Sunday, October 2, 2016

Living in fear of not being able to breath

I am afraid of drowning. For the last half century, as much as I like to frolick in the water, I would panic the moment my feet can't feel the bottom.

This year, one "brave" thing I did, is to take swimming lessons. Actually, I signed up my youngest son, Aiman, whose most strenuous physical activity he ever engaged in was to mop the kitchen floor at the behest of his mother.

I had to drive him, of course, to his lessons, at the Darul Ehsan Aquatic Center, and hang around the crowded swimming pool together with the other parents.

The lessons were on Saturdays, and after four Saturdays or so (I can't quite recall), I decided to join him in the pool. We started in the public pool, the outdoor pool where most lessons start since the depth is just 1.5 meters. I had eight lessons, and after being taught the correct technique for the breaststroke and the freestyle, the coach told me that I have practically learned all I need to learn, because the next lesson will be for the backstroke and the butterfly. While the backstroke is not as physically challenging as the butterfly, I knew the coach was trying to tell me that, unless I am trying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the breaststroke and/or the freestyle would be sufficient for me to, perhaps, get me to the shallows, should I accidentally find myself astray in the deep part of the swimming pool.

So, I have graduated. Still, the next weekend, I signed Aiman up for what is known in the swimming community as the "pre-com", where you are taught more seriously, to improve your swimming to a more competitive level. I am not counting Aiman to be in the next national swim meet, but it provided him good exercise and, most importantly, make him not afraid of jumping in waters out of his depths.

Which what I have been for the whole of my life.

But, having learned how to swim, I want only to swim in the big pool, where you can't reach the bottom. Mind you, I am still not all that brave as I would swim near the poolside, so I can grab the edge once I get nervous or panicky. And, the furthest I swam was about a quarter of the Olympic size pool, or about 25 meters.... Until yesterday.

Apparently, there are more people like me, cowards who swam close to the side, than people who swim in the middle of the pool, where there is nothing for you to hang on should you, for some reason, cannot make it to the other end of the pool. This situation forced me to swim further because the "landing sites" on the on the poolside has become scarce as more and more people were hanging on to it. At one point, I had no choice but to make it all the way to the end of the pool.... an achievement for me.

I have just discovered that all I need to do is keep calm and that the chance of me drowning is really quite remote, especially when there are a lot of people around who, I am sure, are willing to throw me the lifesaver bouy, should they see me flailing in the water and screaming my head off for help.

That was all it needed. A small amount of bravery to face your fears. And, I suppose this applies to other parts of my life, too. We fear that we do not understand. Now that I have learned how to handle the water, I am not afraid of it anymore.... 

Now, my real fear is that, with my own anxieties and fears,  I may have inculcated fear into my children.... I hope not.