A Flame Rekindled

by Carol Hess on August 16, 2011

Today was a big day.  I rekindled the flame of an old love of mine.  A lover I have been avoiding for the past twenty years. 

Why?  Because twenty years ago I decided I was too fat to enjoy the attentions of my lover. 

Today I said the hell with self consciousness.  I put on my special outfit, squared my shoulders, lifted my chin, walked with my head held high, and jumped into the arms of my lover. 

Well, I didn’t exactly jump.  Instead, I carefully lowered myself into the pool, step by step, going down the ladder backward as I had been instructed to do by the physical therapist. 

The warm water crept further up my body with each cautious step I took.  When my feet found the bottom of the pool, the water was lapping just under my shoulders.  I let go of the ladder, walked a couple of steps, and then ducked down just enough so the water came up to my chin. 

Aaahhh. . . . . .  I could feel every muscle in my body start to relax.  My chin lowered, my shoulders dropped, my hands opened, and my breathing slowed.  I was submerged, weightless. 

Finally, after twenty years, I had come back.  Back to this watery parallel universe of mine where I felt so at home.  I was back where I belonged, and I knew it. 

I haven’t always been a water baby.  I had to get over my fear of the water, especially of getting my face wet.  But once that obstacle was hurdled, thanks to a patient young swimming instructor, I was in my element.  And from then on, my parents were hard pressed to get me out of it and back onto dry land.

The Little Mermaid

 

When I waded, cannonballed, or dove into the water, I stopped being thechubby little girl who wasn’t terribly graceful or athletic.  I became a sleek seal moving swiftly underwater to pop up unexpectedly on the other side of the pool or an elegant swan floating effortlessly on top of the water or a beautiful mermaid swimming smoothly through the water. 

My body stopped being a traitorous thing over which I had little control and even less trust.  Instead, it became an efficient stroking, kicking machine or a handstanding, somersaulting gymnast.  I stopped being a timid, uncertain, quiet little girl and became a fearless, confident, exuberant fish of a child. 

Then one day I gave up all that.  I decided I was too fat to be seen in a bathing suit.  And I certainly wasn’t going to draw attention to myself by wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the water like all those other fat people.  I was too afraid of what people would think. 

So I just stopped swimming.  I just stopped visiting that parallel universe where I felt so at home and so good about myself and my body. 

Well, today I came back home to the water and to myself.  It’s been a long journey back, and it isn’t over by a long shot.  In some ways, my journey back to myself is just beginning.  But that’s okay.  I’ve rekindled the flame of my old love, and I won’t let it go out again. 

Have you ever given up something because of what people would think?

Have you ever lost and regained a part of yourself?

What did your journey back look like?

by Carol Hess

12 comments

Categories Body Image, The Art of Star Polishing, The Mind Game

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Heidi August 17, 2011 at 6:58 am

Fabulous post Carol, I can so relate! Time to get back into the water….

Years ago, I stopped listening to smooth jazz and dancing since others in the house did not like and I would be criticized, ahhhh the things we tolerate…

The journey back involved many changes including find my love of music again — so worth it!

Now working at home I listen to whatever I like and dance at will! There’s nothing like watching the world brighten to a new day with the sounds of music in the background :)

Thank you for posting!

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avatar Carol Hess August 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Isn’t it amazing, Heidi, what a difference it makes when our old loves become a part of our lives again? So glad you are listening and dancing to your music again. Wonderful food for the hungry heart.

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avatar Steph Marks August 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Bravo, dear mermaid! Enjoy your rekindled passion! :)

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avatar Carol Hess August 17, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Thanks, Steph, I will! There’s nothing quite like an old love coming back, is there?

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avatar Nikki August 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Hi Carol,

I love this post!

I was so intrigued to find out about you and your old flame. Then, to find out it was swimming… I adore swimming and can’t ever imagine not.

Exactly like you, I used to cry as a child every time I got my face wet. Then my equally patient swimming instructor coaxed me into learning to swim. I went on to win certificates, badges and life-saving swimming honours. Since moving Stateside to the Ocean States (Lil Rhody), I’m in the water every chance I can get. In fact, the past couple of times I’ve been splish splashing around in the lovely warm sea, I’ve thought how I really must’ve been a mermaid in a former life 😉

I say hang up the hang ups and realize there’s more to life – like doing something you love. And to hell with what people think!

Thank you so much for sharing,

~Nikki xo

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avatar Carol Hess August 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Thank heavens for patient swimming instructors, right? I’m going to picture you doing your mermaid thing, Nikki. Are you a water sign by any chance? I am — Cancer. There are some beautiful beaches in Rhode Island and lovely warm(er) water than here in Maine. When I’m ready to go ocean swimming, I’m coming down for a visit! :)

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avatar Sandi Amorim August 17, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Return of the mermaid – gotta love that!
When you can be with yourself exactly the way you are and exactly the way you’re not, magic happens.

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avatar Carol Hess August 17, 2011 at 2:05 pm

“Exactly the way you’re not” — I had to think about that for a minute, Sandi. Brilliant! I think the magic is all about self love and self acceptance, isn’t it?

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avatar Evelyn Kalinosky August 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Welcome home, Carol!

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with my body image since puberty. I, too, used to love the water – spent long, lazy summers at the lake – so much time in the water my skin would shrivel and prune. I felt like I swam ABOVE the water, not in it, and loved the feeling it gave me when I would literally glide across the lake.

As a teenager I was skinny, undeveloped, and felt uncomfortable getting in a bathing suit – so forget about going in the water. Then it was the baby weight I tacked on after 2 kids that kept me from enjoying it. Then the loss of elasticity in my skin and those lovely little dimples (aka cellulite) that dotted my knees, thighs and butt. Then it was my 10 inch abdominal scar (then a second one)…

You get the idea. As long as I can remember I’ve been “under construction.” I kept looking forward to the day when I’d magically appreciate my body just as it is, in all of its perfect imperfection. It hasn’t happened yet. But I continue to hold out hope. Especially now that I’m shedding more than a few extra pounds or wrinkles. I’m shedding the whole concept of my body as an object d’art and focusing instead on revering the vessel that’s held my soul all these many years.

Who knows, gal – maybe I’ll join you for a lap or two in the near future. Sweet!

Evelyn

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avatar Carol Hess August 18, 2011 at 2:47 pm

My money’s on you, Evelyn. I have a feeling you are going to get to the point where you completely appreciate and love your body. You are just way too wise not to! However, when we have a chronic illness, body appreciation can be a bit tougher, don’t you think? Especially when there is significant pain involved.

This morning in the physical therapy pool, I was joined by a woman who is waiting for hip replacement surgery. She is in so much pain and can hardly walk. I was that woman four years ago. I promised myself and my body at that time that I would never again take for granted my ability to easily move across the planet. But of course I have broken that promise many times. However, as I walked away from the pool this morning in no pain and with no limp, I did remember to love my body in all its “perfect imperfection.”

BTW, the woman in the pool with me was dreading having to go talk to yet another orthopedic surgeon in a couple of weeks. Turns out she was going to MY orthopedic surgeon, and I was able to reassure you about what a wonderful man and a skilled healer he is. There are no coincidences in God’s world! :)

This morning I decided I’m going to have an indoor pool in my dream house. You are most welcome to join me in a lap or two any old time you want, Evelyn!

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avatar Paula Lee Bright September 6, 2011 at 8:50 am

That does it. I’m getting a swimsuit of some kind. I want back in the water too.

Hmm, but what on earth will I do about the hairy issue?? Oh, dear, another bugaboo to tackle!

Love this one, Carol. :)

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avatar Carol Hess September 6, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Suggestion on that swimsuit you’re going to get, Paula — don’t get the blousy top with separate panties kind that hides a multitude of bulges. It also gets water and air trapped under it when exercising and swimming. Can cause drowning, strange noises, and an unfortunate “even fatter” effect — not necessarily in that order.

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