I went to the beach on Monday, which, living in a beach town, I have done 10 million times before. What I have not done before was have to get rescued by a lifeguard. Seriously. Lifelong swimmer here, and that actually happened. I went out past the breakers and was just kind of drifting while treading water and chilling out, when I got caught in a riptide. Now as a person who grew up at the beach, I know very well what to do if that happens, but since I was not trying to actively swim, I wasn't even aware I was in a riptide! I didn't find that out until the lifeguard (with difficulty) swims over to me and tells me that a riptide had pulled me too far out. He asked if I needed help getting back in, and I initially said I would be fine by myself. I mean, I'm training for a freaking triathlon! How strong could a riptide possibly be? Obviously, I had never experienced one before! I started trying to swim and got approximately nowhere. It was really weird! So after a few minutes of that, I accepted the lifeguard's offer to pull me in. On the way back in, I became acutely aware of just how fast and far that riptide had pulled me from shore. Crazy!
Was I scared? No, but only because I didn't know I was in trouble until help had already arrived. So it wasn't like I was brave or anything. I felt fear when I got to shore and knew how far out I had been and realized what could have happened. But mainly what I felt was major embarrassment. All my fat girl insecurities came rushing back. Now in my head, I know that riptides can be a problem for even strong swimmers. Actually, I made sure of that fact by Googling "Can riptides overcome strong swimmers?" when I got home (true story!). I mean, I saw evidence of it when the lifeguard was having some trouble swimming. I've been feeling more and more confident about being in good shape. What's more, I've been swimming laps in the pool regularly. This incident made me doubt myself and it made me afraid other people would doubt me. Like, how good of shape could she possibly have been in if she had to be rescued by a lifeguard?
But then I just got mad at myself. Not mad about what happened, but about how I was allowing it to affect me. I think the word allowing is very important here. I did not have to let what happened affect me in such a negative way. I did not have to let the doubt creep in and try to cripple me. I was allowing that to happen. As in making that choice. Even a passive choice is still a choice. And choices like those were ones the old me would make, not the new me.
Did a lifeguard have to rescue me? Yes, he did. Does that fact take away all my fitness accomplishments these past months? Nope, those are just the same as they always were. I've not suddenly morphed into the person I was this time last year. And looking at what happened objectively, I can see evidence of the new me as well. When the lifeguard asked if I needed help, the old me would have insisted on doing it myself no matter what. Accepting help has never been my strong suit, which has been to my detriment before. The new me tried on my own for a bit, recognized that I did need help, and then asked for it. Sounds simple, but it represents a complete change in thinking for me. After I got back to the beach safely, we had a picnic supper. This could have been very bad. While I did have a whole grain sandwich packed, there were also chips and cookies available. I've said before that I am an emotional eater. I say without hesitation that the old me would have been shoving chips and cookies in my mouth like there was no tomorrow after being embarrassed like that. But the new me stuck with my original plan. I ate a few chips and 2 cookies, like a normal human being.
After supper, I decided to venture out back into the water. This was also a change from the girl I used to be. The old me would have obsessively thought about what happened, what could happen, what might happen to such a degree that the fear would have prevented me from taking a single step into the water for a very long time. I could not allow that to happen. I love the ocean, and I would not allow fear to take that away from me. So I got "back in the saddle" (so to speak) ASAP. I thought, what is the worst thing that could happen in a riptide? You could drown, right? I needed to deal with that fear. So I wasn't going to be crazy and go find another riptide to get caught in (haha!). I decided to keep diving under big waves and embrace that fear, instead of running from it. I mean, not that I was actually trying to drown (obviously) but diving under a big wave can be quite chaotic and scary. It worked. I love the water as much as I ever did.
I'm not going to pretend that some embarrassment about what happened does not linger. I still have feelings that this incident proves that I am still not good enough. The difference now is that I refuse to allow those feelings to dictate my behaviors. It's okay to have those feelings. It's not okay to let them try to take away all I have worked for and accomplished. The ocean and I will continue our lifelong friendship, despite this little mishap. Next on the to-do list this summer? Surfing!