The first section of this blog post is an email I sent to my Mom. It’s about the adventure I had last Sunday with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club in New York. The second half of the post is a detailed description of the event.
Date: Mon, Mar 26, 2012
I DID IT!
Yesterday was 45 degrees (brrr!), cloudy & a bit rainy.
I really didn’t want to go. But I did. I went to Coney Island… to swim with the Polar Bears! :) I was happy that I did it, & it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I’m telling you, Ma. These fears are just puffed-up illusions. If you poke a hole in them, they really do deflate!
:) I love you.
A. (aka, Polar Bear cub)
The hardest part was leaving the Coney Island Polar Bear changing room on the boardwalk & walking out to the beach in a bikini. The distance from the changing room to the ocean seemed so far …& very intimidating. I would have to make my way through the cold, & make my way past all of the people. Everyone on the boardwalk was bundled with coats, gloves, hats, & scarves. They were looking at my friend & I like we were crazy (my friend with his tall thin tattooed body in nothing but orange swim trucks, & me sporting my playful hairdo that looked like Mickey Mouse ears, plus my black bikini-like outfit on a wintery-cold day). People were totally staring.
I was SO COLD walking out to the beach. My friend kept saying “Jump! Do jumping-jacks! Run! Stay active to keep warm!” But I was afraid my boobs were going to flop around (or out!) & everyone was starting at us! I felt frozen on the boardwalk, figuratively & literally. Eventually I mustered up enough courage to cross my arms in front of my chest & run out to the beach. When I got to the ocean I started to jump in place. After that, the rest of the Polar Bear Club arrived, warmed up (with jumping jacks), & then we all got in the water.
Being in the cold ocean wasn’t as bad as I thought. But it was so strange — at one point I thought my bikini bottom fell off. I kept reaching down to feel if my bikini bottom was there. I would reach down to pull it up, only to discover that it hadn’t moved an inch! This feeling kept happening. The other thing that worried me, was my private part felt so cold, it felt like it was going to crack off! My legs, arms, stomach, hands & feet, all felt fine — I just had a numb butt & a completely frozen _____!
The waves were the other thing that made me feel uneasy. As they approached, I wasn’t sure if they would splash me (brrr!), or raise the water level (oh no!). When I would see a wave forming or approaching, I would get really nervous. At one point my friend asked me, “Are you OK? Do you want to leave?” I said, “No, I’m fine, I can stay!” But then he asked me again after the waves started to move with more vigor. He looked like he was making his way out, so I said, “We’re leaving? Ok, let’s go!”
Again I crossed my arms in from of my chest & started to run. My friend & I were making our way over the sand & back to the changing room. People cheered us on. One man even shouted that he was proud of me. He hollered cheerfully, “I have to hand it to you, girl. I couldn’t have done it. But you did it. Bravo!”
The run back to the changing room felt like a flash (an interesting contrast to the run out to the ocean that felt like forever). Once I got to the entrance of the changing room, my muscles were burning. My thighs felt like they were on fire! My whole body felt fiery hot. My friend & I stood at the entrance rinsing our shoes & feet, clearing the sand off. I wasn’t cold at all. I was totally wet, standing in 45 degree weather, having a blast!
After that, we dried off, & headed to the subway. Off we went, to the next adventure for the day.
It was a great experience. I learned so much. It reminded me of a post I wrote last year: your BIGGEST OBSTACLE doesn’t exist. Sometimes the way out of a challenge (or fear) is to go through it. You have to walk right through it to see that it isn’t real. Or to see that it is only temporary. Like stormy weather, or an uncomfortable moment, or even a death — allow yourself to fully experience it. Allow it to dance around you & then see that it was only temporary. Happiness, sadness, pain, pleasure, see it as a flicker of life passing through you. The contrast & joy that is life, moving & shape-shifting. Fully feel it. And fully feel alive.
[Top photo by Jay Dickman.]