that is thinking time, but more importantly feeling time. And what I’m feeling is firstly – a mild elation that I’m in a supportive environment (in water mostly you float!). Secondly – a degree of fear that that environment is not necessarily safe (you can drown). Thirdly, a sense of wonder. In water, especially open water, I am in another world, a world that is full of life (we have swans, cormorants, geese, moorhens, carp, and I’ve seen pike and crayfish …) It is a world in which is it easy to imagine you are flying. The bottom of the lake is like a new landscape changing with the seasons and it drifts slowly beneath me. Forth, and this might seem a little dramatic, but as I get into the rhythm of my swim, stroke after stroke, breathe after breathe, I can achieve a kind of serenity – there’s a peace here, where alone in this watery world I feel I am as close to death as I dare go and as close to Josh as I’ll ever be while I still do breathe.
I’m not sure this will be anything like my experience of the Dart 10K where I’ll be joining another 600 swimmers in much choppier waters that I’m used to … but I’ll let you know.
Thanks for reading