Coney Island Polar Bear Club (& cub!)

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.

The email…

From: AimeeLovesYou
To: Mom
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!
Happy Monday.
:) I love you.
Love,
A. (aka, Polar Bear cub)

The details…

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.]

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10 Comments

Filed under emails, exercise & sport, fear & challenges, power & courage

10 responses to “Coney Island Polar Bear Club (& cub!)

  1. Aimee thanks so much for sharing this experience…I’m invigorated just thinking about it! It reminds me of the time I used to do cold showers every morning…but much more gnarly. I’d love to someday join the polar bear club…it is physically and mentally transformative, is it not? I really love how you’ve connected the dots to share this story and I only wish there were pics…or a video! I find myself complaining about the Pacific Ocean in the summer time too often…next time I get a chance I WILL get in!

    • Wow, thanks! :)
      Yes, I used to take cold showers in the morning & have totally lost the habit. (Wintertime didn’t help either.) But I will definitely get back into the routine of a cold shower daily. It really increases the energy & vitality! I remember how much good it did for me & how I felt much stronger when doing it.
      Yes, taking on any fear in my opinion is transformative. Something in me opens up (like a blossoming) each time I take on a fear & meet it face to face. Depression, sadness, nervousness, anything I don’t want to experience or face can be put in that fear category. So yes, yes, it was physically & mentally transformative, & I aim to continue to gently plow through challenges as life dances on. :)
      Much love to you & the family.

  2. Lidia

    This is a great story. I enjoyed reading it and I could totally visualize you in this experience. Lidia xo

  3. Lisa

    Congratulations Aimee! I’m so very proud of you! Anything’s possible with you in the world.

  4. Khalid

    I was thrilled reading this post. It was like I was experiencing what you were going through. I used to think those folks were just nuts to be swimming in that weather, but what I learned was that there is more to it than that. You learned something about fear, and you tested yourself. You opened your mind and conquered fear. This experience could manifest itself into more areas of your life. I admire you so much. Keep shining!

    • Thanks Khalid! :)
      I thought they were crazy too! ;D) I barely leave my apartment when winter hits!
      But conquering fears can bring about such bliss. We forget that sometimes.
      And it’s great to be reminded of that.
      And it’s great to have “crazies” out there in the world to show us what is possible. :) It’s great.

  5. Wow, what an adventure! I really enjoyed reading your post.
    I sometimes go in the sea when it is really cold (probably not as much as it was there) and for me, the worst part are legs & feet. They look red when I go out. But it feels SOOOO relaxing when you get back to warmth, doesn´t it? I bet you slept like a baby that night!

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