52 Exercises Quest Ends: Swimming Laps and New Beginnings
I’m wearing a bikini, a sun hat and sunglasses. I get in gingerly even though it’s hot outside and the water is warm. I sink in slowly and then start doing what I call granny laps, slow breast stroke with my head above water. I look ridiculous but I don’t care.
The water is clear and blue, the air warm, the sky bright. I can hear birds singing, the rustle of trees and children squealing. The water is fresh against my body, supporting and caressing me allowing me to stretch out fully and shrug off all my anxiety and fears.
Arms stretch and pull back through the water. Legs bend and push against it propelling me forward slowly but constantly. Faster swimmers pass me but stop at the end to catch their breath. I swim on and on.
The slow rhythm and lack of challenge gives me time to think while I swim and there’s a lot to think about. It’s the end of December, the festive season a time when we all consider the year that’s gone by and plan the new year ahead of us.
In many ways this year has been bad. I’ve made some unwanted discoveries through hours of therapy and by spending time learning about myself instead of running away. It’s been hard. The urge to follow old habits and keep running is so strong. The face of self hatred, when it rears its ugly head, so very cruel.
I called it a midlife crisis but it wasn’t fun or funny. This was depression, a mental illness which has visited me before and hung around at the end of 2012 nagging, pestering until finally it couldn’t be ignored anymore and something had to be done in 2013.
It’s not the first time I’ve experienced depression and anxiety but for the first time since childhood I faced this monster sober and crutchless, apart from mountains of chocolate which brought me solace and thighs that are starting to rub against my summer shorts.
I need to work on that chocolate addiction next but not before I’ve taken time to celebrate all I’ve achieved this year. The huge strides I’ve made like learning to meditate, learning about mindfulness, practicing mindfulness and noticing the changes those things have brought. Noticing my feelings, emotions, sensations and thoughts. Noticing them but not reacting to them.
2013 will stand out because although I didn’t have time to reevaluate myself and my life I made time to do it. But only because it was a life or death situation.
As a last resort I finally took time to pick, probe and poke around my inner psyche, the subconscious reactions, the chain of conditioning that started in childhood and has been raging unchecked ever since. Sometimes stirring down to embers until stress fired if up again.
And today I feel better. Better than before. Surer, stronger and calmer. Cool, calm and collected as I swim lap after lap after lap.
Next year I will be 46 years old so it’s taken a long time but maybe I’m finally shedding off all the stuff I was fed by parents, society and peers and found out who I really am.
During my moments of deepest insecurity my friend Molly edited some of my writing and wrote:
“I think this relates to the idea of having the time, suddenly, once our children reach a certain age, to actually think about ourselves again. Reconnecting with that can be terrifying and exhilarating. We can choose to ignore the opportunity, or embrace it as you have.”
Now the water embraces me and swimming takes me back to the beginning. To the beginning of the year and to the beginning of my life, to life in the womb that I can’t remember and to the pain of my daughter’s water-birth nine years ago which I can.
Swimming is a form of rebirth as is a new year but we’re reborn every day and every second of every day if only we can recognise it.
This very moment is a new beginning and we must embrace it as the water embraces me now, as our mothers womb embraced us before birth, as we embraced our newborn babies and they will theirs.
I haven’t found my true self yet but she is there, in the water slipping between my fingers, in the air over my head and rustling softly in the trees.
20 laps of an Olympic pool seems like plenty. I walk up the steps and out of the pool leaving a trail of water behind me. It will soon evaporate and vanish, just like the swimming woman did, just like the woman in crisis did. That me doesn’t exist any more yet we are all still here and the world seems fresh and bright, cleaner and clearer than it has ever been.
The present and being present is a gift that we can unwrap right now. New beginnings are all around us and how we greet them changes everything.
A gentle float to celebrating the 52 Exercises Quest ending
Thank you for reading and cheering me on in my quest over the past 12 months. I tried and wrote about 52 exercises this year which was an interesting physical and mental activity.
Now people keep asking me what I’m going to do next and the answer is I don’t know. 52 sleeping positions sounds good, I’m interested in trying the primal lifestyle but I still want to write a book so maybe I need to blog less and focus on book writing more.
Whatever happens I’ll still be here, still blogging and still evolving and growing with you. Focusing on trying to keep our spirit of adventure and fun alive as we move past forty and beyond.
Got a Comment?
We’d love to read it so leave a message below. I’ll be offline camping for a five nights but can’t wait to read your comments when I get home.
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I would love to see your book in print! You’ve articulated all the ups and downs of the year so beautifully in this post. I bet your book would really be hot.
I’m sorry it’s been a tough year, but wow have you used it well. I’m so inspired that you are closer to your true self, have learned meditation, and feel clearer and brighter than ever. I’m so happy to know you and am so very grateful for your kindness and support throughout the year.
Have a great camping trip!
Thank you so much Sandra for all your amazing comments and support over the year. I’d love to turn my quest and mindfulness journey into a book – that will be another challenge!
Annabel, that was a great read. I haven’t been following you all year so have just reconnected and read, in a nutshell I guess, what 2013 dished up for you. I really resonated with the sentence about having the time and head space once your children reach a certain age to turn your attention to you. I turned 50 on Boxing Day but over the past 5 years I have changed so many of my thoughts and habits to align more with happiness and what it means to me. Happiness was always there but I just didn’t have the head space to fully embrace it. Now I wake up each day and choose happiness, whether it is a walk in nature, stopping and admiring the flowers on my walk to work, sitting on my meditation mat and being still for 10 minutes or making sure I have honoured my values during the day. It is a constant work in progress and I love the challenge. Life will always throw me some curved balls but if I consciously and proactively work on my happiness, just like diligently swimming those laps in the pool, I will be in a much better position to deal with the curved balls when they come my way. Hope the camping was awesome!
It was! You are a wise woman – I am following your example :)
What a wonderful and sensitive final post for the year, and as the wrap for your 52 exercises series. I think you can really be proud of your staying power and dedication to complete and blog about your quest each week. Reckon 2014 is going to be a great year for you, having learnt so much about yourself in 2013. I wish you so much of the best, can’t wait to hear that you’ve started on your book, thank you for all your support this year, and look forward to seeing more of you in real life and on the internet mext year :) Happy New Year! Rock On 2014!
Thank you Johanna – I think we’ll all be rocking it in 2014 in our own way :)
Congratulations!!! Clever gal. Look at you, conquering goals, and inspiring others. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey of yours, and you’ve definitely inspired me to step out of my comfort zone & strive for a few of my own goals this year. Cheers
That’s brilliant news – look forward to hearing about your adventures.
Congratulations on finishing this quest! It is an amazing achievement, and it has been interesting and inspiring to see where this has taken you. I admire your writing and how you are able to mix profound thoughts in with the little details of the exercise. I am sure I would love to read whatever book you have in you. Happy new year. I too am unsure of what I will try to tackle next in the new year, but I feel excited to be open to new opportunities and ready to take advantage of whatever comes along.
That’s so great Marcy, we’re all getting better and better :)
Happy New Year Annabel, I waited until I had some proper time and space to read this post and am so glad I did. You’ve articulated this past year and it’s place in your life and in your growth very beautifully and have made it relate to your readers so well. I’m also aimingf or a slower, calmer year and will come back to this post as the months pass to see how my gentle laps in life are going.
I also very much relate to children being less needsome and having space and time again to be myself… and all the things I loved, esp as a teenager before I began messing myself up, are bubbling away again. Having said that I need to call my mum and go to collect the twins!
Look forward to some adventures in 2014 and to reading your journey this year.
It’s fantastic that we finally have the time, tools and wisdom to find ourselves. A huge cause for celebration. I’m looking forward to lots more adventures from all of us.
I found your blog looking for information on Falun Gong. I too admire your path of rediscovery and I relate to you. I am 54 year old just got out of illness and depression and so so much appreciate to see someone so nice and wise like you has similar experiences. My daughters now 24, 26 and 16 are slowly drifting away from me. I lost my business and had to settle for a job that pays so little. It all brought me to a dark night of the soul. But I am recovering like you.
I am going to enjoy little things in life. Sunshine beauty kindness nature all….as you say present time is the greatest gift. Be well dear Annabel