On the way to the lake, I was a little grouchy. I was almost sure that I wouldn't be able to get in after barely managing to muster the nerve to dunk a mere toe the day before. I was already disappointed in myself...in my inevitable, inherent failure. Coach joined Lily and me for our third annual first day of school eve swim that from here on out shall be known as the Back to School Plunge. The two of them went straight to the pier to jump in at Lily's urging. She has faith in herself and this ritual whether or not Lake Michigan cooperates. Before long they were in and then out shivering on the wet stone. Then in and then out. Shivering either way.
I am not a leaper. I lack blind trust and shy away from loss of control. I have to resist holding too tight to the notion that where I am is better than where I may go. I have to talk myself out of safety and predictability and into potential and possibility. So I started to wade in slowly, but rather surely. The sharp rocks were harder to handle than the bone numbing water temps. It's funny how one pain can mitigate another. I'm pretty sure that's how so many of us end up in therapy at one point or another in our lives.
Before long, Lily was beside me and Coach was getting the camera because he didn't think I'd muster the mettle or the nerve either and here I was. She said to me, "Mom, if you just go in to here (thighs), then it's going to be a good year." This swim is much more than a swim. It's a ritual. I smiled deep in my heart because it was clear to me that she gets this. This is special. It's not just about being weightless...it's about releasing the heaviness. Its not just about getting wet...it's about getting purified. It's not just about overcoming the numbness in my digits and my limbs...it's about feeling...feeling everything.
As I briefly stalled, she encouraged me, "Just think of rainbows and butterflies." It wasn't lost on me that I used those very things to describe her countenance earlier in the day. Universe...let me catch my breath please, I implored. I studied her profile while she looked up at the clouds for a telltale formation. One year there were angel wings, another year an angel that became a dove before our eyes. There weren't many clouds this night, but then she saw it. It was a heart with wings she decided, very satisfied...only to me it was a bird. A white bird in the blue sky just as well a bluebird and that was what I needed to go under.
When I came up I was exhilarated and proud and a tad stunned. Back on the beach, I watched them return to the pier to jump off. Jump in. I thought next year I'm doing that too. I want to do that. I need to do it.
Then before long I was drawn to the lake again. Lily met me on my way back out to the hazy horizon and decided we needed to dive in together. We did. It was just as rousing. "Again!" she spirited. Again we went under bracing against the cold and toward feeling bone chillingly alive.