The Tide is High

I watched as my personality seemed to shrink in front of the mirror as I stood there, my eyes grey and bemused by my reflection. I slipped on my favourite SARA swimsuit, I loved how I felt in it, secure yet colourful. My eyes caught a glimpse of my inner upper thighs and I shuddered, how did I get this lazy? Once firm taught flesh had become chubby, soft and saggy, I felt far from sexy and tired of feeling so blah.

It was late in the afternoon and Steve and Aidan were playing outside, I could hearing him running about and giggling with our dogs Toby & Charlie. I tried to remember a time when I used to be that carefree, a time when I didn’t wear anything except knickers around the house and backyard. I think I was 8, maybe 10. We lived in the Northern Territory and it was always warm, even when it was cold. My sister and I would spend our afternoons running through the sprinkler or down at the pool. We were always outside, always active.

Embarrassed of my uncared for thighs, I slipped on my black swim dress from TS14+. I love it so much I have it in white too. The way the silky black fabric drapes and falls over my body. A smile creeps over my face, suddenly my drumstick thighs are far out of mind and all I can do is imagine that I’m sunning myself on the deck of a cruise ship, sporting an awesome top knot and looking fabulous. I’ve always been in awe of how fabric, simple threads and fibres, can alter the way I feel about myself.

I stride up to the doors of my YMCA, 2 minutes from my house. I’m confident, enthusiastic and scared shitless. I felt like a failure as I slunk up to the counter. “Hi, I’d like to renew my membership please.” I’d carried my expired membership card around with me for weeks and every time I looked at it shame washed all over me. She smiled, tapped away on the keyboard and I instantly found myself $70 poorer each month then I thanked her.

I sat by the pool, pretending to organise my belongings, fiddling with my hair tie and blushing as I removed my wedding rings for fear of losing them. There were so many people. Mum’s and Dad’s with the heads on the hands waiting for their tired little fish to finish their lessons, bigger kids blowing off steam and pissing off the life guards. Hunky men, mostly trademen, filing in and out of the gym, sweaty and grunting about protein shakes and rubbing their guns.

Their eyes were on me I could feel it, sizing me up, questioning my being here, a place of fitness and health, their church of vanity. I felt like the gluttonous sinner seeking restitution, salvation. I blinked the thought away, I removed my dress exposing my rubbery thighs. I folded the pretty black fabric neatly, taking my time for the dress that made me feel lovely, my armour. I slipped into the pool, ignoring the small ripple that spread across the water which to me felt like a wave.

I dunked my head under the cool, clear water and absorbed the silence. That was always one of the things I loved as a kid, it could be manic and crowded with people but as soon as I went underwater everything was quiet and tranquil. I used to pretend I was a mermaid. Moving my body like a dolphin, in control of every muscle of my body, making it sway and curve through the blue. Underwater I was eternal, ethereal and magical.

I spluttered to the surface, my lung capacity wasn’t as it used to be, I was off to a flying start. Ducking under the lane rope I move towards the slow swim lane, instantly regretting the fact that I didn’t own goggles or a swim cap. Promptly becoming excited about the prospect of more shopping and pinterest searching. I blinked the thoughts away and tried to focus and disconnect all at the same time.

Hands together, head down, I pushed my feet off the wall and felt the force of the water resist my frame, I used to glide so much further. I broke the water with the first proper breaststroke I’d done in years, I stroked the water again but it didn’t feel right, I was too high out of the water, I couldn’t tuck my chin under the way I used to, something was off. Then I remembered the last time I’d swam like this, with purpose, was before I had breasts. Suddenly I felt more like a life raft than a mermaid.

I’d made it one quarter into my first lap, the stupid feeling and awkward sensation swept over me and I had to stop. I could feel everyone’s eyes on me, watching me struggle. I cleared my throat, adjusted my straps, put my head under and stroked the water again, I felt like I was in control and my lines were cleaner. Suddenly I got my old momentum back, the dolphin returned and I could feel myself using tummy muscles I thought no longer existed. I was euphoric. I pushed ahead.

I shared a lane with a man I didn’t know. We were both large, uncomfortable and keenly aware of the after-work-swim-stars striding along beside us. At one point we both finished a lap and had to catch our breath. He said “Hi, my arms feel like jelly, how are you doing?”. “Jellyfish swim better than me.” I said, trying to lighten the mood, both of us breathing heavily and barely dressed. He smiled and laughed and I felt calmer, less alone somehow.

He explained he’d been to his reunion a few months ago and all his mates were still fit, trim and played sports but his truck driving job was so fast paced yet so inactive that he forgot to look after himself. He hated what his lifestyle was doing to his family, pointing to three boys at the corner of the pool, all reflections of their father. “I want better for them, for myself.” I wanted to hug him but I was very aware that my wedding ring was in my wallet. He was strong, I wanted to be strong just like him.

He left and I pressed on feeling the cool water shimmer down my unshaven legs, it was ridiculous how much I could feel them. My breaths were becoming laboured and heavy, I was determined to reach my goal and go home with nothing less. The water began to look murky through my chlorine stained eyes but I was focused on the black line repeating over and over on the tiles at the bottom of the pool. I tried to freestyle but my armed caned, they shook and trembled and my shoulder ached.

I’d pushed myself and done ten laps, I knew I’d pay for it. My elbows resting on the edge of the pool, pride filling my chest, I rested my head in my heads as my blood pumped hard through my body. I felt electric and dead all at the same time. I lifted myself out of the pool and plodded over to the bench were my dress lay neatly folded. Suddenly I was no longer in a rush to put it on, I wanted the people to see how proud I was of what my body had done and how good I felt. I dried myself, slipped on my dress, out the door and went home to my boys, the ones who love me even without my armour.

Comments

  1. 3

    says

    At least you go in i so want to go swimming in the pool near me . But i fear all eyes will also be on me with my watermelon thighs and my huge knockers oh don;t forget my tuck shop arms *sigh* My daughter Miss 12 keeps asking me “Mum come swimming with me ,you look great ” I always say to her No they don’t want a whale in here :-(

    • 4

      Hannah Stewart says

      I’m sure Miss 12 would rather swim with her mum than hear her mum say mean things about herself. Miss 12 will learn bodily dissatisfaction from you, and I’m sure you don’t want that, so try to love the body you live in! xxxxx

  2. 8

    says

    I am so proud of you , we have shared the story of my mother, so don’t need to go into that. I do have to confess that I live in this beautiful area surrounded by water and with a pool not too far away, but I haven’t been swimming here, truly swimming. The last time I was in a pool was with you and Aidan a long time ago.
    I wish i could say that things will change but I can’t see it happening too soon.
    I seem to have given up a part of myself, given away the joy that swimming gave me. Since it is me giving it away I hope one day I will crave it enough to reclaim it, for now I am over joyed that you are finding it for yourself!!!! Love always…

  3. 10

    Nell says

    I’ve noticed the weight creeping back on recently, especially since my recent bday has put me next to the 3-0 status. Yesterday I was flat out on my day off and I made myself stop, put a very unflattering costume on and head to the local pool, I felt great afterwards, until I walked back in to my half cleaned house. I’m determined to get back in to shape. I hope you enjoyed yourself and continue on this new journey..

  4. 14

    says

    I really want to start swimming again, I swam a lot when I was younger, had scuba and high dive lessons, but think it is at least 10 years since I went to my local swimming pool, you have made me want to be braver and I think it might be time to buy a swimsuit. xx

  5. 18

    says

    I SO enjoyed reading that post. Good on you for doing it. I hadn’t swam for years, but last christmas I thought enough is enough, I used to love swimming. So my family & I went to the public swimming enclosure at jacobs well. We all really enjoyed it. Although I tend to wear swimming shorts & a swimmer top, not confident enough to just wear a swimsuit.

  6. 20

    Veronica @ Mixed Gems says

    This was so beautifully written. I could picture the entire scene with you and feel your struggle. I know I feel hesitant to go public with my enlarged and flabby post two baby muscle-less tummy that makes me look pregnant even though my baby is now one. But we should be celebrating everyone’s effort to get fit and be healthy regardless of size. I know a lot of it is in our own heads, but I also know a lot of it is out there in the eyes of societal opinions on beauty. Good on you for always doing so much to celebrate your beauty.

  7. 24

    says

    Well this just made me teary. I guess that means that we adults here in the House of O need to get our butts into some exercise too.
    Well done you.

    Sx

  8. 26

    says

    Firstly, good on you, what a great achievement.
    Secondly, you have two loving men at home, but believe me, loads more people love you just the way you are.

    • 28

      says

      that’s dictatorship. comniusm is “de la toata lumea dupa posibilitati la fiecare dupa nevoi” (excuse my romanian) and it applys so well on the internet because once you’ve created information you can share it with everyone else without losing it yourself.

    • 32

      says

      I just wanted to remind everyone that no matter how confident people may appear to be, there will always be some form of insecurity lying underneath, no matter how much we try to deny it to ourselves and others. Sometimes it’s constant, other times it’s just a passing phase. We’re all entitled to our feelings, it’s what we do with them that defines us x

  9. 33

    says

    This was brilliant Dani, I’ve read your blog from the beginning and always look forward to new posts, I am around the same age as you and admire that you are married, have Aidan and you are SO creative, you are extremely inspirational. This post made me tear up, I have grown up with poor body image and was NEVER happy with my body, I am what people would consider thin but it is deffinetly something I have to commit to 100% to stay this way. I think all body’s are beautiful in their own way big or small and I think you should be proud of yours, you are beautiful, smart & amazing… Armor or not.
    X

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