I love swimming. My friends at Automattic call me the “Chairman of the Party Planning Committee and Chief Poolparty Officer”. I’ve always loved going to the pool, or swimming in a lake. My first time in the ocean was an unforgettable experience for me: it’s salty! It was on January 1st, 1998, San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua; a great way to start the new year. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in the ocean a few more times, each one as memorable as the last. I don’t think that the experience will ever be routine for me.
I’ve tried to pass on my love of the water to my 2 young boys, but they’ve been rather timid in the water, so this summer I put both of them in swimming lessons at the local pool. It was a breakthrough for both of them! In his last class, my youngest was able to float face down (face in the water!) for 15-20 seconds at a time, over and over, with no fear. My oldest keeps pushing himself every time he goes to the pool now, trying something new every time. Just a month ago, he never wanted to any deeper than his chin! I’ve been impressed and amazed by them, but also inspired.
See, I have a little secret (which isn’t really a secret to anyone I’ve swum with): I never learned to hold my breathe under water without holding my nose. So all these years, I’ve been swimming while holding my nose. It’s been somewhat limiting, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. But, now that my boys can do it, I decided that it was time that I figured out how to do it too. So I Googled for “unable to hold breath underwater” and came upon this site which explained that the trick is to pretend that you’re going to say the “ng” sound like in any word that ends in “ing”. A few days ago, we went to the pool. My first attempts were failures, and I felt like giving up; water going into your nose and into your windpipe is not a pleasant experience. I’d even convinced myself in the past that I must have something physically different with me, in my sinus cavities or with my velum, that kept me from being able to do it properly. But after some encouragement from my son, I tried again.. and I did it! I was able to go slowly under water, while blowing air through my nose and then somehow blocking it while underwater, and sitting there on the floor of the pool for a few seconds, then back up again. And again. And again! I found it to be quite difficult; any movement of my tongue or any loss of concentration meant that my velum would move and the pressure keeping the water out would go down, and cough, cough. But, I kept at it, getting more and more used to it. But that was about the extent of what I could do. Forget trying to move around, I was only able to sit on the bottom of the pool.
So, the past week or so, we’ve been hit with a heat wave in Montreal, which has made it pretty unpleasant. We’ve gone to the pool a couple of times, but my attempts at holding my breathe underwater just weren’t successful. Today, though… Today, I did it! I swam, first just on the surface of the water, and then, completely under water! I even was able to turn my head to the side! My son was very proud of me.
I know that for most of you, this sounds like no big deal (and looking around the pool, seems to me that almost everyone knows how to do this already), but for me, it was so liberating. The more I did it, the less I had to think about it,and the more it just happened naturally! Next step, once I feel more confident: actually learning how to dive off the diving board, both hands in front of me. I’ve never done that!
Now if only I didn’t need my prescription goggles…