The first time I saw Nicole, she was water-walking. With a floatation belt around her waist, she jogged through the water with a huge smile on her face. She asked me if I could give her a swim lesson, saying, “I love the water… However, I’m not a good swimmer. I don’t put my face in the water…”
She had come to the right person. I felt like I connected with Nicole right away. We chatted about her love for the water and when I asked her to describe her relationship with it she said, “Sybaritic paradise- the ultimate in relaxation.” I realized that I see individuals like this all the time- lap swimmers doing breaststroke with their heads above water, water-walkers, water aerobic enthusiasts. They love the water, but don’t put their faces in it. I asked Nicole to write about her relationship with water:
“I had three separate incidents in the water, all before the age of 6, each of which could have been fatal. But, until I talked to you, I hadn’t connected the three incidents with my relationship with the water. None of these incidents diminished my love of the water, although they probably impacted my willingness to trust putting my face in the water.”
I love that Nicole made the connection between her near-fatal incidents as a child and the fact that she swims with her head above the water. Incredible. I think that realization helped Nicole come into her lesson completely open-minded. She was so brave. She was like a giddy school girl asking, “What’s next? What’s next?” I caught myself saying (more than once), “Okay, well we’ll get to that…Let’s just focus on this first.” By the time we finished the lesson, Nicole was showing off for her friends, doing freestyle with side breaths and her face in the water. I was so proud of her.
Two days after her lesson, I received the loveliest letter from Nicole that brought tears to my eyes. Here are some of the wonderful things she had to say:
“I’m so grateful for this experience!… Even though as an adult I’ve continued to enjoy the water, swimming primarily in pools, doing water aerobics and “water walking,” I’d lost that great joy in the water I’d had as a child. As I’ve thought about my lesson over the past two days, I’ve realized, Kim, you’ve given me the great gift of rediscovering and regaining that childhood pleasure…“
This is where the tears came. I started this project as something to do for myself. It’s actually quite selfish because I LOVE WHAT I’M DOING! But hearing these words made me realize there are so many layers to this project. I’m constantly surprised at how they keep revealing themselves in each participant. Nicole continued:
“Afterwards I also felt so much better, both physically and emotionally, after I got out of the water. Now, I’m planning to take more lessons to improve my skills and am actually contemplating – eventually — taking a lifesaving class… This for me was a truly liberating, enervating experience. And, as I discovered, it’s never too late to learn to swim properly.”